Deirdra T-J


I have experienced structural stigma when trying to seek help and intervene with my disorder by not having proper health care measures put in place, like withdrawal support services and rehabilitation centers. There were counseling programs available, and I was connected with a psychiatric nurse that had been working in the field for many years. Once a bed was available at a treatment center, I found out I was expected to go through withdrawal and abstain from substances for 7 days prior. I felt defeated and that I was a failure already because I had tried so many times to do just that (abstain), and the system offered me no support or resources to do so. This was like telling me, yes, we will help you but only after you maintain the very thing that you are seeking treatment for in the first place.
After years of use and struggle, I also succumbed to self-stigma by believing that I did not deserve proper health care or resources. My internal dialogue often was very mean to myself saying things like… “May as well not even try to quit, everyone says it is impossible anyways” or “I’m better off dead than hurting my family more and more”. However, after being supported by various individuals including my parents, doctor, and friends, I received the care and compassion that should have been readily available publicly.
Now living as a person with lived experience I still see that social stigma is normalized with how people who use drugs are portrayed in media, only showing visual pictures of unhoused persons, needles, and people who are unkempt. For me, I hope that people can see that people who use drugs are people first, who deserve understanding and public health care services like everyone else.

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