The Dark Side of Stigma with Hepatitis C (Part 1)
Last updated: November 2022
When we think of stigma, it usually involves how we are treated by others. The medical community comes to mind. So do the reactions of family and friends who may be quick to judge. I’d like us to venture a look at another side of stigma. The dark side of stigma with hepatitis C.
Sometimes the harsh voice that is within our own mind is the worst critic that we deal with. We say things to ourselves that we would never say to another person. I have listened to that inner voice on many occasions. It still rises up, ready to blame me for everything from my shaky hands to my grandkids athletic ability.
The dark side of stigma is about self-judgment.
I believe it starts with the emotional effect of having the virus. This impact, if left unattended, can create negative patterns of thoughts and feelings. We go through a range of emotions when we’re sick. This doesn’t necessarily stop after treatment. If we have long-term side effects of liver disease, it can create a cycle. See if you can identify any of the following ways that you may feel.
At times, we feel angry about having to go on medication. We may become exasperated with the health care system. Much of our anger can be directed at ourselves for being sick in the first place.
Long-term anger at ourselves or our situation can create discouragement and disappointment with life. We become pessimistic about ever fully recovering from HCV.
When we are unsure of the long-term symptoms, we can end up filled with doubt. We are not comfortable just being who we are: a person with hepatitis C. We might judge ourselves.
If you were able to recognize any areas of anger, depression, or confusion – you might be too hard on yourself. I call it self-stigma.
Shaky hands from the immunosuppressants for my liver transplant can give me strong emotions. It’s messed with my handwriting, my cooking, and my ability to tie my own shoes. I still do all of these things, but it can slow me down. I’m hard on my self when I take too long.
I get achy and give out when practicing tennis with my granddaughter. She tries to protect me, and quit asking. I am frustrated by it and exercise more. Then I end up moving incorrectly and getting into pain. I get mad at hep C, but can sometimes be critical of myself.
Self-compassion is important.
I work hard at listening to my inner voice. Even though some stigma comes from medical workers, family, or friends – I know that a lot of negative thinking about hepatitis C is my own voice. Maybe you can’t identify with hateful self-talk. Perhaps you can try to listen closely. You might find a way to stop self-stigma, lighten up, and give yourself a little more compassion. We’ll explore this more in Part 2 of the dark side of stigma with Hepatitis C.
Have you experienced stigma from others due to hep C? Click the question to answer!
Click here to read more from Karen on stigma and hep C.