Posted by: VoiceinRecovery | July 12, 2010

Inside Stigma: A Patient’s Perspective

Inside Stigma: A Patient’s Perspective

Hi, my name is Sarah. I’m Anorexic, Bulimic, and a Cutter.

You could call me these things. But they wouldn’t be accurate. Because I am not these things, these labels. And I am not in recovery from these things.

I am recovered.

From those things, I am recovered. I have bipolar, which requires ongoing management. But you wouldn’t know it if I didn’t tell you. I am not the stereotype, I am not the crazy person we all think of, ranting and raving on some street corner. I am like anyone else, except I take a few pills before I brush my teeth in the morning.

And yet.

I still catch flak all the time. For the taking meds, for going to therapy, for the eating disorder history, for the visible scars from years of cutting. People comment on them, I’ve lost jobs because of them. It’s like, what do you want? I used to cut myself. I don’t anymore. I used to starve and binge and purge. I don’t anymore. So eat lunch with me and stop looking at me like I’m going to vomit on the table any second. Deal with me as I am now, not as I was then.

And yes, I take medication for a chemical imbalance. Guess what? So do diabetics. Only their imbalance is in the pancreas, and mine is in my brain. That’s the difference that makes people freak. That’s where the stigma lies.

If you ask a poet, he’ll tell you the seat of the soul lies in the heart. If you ask a neurologist, he will rightly tell you that the seat of the soul lies in the brain. And anyone who’s ever experienced dementia will testify to that. It’s very possible to exist in your body without living in it. And it’s possible for the person you love to die long before their heart stops.

I believe that stigma comes from people’s instinctual knowledge that when you mess with the brain, you mess with the soul. It can be disturbing, it can be terrifying, it can be cruel. And most people just aren’t up for facing that. However, when you don’t face it, you also miss out on everything the other side has to offer: healing, resilience, clarity, and courage. And while they are some people who don’t come back from mental illness, the vast majority of us do. The other side is a beautiful place. And if you can get past the stigma, you can join us.

© Sarah Henderson 2010

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Responses

  1. Wow I love this. I can totally relate! I have hundreds of scars from years of cutting and have lost friends and boyfriends over them. And because I have a history of mental illness, that is all anyone sees. I had a dr who would tell me my problem was caused by depression any time I went to see her for anything. She wouldn’t look past the depression… See More even though I told her that it was being managed and was not an issue anymore. Sorry, I just wrote a novel. But stigmas related to mental illness or eating disorders or substance abuse irritate me!!!

  2. “Deal with me as I am now, not as I was then.”

    ^ truer words were never spoken! (er, written)

    beautifully stated!

  3. Wow, you wrote some beautiful truths. As a recovered bulimic who also “takes a few pills” without it being obvious from the outside :), this spoke to me. Thank you thank you thank you.

    • I am so glad what Sarah wrote resonated you!!!


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