It’s all in a name

A married woman used to  have specific rights and obligations. She even used to dress differently than an unmarried woman. After marriage you no longer belonged to your parents but to your husband. So as a woman you changed your last name. Nowadays this is still a general rule but no obligation any more. Girlfriends that change their last name tell me: “his name sounds better” or “the children get his name so it’s more convenient for me to do too” or “that’s how I show I love him”. I only use my maiden name. I basically didn’t feel different after my wedding. I think a name expresses something. En that has its consequences. Playing a game on my mobile phone, I especially enjoy winning from someone with the name ‘Killerjoe’ or ‘Evilempire’. Why? Because those names imply fanaticism and aggressiveness. Winning from those kind of adversaries feels better than winning from a random ‘Eric96’. That may be childish but there you have it.


With regards to illness a name, also known as diagnosis, is critical. All medical examinations in hospital are based upon what your doctor expects to be your diagnosis. You are adrift as long as you don’t know the name to put on your dizziness, your pain, extreme fatigue or other symptoms. You will keep looking for a name, a direction. Questions remain unanswered: Is there a treatment for it? And if so what? Or do I have to learn to live with it? And if so how? As long as you cannot explain what you have by name you sometimes aren’t even taken seriously.

Once you do have a name for your symptoms they don’t just magically disappear. That name is the starting point for your treatment and even then it may be uncertain what helps for you. But is does feel very different. You have sort of a place for yourself and your questions . Maybe you can now find an association of your peers so you don’t feel alone any more. With the right name you can google for information. And you can explain your condition to others much better if you can name it.

It’s all in the diagnosis

In my case it took quite some time to find out what caused my lower back pain. After several tests the specialist told me: “fortunately you don’t have a hernia”. As fas as I was concerned he should have said “I’m sorry to say you don’t have a hernia”. Not that I would have been happy with that particular diagnosis. But any diagnosis, whatever it was, would have been welcome. I was able to strike one possible diagnosis of my list but it didn’t answer any of my questions. It felt like being sent home empty handed.  

After even more tests the cause of my pain appeared to be worn lower spinal vertebrae. Osteoarthritis. No cure, only pain medication, I should adapt my lifestyle, regularly have a laydown en do my excersises to keep my back en abdominal muscles strong. Not a pleasant diagnosis because there is no saying what the future will bring when the wear gets worse. But I can name what I have and that gives me some grip on my situation. 

Naming your illness

The quest for an appropriate diagnosis can be one of the worst stages of your history with illness. All the more when it takes a while. During that time the name you can use to call your symptoms is the most important word you want to hear. That dwarfs the issues surrounding names you use when married or while playing a game.

(written March 2019, translated may 2019)

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