My last post offered tips for recognizing stigma. My key message was that Healthy Survivors have a right to choose whether or not they advocate to destigmatize the disease that has become part of their life.
Today I'll tackle the challenge of dealing with this stigma.
If I've learned anything from the past 20 years of my survivorship, it is this: The path to my happiness depends on my being at peace with me.
As long as others see me as damaged goods, it will take effort for me to feel whole and live fully. But this can be done.
In contrast, if I see me as damaged goods, feeling whole or living fully becomes impossible.
I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but it helps to step back and ask, "How do I feel about people with my disease? Do I stigmatize my disease?"
Preconceptions and beliefs don't turn off like a light switch at the moment of diagnosis. They may go underground and become subconscious, but they can continue to affect your outlook. In doing so, they can interfere with your ability to get good care and live fully.
A necessary first step for my dealing with stigma in healing ways was look within, sometimes with the guidance and support of a trusted friend or professional counselor.
Survivors who use knowledge and hope to cleanse themselves of self-stigmatization have the foundation needed for dealing with stigma in their day-to-day life.
My next post will offer practical tips.