I have been experiencing it first hand since I was deemed disabled and unable to return to work. Stigma navigation is probably one of the most challenging aspects to healing outside of the actual healing part, and stigma is literally everywhere because hurt people hurt people!
My condition has been diagnosed as Centralized Sensitization Syndrome and complex PTSD I also manage chronic pain as a result. The condition itself is a hybrid of symptoms stemming from central nervous system dysfunctions, and adrenal issues that follow the dysfunctional hormone exchanges.
Since hormones are controlled in the brain, and the central nervous system is controlled by the brain; it made sense to me very quickly that it is largely a brain problem.
This made even more sense the more I understood about my conditions and how they connect.
Then I learned about the trauma link and the mind- body connection as I was learning about the central nervous system.
This solidified my understanding of my situation and condition, and allowed me to release the stigma for myself because it was out of my control, and I just needed to put in the work.
To be really really honest I was just elated that I was curable. I was worried before my diagnosis that is was going to end up being something terrible. The big c was a very serious consideration for how I was feeling.
I didn’t care that I had to travel the mental health path to get better.
I thought we had made some progress in removing the stigma of mental health.
I was very wrong when it comes to people in our day to day life.
I had a false sense of the progress, in a real way.
The stigma might be worse now than before in some ways, and in other ways there have been improvements… but many more improvements need to be made.
I had no shame about it at first with my false sense of stigma free ideas of how healing could go for me… I was wild and free and figuring it out.
I was excited- ultra extra excited about the fact that I was curable. I was elated. literally floating!
I was so elated that I was having cognitive malfunctions, illusions and hallucinations because my adrenals could not keep up to the cascade of hormones pulsing through my body.
And so the pendulum swung. The polarity that I experienced was confusing for others, hell it was confusing for me too, and in hindsight, it is perfectly logical for what I was medically experiencing, psychologically experiencing, and socially experiencing combined. “Right on schedule” one therapist said to me! And we laughed because I know logically that if you lose balance in all three areas something is likely to snap in a human. Add a stigmatizing society, and this is where we lose people to self sabotage or suicide.
I held on to my emotions in for so long that when they came out it was like a flood gate had been opened up.
When I finally got my diagnosis all of the fear came out of me at once, in the most bizarre ways; and for this I was stigmatized and removed from my community of friends. My whole family was.
I partially blame the meds I was on for some of the extra issues that just made everything “extra” anxiety, and obsessiveness and a desire to be understood by any means possible. Those are the side effects that amplify the worst in me. I’m a lot for people to handle on a good day sometimes, these were not good days.
In the months preceding the existential crisis I had I was depressed, anxious and living in constant fear.
I was trying to figure out how to build my life back up from my bed, keep my marriage alive, make sure my kids feel my presence, and figure out how to get better while I wait for the system to call my number to meet my medical needs. All while living my life in adrenal fatigue living like a zombie, unable to shower or go to the grocery store without a special band around my waist. Agoraphobia was not far off, and the pain kept me close to my bed. The cancelled plans piled up.
Figuring my life out was chaos, and it required my full attention, and energy that I didn’t have. I gave finding out the solutions to my problems every ounce of my heart and soul.
Because of this I lost connections and friendships, attention was given to my health over spending time with my kiddos (the mom guilt!!) my marriage struggled because I was lost in finding myself and then I was stigmatized and abandoned by everyone but like three people for surviving it all the only ways I knew how.
And in the end, I offered apologies for any disrespect and opportunities for each person I love to meet the new me along the way and find restitution.
The people that love me and respect my journey celebrate my accomplishments with me; and those that don’t, don’t.
That’s what the stigma highlighted for me who has my back, and who really doesn’t.
The actions (or inactions) that people take with you will speak very clearly to you.
I noticed that people would rather see you “go away” then ever have to deal with acknowledging that they were shitty to you, or even to have to witness your struggle is too challenging for some.
If you are being stigmatized just know that it’s only hurt people who hurt people. Being stigmatized is equal to being abused and if someone is trying to hurt you like that… they must really be hurting inside.
Hurt people hurt people, that’s just a truth. I hurt people when I was hurting, we all do on some level- that’s why it is true.
Keep going on your journey, even if there is stigma, it will likely always be there… the world holds many hurt people.
Keep your chin up.
Don’t hurt people with your hurt, and move forward through all of the stigma and lack of understanding that the world has to offer.
Start looking at those who stigmatize you like bullies… hurting bullies and adjust your attitude and responses to that behaviour accordingly. Bullies often need boundaries.
Through the stigma, through it all… Love yourself first!