A recently bereaved friend, Laura and I were having a chat and the subject of her new and unwelcome title of ‘widow’ came up.

Further discussion revealed that Laura had other titles. She was also a mum, step-mum, sister, grannie, aunt, neighbour, friend, golf partner and cousin, to name just a few she could claim. Titles can also be labels.

As we were talking, I reflected on a recently hectic two weeks away. Time had been spent being a wife, sister, sister-in-law, mum, mother-in-law, grannie, aunt, schoolfriend, college friend and acquaintance. At times I felt like the comedian and magician, Tommy Cooper in his act where he kept changing hats and voices. Remaining at home was neighbour, writer, colleague, friend, volunteer and ‘me’.

These titles or labels, reveal the roles we have as life unfolds. It can be like a play with different scenes and actors who come and go, it certainly can border on a farce at times, tragedy at others.

Or I like to think of a book with many chapters and characters, with each turn of the page providing the twists and turns in our story. Sometimes the focus can be on one role to the detriment of others. Perhaps it’s only temporary, but we need to remember the other roles we have. We can forget or have no time for ’me’, the narrator of our story. It’s not selfish to think of ones own needs and ‘me’ needs attention too, but in balance. Too little or too much ‘me’ leads to difficulties.

Illness and disability can be a title or label, especially if our needs are being met through playing this role. Unhelpful labels that were given to us as children need to be challenged too. We should be careful of the role of victim. If played for too long, being a victim is ultimately psychologically and physically unhealthy. I was taught to ‘separate the person from the problem’. Saying, “I have an alcohol problem” rather than “I am an alcoholic” or ‘“I have episodes of depression” rather than “I am a depressive’’, can help people see that they are much more than their problem and therein will lie the solutions.

Let’s turn the page. I wonder what happens next?

Rita Leaman is a psychotherapist and writer who lives in North Yorkshire. As Alison R Russell, she is the author of ‘Are You Chasing Rainbows?’ www.chasingrainbows.org.uk She also writes a blog on emotional health: http://alisonrussell275.blogspot.co.uk