Monday, 16 November 2015

Stigma and Chronic Illness

Do you know how difficult it is to live with a chronic condition? I don't just mean the pain (physical and/or emotional), the fatigue, the lack of sleep or concentration; I mean the judgement, the discrimination from other people, the constant questioning. That look you get from someone when you're out in public and you think that they're making an assessment on everything you are. 

But how do you actually know what they're thinking?

We live in a highly critical society, every person with a beating heart (or swinging brick in my case) will have been judged and experienced some form of stigmatisation, even if they're not aware of it. When you are aware of it, or when you imagine stigma, how can you see past it?

I'll admit that I'm self-conscious, I'm concerned about what other people think of me, I'm worried that they have the wrong opinion of me and I have no way of correcting them. I used to be so concerned about other peoples idea of me that I'd rather stay home, I'd not use my mobility aids, I'd not want to 'look' disabled. But the same stigma was there when my illness was invisible; people wouldn't believe the amount of pain I'm in if I could walk, surely I'm a lying benefit scrounging waste of space.

I'd be anxious about strangers, random people I'll see once for a couple of seconds and never again in my life. I'd genuinely care about their view of me. Why? Why am I bothered? Why are strangers who's hair colour I can't even recall affecting my life? 

It still bothers me that I get looks when I stand up out of my wheelchair to stretch or get into my car and but ignorance really is bliss. Not everyone that uses a wheelchair is paralysed and it's only small-minded people that believe that.

Yes, randomers, family members, friends, may judge you, they may even be hurtful, drain you emotionally but you know the truth. You know how much you suffer, you know how long the nights can be, you know how to battle through, and those that really care about you, they know too. Don't get caught up in what other people may or may not think about you and your condition, if they really cared they'd talk to you about it or do some research. 

Similar to what I wrote in my Family and Friends Can't Read Your Mind post, you can't know what another person is thinking. People may look at you, they may judge you and think you're faking your condition, but they may also be thinking how brave you are and how well you're fighting. 

Stay strong, ignore the haters.

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