There’s a sociological theory that the terms used to describe an individual may subconsciously influence their behaviour. Kind of like a self-fulfilling prophecy but driven externally by labelling. It’s aptly named labelling theory, and I had an hour to roll it around in my brain as I waited at the doctors office.
The reason I started dredging up Sociology 101 lectures rather than watching “who wants to make a deal” on the tiny screen in the corner of the doctors office is because I was trying to stem the feeling that this theory was playing itself out in my life at that very moment.
Let me give you some context. I have been working on contract at my current employer for six years. For those that aren’t sure what that means, it’s that they’re paying for my labor but they have no commitment. I’ll admit that it was unnerving at first, but over time and through many peaks and valleys, I learned that if I hustled hard enough I could weather any storm.
Perhaps that attitude was recognized, because an offer for a permanent position finally materialized.
Part of the job offer required me to pass a medical. And part of this medical involved delving into medical history. I worried about it for a while leading up, but my mother (an occupational nurse for quite some time) told me not to be concerned, that they legally could not discriminate against my history.
Nevertheless I worried. When I got to the medical I began filling out the questionnaire. For the most part the questions stuck to “recent” history. Until a question asked about previous medications. Ever the honest applicant, I reluctantly listed the few that I had been on in 2014 when I first started my journey. When the nurse’s eyes fell on the listing she furrowed her brow “you didn’t list depression as a chronic condition”. I objected that I didn’t consider depression a condition, and I no longer suffered from it. She disapprovingly overwrote my “none” with her own red-lettered writing “depression”. I didn’t know what to say. As we progressed through my answers, I felt increasingly uncomfortable. My history of alcohol and drug abuse was discussed. I did my best not to object to the insinuation that because I had suffered from depression and drug abuse in the past, that somehow called my adequacy as an employee into question despite the fact that I’d been working in the role for six years.
Six years with barely a sick day, left stammering in a nurses office trying to explain the extent of my train-wreck of a past life in the least offensive way.
The nurse finished her assessment and determined that for her to approve my hire I would need to get a doctors note from my physician stating that I’m stable and proving that I was no longer on the medications like I’d claimed.
To be continued…