“We long since came to the conclusion that the various labels, classifications, categories and definitions, which professionals conjure with, obscure rather than illuminate the person’s story.” Barker and Buchanan-Barker (2004)
We as humans love to label things. Are you a dog person or a cat person? Do you prefer baseball or football? Are you the type who considers Die Hard a Christmas movie?
Oftentimes, labels can help us relate to others or make sense of our situations and interactions. Unfortunately, if we rely on them too much, they can put us into rigid boxes that dictate how we’re supposed to think and feel.
At 360 Balance & Dizziness, we consider your diagnosis as part of the framework that we use to tailor your plan of care, but it is not the roadmap. An accurate diagnosis includes a comprehensive medical assessment as well as information about your symptoms, medications you’re taking, and a detailed family medical history. All these puzzle pieces come together to inform us not only of your diagnosis, but how your diagnosis affects you as a unique individual.
Each person experiences their symptoms differently, so while a diagnosis may come with a typical “set” of typical symptoms, you may experience all or only some of those symptoms. For example, while one person with Endolymphatic Hydrops may struggle most with persistent dizziness, another may experience occasional bouts of vomiting and nausea.
Additionally, your symptoms may affect you differently than the experience of next patient with the same diagnosis. Dizziness is a symptom that is experienced in myriad ways. People sometimes describe feeling the room spinning, lightheadedness, or unsteadiness. None of these are “right” or “wrong” ways to describe what you are feeling. As clinicians, we use the diagnosis to inform us about what to expect, but we must also take the patient’s unique experience into account.
It is easy to fall into the false thought trap that once you have a diagnosis, it will define you. For many vestibular diagnoses, vestibular physical therapy can help get you back to your previous level of function. Therapy can help you reach a point where you only need maintenance exercises for difficult days. Sometimes you need a change in diet or strategies for energy conservation. Other times you may need troubleshooting for your current exercise regime if it’s too hard or too easy. Either way, your diagnosis should not become the rigid box from which you see the world.
You are not your diagnosis. You are not a Vestibular Dysfunction Patient, you are a person who is experiencing vestibular dysfunction. And we can help you.
Barker P, Buchanan-Barker P (2004) Beyond empowerment: revering the storyteller. Mental Health Practice 7(5): 18–20