Stigma (n) a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation.

The train roared past the platform at terrifying speed. Blue and pink mist, and then silence. I stood on the platform as it passed, root deliberate to the spot; arms across my chest, breathing hard. Telling myself not to move, to stay still. Not today. I had a school to visit. I was going to school.

My arms were covered. Opaque tights. Smart dress. But inside, the words hurt. Assessment three of three this week. More thorns. More truth. More stigma. Or more to come. Because he told me that I am clingy and I seek reassurance, and I am an emotional wreck, and I fall apart when I’m criticized, and that I find relationships – all relationships – tricky to navigate.  I am rubbish at relationships.  I am borderline. And avoidant. And paranoid. And possibly other things, too. I make people nervous. I am bad, bad, bad.

stigmata (n)  marks resembling the wounds of the crucified body of Christ. 
Stigmata are marks – wounds. Wounds that bleed. The wounds of Christ. Christ’s wounds are called stigmata, like the marks of mental illness. And facing the stigma; hearing them spoken aloud; knowing that they are true of me, hurts. But I have to face the wounds, to be healed. Three months, they said, till I would get an appointment. God, grant me the courage to face my wounds; to be healed by Yours.
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2 Responses to Stigmata

  1. davidinchippy says:

    Reading the summary of your assessment, you sound pretty human to me. Maybe I am mentally ill too, but I recognise every one of the things you list. Surely they’re all qualities of the human condition?

    Maybe it’s a question of degree. Or maybe somewhere along the line you were less able to cope with being human than I was. Maybe I learnt a few more ‘tools’ more quickly; or maybe not. I can still find criticism pretty devastating!

    The biggest thing for me I suppose was my sexuality. I can recall quite clearly the awful pain of ignorant people poking around in that essential part of me they knew nothing about. I remember sobbing almost uncontrollably as I tried to share that pain some 20 years later in a small group of true brothers. But over many years my shadows and I have been able to embrace; well perhaps most of us have!

    The Embrace

    What is this that arises uninvited out of solitude
    And joins itself to men more noble
    Than those who usurped authority’s power?
    Familiar friend, springing from wounds once fetid
    Yet healed through sacred ritual
    And brotherly love.

    I know you well old friend,
    Yet feel you differently;
    For now your power to afflict is gone,
    And old voices are no more.
    Yet would you accuse those
    Who, standing in authority’s stead,
    Brought salve and healing?

    Not so, old friend!
    For now I join with reason;
    And pain, once raw, is soothed
    And robbed of power,
    Though not forgotten.
    And now you become the very place
    Where new life springs.

    We embraced, my shadow and I;
    And, in that embrace, we became one.

    There is a picture that goes with this poem; it’s called “Reconciliation” by Stephen Gambill. It can be viewed on several levels, one of which is a symbol of integration of the conscious self with the shadow. I can’t attach it here. I’ll email it.



    • That poem is beautiful, David. And I collect “hug” pictures (most of which are related to the prodigal son). So thank you for adding to that collection. I think it probably is about coping strategies (dark thinking, uncontrollably crying, and screaming at people, and self harm….) and degree. You’ve hit a nail on the head – personality disorder traits are all present to some extent in the “normal population”, which is a massive debate in the literature (who has the right to call anyone’s personality disordered, given this fact etc.?)

      However, I am assured – and rest, assured – in a strange kind of way, that having these traits to this extent it is not normal – that I can learn more healthy ways of negotiating relationships et al., that will cause less distress for me – but more importantly – for others.


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