I have experienced every form of stigma across my many years living with a chronic illness. The stigma I experienced early in life was difficult to deal with as it affected how I assessed my personal strengths and limitations heading into adulthood and convinced me that I would become less than my potential.
During a 6-year hospital stay, I was prescribed opioid treatment. The stigma I experienced during that time made me feel as if I had become someone else completely. I redefined myself to match the description offered by those caring for me. I was no longer educated, autonomous, determined, passionate or caring. I believed what they said about my lost potential. I no longer felt I had a place in my community, my family, nor in my own life.
After I was discharged from the hospital, I fought the undertow of stigma and insisted on reclaiming my old self. I still sensed my potential, and I knew I was not an addict – I was me. My stubborn and rebellious spirit compelled me, I had to claim myself back, and I had to prove others wrong.
Since that time, I have learnt a lot about opioids, stigma and becoming a true partner in my own care. I have learned to filter out the judgments of others and focus on addressing my need for symptom reduction. As an informed patient, I know both the risks and benefits of opioid use and how it may apply to myself uniquely at any given time.