Words Matter

If you suffer from a mental illness, are you a victim or a survivor? Conventional wisdom suggests that the latter is better. But what if neither word quite fits your experience? What if 'suffer' doesn't quite sum it up either? People experiencing mental illness have long felt the power of semantics used against them, from being identified by their diagnosis to the outright loss of their freedom because of it. In some cases, words used to support or motivate can have the opposite effect, as Jowita Bydlowska, argues

Is 'survivor' the right word for someone who fights and kicks and claws themselves out of depression, but ultimately feels like they are just barely holding on? Does 'victim' fit the person whose disorder is so severe that despite their attempts, they cannot overcome it? If one does not consider themselves to be a survivor, does that make them a victim? If these (and other) terms are helpful for understanding or motivating oneself, then by all means use them. But be aware that these are just categories and categories almost always only fit some people some of the time.