In my April 11th post, I refer to an article in Women's Day titled, "The Stigma of Illness."
Stigma can keep patients from becoming Healthy Survivors, so let's talk about dealing with stigma in healthy ways.
First: Recognize signs of social stigma, such as people using language that:
- lumps together patients with a particular disease in one category.
- blames patients for their disease.
- includes slang or derogatory terms.
- includes inaccurate or wrong "facts."
Second: Assess if stigma is affecting you negatively by looking for signs such as
- feeling ashamed of your diagnosis.
- feeling reluctant to reveal your diagnosis to anyone.
- self-talk that devalues or belittles you.
- loss of hopefulness, confidence, courage, ability to enjoy relationships or life.
The Women's Day article includes interviews with three women who have "risen above the stigma, the misconceptions and the prejudice...." of AIDS, lung cancer and bipolar disorder. Going public and sharing their stories has been healing for them. They've felt empowered, chipping away at baseless, stigmatizing generalizations by putting a face and a name to a disease.
I emphasized "for them" because the cost of fighting stigma can be high. For some survivors in some situations, the cost of trying to combat stigma may be too high. Healthy Survivors know they have a right to choose not to be an advocate for disease-related causes. They have a right to do whatever it takes to get good care and live fully.