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Understanding and Coping with Stigma of Disabilities

The “Support Others” Coping Technique continued...

Use humor! An early joke that makes fun of your situation (in good taste, of course) is terrific at breaking the awkwardness of the initial situation.

Don’t let bad anticipations rule your life. It has been well established with epilepsy that people with epilepsy are far more likely to feel they are going to be rejected by others than actually experience rejection. That does not mean that there aren’t a few turkeys out there that may deliberately reject you for whatever condition you have. However, they are in the minority and they would not make good friends anyway. The trap you are most likely to fall into is rejecting yourself for the other person before they even have a chance to work past those first awkward moments of not knowing how to respond to you. Don’t be your own judge and executioner. Think of yourself as a complex and interesting person and set your mind to helping others discover the talents, interests, and failings that you know you have.

Long ago stigma had a certain value for human society. That value was based upon mankind’s ignorance. We are no longer so ignorant and stigma has lost its value as an adaptation. Our job now is to slowly melt its lingering feelings away. Social campaigns against stigma are important. However, more important are the changes made inside ourselves. The recognition that each of us is a valuable human being and that no one can claim perfection. The care we show in reaching out to others to help them understand how to cope with a condition new to them. With every person we put at ease regarding our illness or disability, there is another person who escapes the hold of stigma and is available to show compassion and understanding to others.

WebMD Feature from “Exceptional Parent” Magazine

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