We hear stigma mentioned frequently, but unless you’ve experienced it yourself, it would be hard to understand what it feels like. As someone who has learned what it means to be disgraced in this way, I’ve come to see how being stigmatized is often worse than the illness itself.

At a certain point of my life, those who were once good friends inexplicably turned their backs on me. Some stopped speaking to me entirely, others would not even acknowledge me when I said hello. The presence of friends in my life had always represented warmth and companionship – support when life got tough. But now my world had turned cold and lonely. I wondered: What happened? What did I do? What’s wrong with me?

When I developed BPD, rejection from others started occurring at every turn. If it wasn’t because of my behaviour, it was the ugly label my illness had been given. All seemed hopeless. No longer did I feel I was worthy of being a part of things. I was excluded from a group I had long needed, causing me great distress. In some cases I was hurt through mistreatment. I became afraid to take part in social activities. Self-esteem took a beating. It was enough to make me want to die.

In Christian mysticism stigma is a term used to describe the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ. The term originates from the line at the end of Paul‘s Letter to the Galatians where he says, “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” (Galatians 6:17) What were these marks? The Greek word here, translated “marks,” is stigmata, which in English means “signs of disgrace or shame.” “Paul is most likely alluding to the wounds and scars which he received in the service of Jesus” (Danker et al. 2000, 945).

And I think to myself. I’m not the only one carrying this stigma – these “marks.” Many others went before me, including the Apostle Paul.

I, too, am a servant of Jesus Christ.