CHOICES II-14 - A Subtle Form of Stelf-Stigmatization

Robin Cunningham Health Guide

    For my last SharePost, submitted on 28 December, 2008, ( ), I submitted a poem entitled "WARD 7N," which I believe touches on self-stigmatization and forgiveness in consumers and asked that visitors read and tell us what this poem says to them in the form of a comment to the SharePost.


    Don Fraser wrote two comments and Carolyn [DCROY9633] wrote another.  The entirety of their remarks can be found at found at


    In part, Don wrote - "I found myself asking the question, is the author perpetuating his own madness, or is he actually giving us a glimpse into his world?" . . . "I, as the reader, am taken from hell to heaven in a few lines and really don't know where he {the poet} is at the end.  In his second comment Don adds "I just wanted to add that I feel self-stigma is not a part of this poem.  I feel strongly that the author has a right to express himself and that anything that comes from creativity should not be associated with stigma of any kind."

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    Carolyn observes that "poetry is one of my best outlets for self expression.  When all other forms of creativity {had} left, I still could write poetry.  Some of it is pretty scary stuff." . . . "In fact, the worse I felt, the more I was compelled to keep writing."


    Now I will throw in my two cents.  The poem comes in three parts of two stanzas each and each part tells us several things about the poet and his thinking.


    In part one, the poet reveals his illness and the fact that he is receiving intensive treatment.  He also indicates that the treatment is, at least in part, successful ["They bring capsules of hope / That keep my demons at bay."]  But then he adds in the second stanza, that despite what his providers are doing, he does not believe they understand very much, if anything, about how he is experiencing his illness.  In other words, they have little empathy.


    Implicit in the first two stanzas is the fact that the poet realizes he is using up, or consuming, valuable resources, that he is a burden to others.  The reader is left to wonder if the poet is making a contribution to society in turn.  Perhaps the only thing he could contribute at the time he wrote this poem was the poem itself.  [Carolyn, does this make sense to you?]


    In the second section of the poem (stanzas three and four) the poet opens up about how he is experiencing his illness.  And in the lyrics of an Etta James blues song, "I've {He's} got it bad / And that ain't good."  He reveals that he is terrified, that a "horror permeates my {his} soul."  He also makes the assertion that he is alone, all alone, indicating at the same time that this perception is a delusion.  But why would he invest his time and energy in maintaining such a delusion?  Is he trying to escape the fact that he is a burden to society?  We'll probably never know.


    In the first four stanzas above I think the poet is experiencing a very subtle form of self-stigmatization.  He may not be blaming himself for having developed his illness, something we all understand, but he may be experiencing some guilt, or self-blame, for his lack of functionality, i.e., for his use of scarce resources without providing society with something of value in return.  I believe this subtle form of self-stigmatization may be widespread among consumers and perpetuated unwittingly by others.


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    In the last two stanzas, the poet indicates that he longs for peace, which he, in all probability, has not experienced since he became ill, but is afraid of what "peace" may mean for him.  He is stating that his illness has been so all consuming that he has come to identify himself in terms of that illness and is afraid that there may be nothing left of him if the agonies of his illness are abruptly removed.  This is a terrifying form of self-stigmatization that consumers create for themselves without the help of others.


    The poet seems to be caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.  He cannot muster the courage to make his escape even as he describes exactly what is required for him to find freedom from his agonizing situation.  He simply needs to forgive himself for the pain he has caused himself and others, and then to start anew.


    If you have time, please comment on the above.


    For this week, if you are so inclined, share your thoughts, in the form of a comment, about the quotation below.


    " To one who is mad, the world is still real, but it has a new meaning; people are real too, close and powerful and perhaps dangerous, but among them all, the individual is alone.  This is the essential feature when we penetrate insanity.  Not that the world is less with us, but that another world pervades it too, and we, seeing and experiencing life on a different plane, are cut off from communication with the sane around us: the sane and blinkered folk who do not see and must not know or would never believe the vast, vital, urgent and perhaps cataclysmic truths of which we, alone among them, are aware."

                                                                                                                                                                                ----- Morag Coate

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    Please remember, this writing reflects my own experience and opinions.  If you, or a loved one, are experiencing the symptoms of schizophrenia, or any other mental illness, you should seek professional assistance.


Published On: January 04, 2009