I was doing my speed walking thing on the Balboa Beach cottage lined shore. Gorgeous, it was. Fluffy thoughts were everywhere. I was purposely passing under the low hanging docks to upscale some lower body muscles. Some string bean teens with their fishing poles moved into the water’s leisurely lipping edge ahead of me. Who wouldn’t be distracted by such poetry?
Can you guess what I did? I looked up. I lost my squatting waddle.
When someone driving on the freeway slows down to look at an accident on the shoulder, we call them “rubber-necks.” What do we call someone who walks taller, someone who loses her shorter self under a low dock when “speed walking” at approximately four-miles-an-hour?
This was more painful than my three cesarean-sections. Of course, there was no anesthesia when I sped into the solid, immovable wood. I loosely figured, with physics being what it is, that I received in return the equivalent to someone slamming me with a baseball bat. I was never great at physics but I remember that Force = mass * acceleration. I am not telling you how much “maaaass” was involved, so, for the disgruntled forensic’s enthusiasts out there, we just won’t know how hard I was hit back.
As the blood was pouring down my throat, out of my mouth, down my face, and as I gargled the words, summarily “help,” to 911, I thought, “That wood was not there before, because, why would I do this to myself?!”
How are we our own enemy? I’m learning a lot about stigma these days, in preparation for a couple CME talks coming up. Stigma is a molded and remolded term, but for our purposes, we’ll say that it can be broken down into, prejudice and discrimination.
Prejudice refers to our attitudes, beliefs, and emotions.
Discrimination refers to action, what we do about it, and behaviors.
I really like this. It helps to see where “Me” plays into our own stigma behaviors toward our own selves. For example, skipping our medications on and off. That would be, discrimination, when it is done in response to a conscious or unconscious prejudice about taking medication. Maybe taking medication induces feelings of shame or blame. Then we behave with missing pills.
Another example of stigma, is seen in our aging “baby boomer” population. Turns out, psychiatric patients are living longer too. Social workers and other professionals are admitting more and more psychiatric patients into senior facilities, e.g., assisted living, nursing homes, home health services at home, hospice, etc., and the staff at these agencies do not know how to work with psychiatric patients. So, the senior facilities try to send these patients to psychiatric hospitals or hospital emergency rooms, and the nursing home or senior facility won’t accept them back into their program afterwards, stating “We don’t have the staff or programming to work with psych patients.”
Senior nursing home/assisted living facilities are realizing that they need to hire/train their staff to work with psychiatric patients in their senior years and that this is part of their growth as an organization and their commitment to providing quality care to seniors.
The prejudice comes from feelings, such as inadequacy, on the part of those serving psychiatric patients. The discrimination is when the patients are turned away. Everyone loses.
It’s an exciting time for senior facilities. It’s an opportunity for their staff to learn new skills and understand that with even some basic training on communication skills, therapeutic interactions, some do’s and don’ts, they CAN admit and care for psychiatric patients in these senior facilities. Everyone wins.
The most important message in learning about stigma, is we hurt ourselves any way it turns. And why would we do that to Me?
I still have a headache, three days later. My teeth hurt. And I’m not as pretty.
Self-Care Tip: Break it down – What are you feeling? How are you behaving to yourself?
Question: How have you been prejudiced and acting out toward yourself? How have you eliminated stigma toward yourself? Please tell us your story!