I have lived with the stigma and ignorance from people for the last 18 years of chronic and invisible illnesses has been very difficult.
Stigma - "a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person". - google (Similar words that show up during the search are, shame, disgrace, and dishonor.
Ignorance - "lack of knowledge or information". - Google
Discrimination - "the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex." Google (I would argue that this definition needs altering and is not representation of all types of discrimination.
There is real disability discrimination in the world that is still not viewed. Many people with illnesses experience discrimination at work, and amongst peers.
"At least it wasn't physical or sexual abuse"
What Stigma Looks Like
Turning your head to the uncomfortable situation someone is going through.
Ignoring it all together
"la la la la"
Showing up just for the highs and not the lows. It's a whole package.
"That person just has issues"
(We all do! Get real!)
Telling someone to get over it
(Thanks, I didn't think of that! I'm guessing you got over your mom dying?)
One of my favorite resources on social media is The Depression project. Click on the photo to see their website.
"Don't focus on the negative"
In other words, suppressing someone and their truth.
Don't say anything because that will put more focus on it and we don't want to bring attention to it.
More to come
Stigma has to stop! Do not be part of the problem. Educating yourself is important. Check your habits and patterns. Learn how you can be a support to others.
My Experience with Stigma
Many people mean well and have sincere hearts. They also are uncomfortable, and fearful which can contribute the cycle of stigma and the strength of it amongst society.
For many years I have had people in my life who do not ask about the hard parts of my life, or let alone as me how I am in general. They skip out when they see a glimpse of someone hard. I think it's out of fear. I can tell when someone is not wanting to listen or is uncomfortable. Most people have a very short attention span. I have abandonment issues because of all the people who have given up on me in my life or not stuck with me truly.
One of the hardest parts of stigma for me is that some people just show up in my life for the "good times". That's not life. No one has an easy life and everyone is fighting a battle on some level that most don't know about. Hellooooo, we can relate!
I love when people ask me about my illnesses, even though it's tiring and I struggle to speak. I love it because that person is willing to learn, and they care. It's not for attention but rather acceptance of this part of my life and the fact that this is about one more person who is breaking apart the stigma in the world by asking me about this part of my life.
The other part is the shaming or ignorant comments, or just straight up ignoring the fact that I live with illnesses. People pretending I am fine and also expecting me to function the way they do. Annoying and rude.
It's NOT negative to talk about the real stuff. My therapist always told me "The only way out is through" and she is right. Just having conversation is so healthy.
So PLEASE, ask! Ask someone you care about what their day is like living with symptoms, or even just one simple question around it. If you don't want to ask, then simply acknowledge that this is real for them even if it's not for you.
What I realize too is that for many people who don't ask and they turn their heads to this part of my life still care but are very uncomfortable for a variety of reasons. It may be personal reasons, deflection because it's painful and a trauma response for them. Some are just unsupportive, which is the hardest part because I still allow that in my life, but use to more than I do now.
I know who I can go to and who I can't. I often have to shorten or explain my situation in a user friendly way because people just get overwhelmed. I am learning to be okay with it. I get it. If I have a hard time explaining it myself, then other people must be way more overwhelmed in a way. Hey, at least they listen even for 5 seconds. But I struggle still with it all.
I am so so thankful for the people who get me and who ask, and are supportive (few and far between). For the people who can hang with my journey and not leave me.
So much more about all of it, but that's another time for a blog post.
How to break Stigma, Ignorance, and Discimination.