By now, you may have already begun to recognize the voices that blame you for living with hep C virus. You can spot the accusations in your head. By catching yourself while in the middle of a self-induced tongue lashing and calling BS, you are coming out of the dark side of stigma with hepatitis C.
I have tormented myself over the burden my family has had with the side effects. I’ve suffered the lack of dignity that comes with invasive treatments and procedures. I’ve felt the rejection of friends and family members. I’ve withdrawn from life.
Sensitivity is my superpower, and sadness hits hard. When facing uncertainty, I may need a hug or a shoulder to cry on. After beating hep C and finding liver cancer, my heart was broken. I felt so sad for missed opportunities. It crushed me to think that I would not be here to enjoy more years. The mental suffering was like a repeated slap in the face.
And this is the final blow. When the anger burns off, depression can set in. From there, it’s either let go or go crazy. Fatigue and uselessness feel like a death sentence. We have no energy to try. We slug through life feeling like our better years are gone. The judgment is pronounced: Hepatitis C is too big, too hard to fight, and we are done.
Honestly, the pain from our own blunt feeling of self-stigma may be the thing that saves us. At least we’re feeling again. By now you’re familiar with the stages of grief. Once sadness settles in, we can accept what we are going through. The tricky part is to watch out for that stone cold voice that calls life unfair. Full of brute anger and ready to fight, this voice pushes it’s way in and tells us to just give up.
Tips to Step Outside the Stigma
Now that you are able to recognize the judgmental voice that arises from inside, you can take action. Here are some steps that might help you step outside of the dark side of stigma from hepatitis C.
- Name your emotions fully and call it what it is.
- Catch yourself in the act of bullying yourself. (call BS)
- See yourself as the hero of your own story. Build it up in your head until you can see yourself not as a victim with Hep C, but a survivor who has gained superpowers to overcome any situation.
- Tell your story to yourself. I am a person who is afraid of going to ER for ascites, but even if they are rude, I will be supportive and sympathetic toward myself. I am a person who has been shut down for years with a fatigued and achy body. I am still worthy of love and respect. And on… and on….
Stigma from outside is one thing. Stigma from within challenges our core identity. We are not hep C patients. We are people facing real challenges and are marching toward a bright future that is hopefully hepatitis C free.