Thursday, 15 December 2016


Labels are funny things. In one of her books Doris Lessing talked about people not so much being cured of mental ailments as being given a label. Instead of getting a cure, patients were told, "You are nothing but a ..." and that was enough; they then had to get on with life. In some cases, of course, being told that you are "nothing but a ...", be it manic depressive or some other label, would make some people react against it and decide not to be so.

However, we like labels.

If you don't sleep well, you suffer from insomnia. It sounds better than saying simply that you slept badly. I thought about this as I lay awake at some point in the middle of the night. You can have two kinds of insomnia: the sort where it just takes you ages and ages to fall asleep and the sort where you wake up at various points in the night and wonder why you are not asleep. Sometimes the first kind blends into the second. And then, as a rule we all sleep a lot better than we think. How many of us have lain awake next to a snorer, who tells you in the morning that he/she has not slept a wink all night?!

 Post traumatic stress disorder is another label that causes some controversy. Lady Gaga has recently talked about having been raped when she was in her late teens and says that she has suffered from PTSD ever since. Piers Morgan has gone public saying that this is nonsense. He says soldiers who have been under fire and come back from war zones may well suffer from PTSD but that people going through lesser trauma (is a violent rape a lesser trauma?) cannot claim to suffer at the same level. And yet, psychologists recognise that something like the serious illness or death of a close friend or member of the family can trigger PTSD: not just a vague bit of depression but PTSD - a more serious label and perhaps a recognition that is a step on the way to recovery.

And of course, people experience things in a different way. After a burglary some people just get on with their lives while others have to move house, unable to stay in a space that has been violated (PTSD?). In my sister's case, she had to do a major clean-up, scrubbing all surfaces and washing every item of clothing in their home to remove all trace of the person who went through their stuff. 

Childbirth is another one. Most women find that having produced a living baby to care for and the rewards of looking after that little bundle of joy are enough to wipe out the memorybof whatever level of suffering they went through giving birth. Otherwise, it is quite likely that few would go on to have a second or third child. Some, however, actively enjoy the birth process - they are in the minority, I think - but others do turn around and say, "Never again!!"

And finally there is that newfangled label: Brexit! That's the one that nobody yet understands. It's all very well to declare, "Brexit means Brexit" and to talk about having a "red, white and blue Brexit", whatever that means! In the news this evening, I am hearing rumblings about the untangling of the UK from the EU possible taking up to ten years. Does that mean ten years of limbo, ten years of uncertainty, ten years of not having any idea of what is going on? Theresa May has been in Brussels today for talks about immigration and then found herself all alone while everyone else went on to discuss Brexit ... without her.

Maybe it's time our government took their courage in heir hands and told the country, "Well, you voted to leave but it's just turning out to be too costly, too complicated, too messy. And so we would like you to reconsider. Why don't we stay in and work on helping sort out the EU for the better".

 Some members of the EU might protest a bit but we haven't yet triggered article 50!

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