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A Tale of Medicine X

Walking down the hall toward my first panel discussion on Chronic Illness and Depression (check it out below), I was feeling pretty anxious. While I’ve written extensively of my own experiences with depression and my journey with therapy, being recorded & even part of a live webcast was uncomfortably different. I was putting a lot out there in front of a lot more people than I might normally reach.

The normal thoughts went through my head. You know the ones where I’m weak, faking, shamed, embarrassing, worthless and certainly not at the level my friends and co-panelists (Hugo Campos, Ann Becker-Schutte, Gonzalo Bacigalupe, and Erin Moore) and moderator (Sarah Kucharski) were.

But you know, that was the stigma of mental health talking. That stigma is so pervasive, so ingrained in human culture that I have to get past it in my own head before I can even discuss it.

In a sense, I felt as if I was climbing to the high-wire and there wasn’t a net.

As I waited with my friends, we began to joke a little and that helped relax me so when I got on stage, I felt quite calm and collected. It was when I came off stage that I got really wound up, wondering “What the hell did I just do?”.

Several people stopped me afterwards (thank you all very much!) and thanked me for being willing to discuss depression in an open forum such as Stanford Medicine X, most commenting that it was a “brave” thing to do. I’m don’t think of it as brave, it is simply something that needs doing and I am able to do it.

I needed to decompress after that session, so instead of hanging out with everyone I chose to sit alone, drink a few cold ones, recharge and let things brew in my head. After a while, I understood what really sets this conference apart.

The people.

My co-panelists, the attendees, the event staff, the other speakers, my fellow ePatients and especially our advisers (Liza Bernstein, Hugo Campos, Britt Johnson, Sarah Kucharski, Christopher Snider, and Nick Dawson) and conference organizer Dr. Larry Chu.

They all help make Medicine X a safe place. On more than one occasion, I saw everyone on that list go the extra mile to help someone else out. I can’t think of a safer place to discuss stigmatized conditions, especially for the first time. Honestly, I’m not sure i would have been able to do so anywhere else with any semblance of calm.

Afterwards I spoke in the hall with my ePatient adviser and moderator of my panel, Sarah. She believes that since we were willing to talk about chronic illness and depression, we have a responsibility to do so and I agree.

The key part of that statement is “willing”. There are huge stigmas out there regarding mental illnesses and they can hurt, so don’t feel bad if you are uncomfortable talking about this in a public setting. That’s perfectly normal and totally OK.

I`m fortunate enough to have a co-morbidity of not really giving a damn what most people think about me. I mean, seriously, who can say something about me that I have not already said about myself?

But the stigma… the stigma of mental health. The being weak, fake, worthless, and that I should ashamed and embarrassed. As much as I want to get past it, I still struggle at times. As much as I want to see it stop, I still struggle with calling out those who basically like to bully people with an illness. But the people at Medicine X not only made mental illness a focus this year but also made the conference a safe place to talk about it. For that, I am grateful.

And since I am willing to talk about, I agree that I have a responsibility to do so, and to do so loudly.

You can read other posts about Medicine X 2014 several of which also talk about the safe environment of the conference, such as the ones by Carly, Kim and Joe!

** Disclaimer:  I was awarded a partial scholarship to attend Medicine X 2014. MedX is not compensating me for any social media posts I make and the words, ideas, and takeaways are my own.

© 2014 Scott Strange, Strangely Diabetic and

© 2014 Scott Strange, Strangely Diabetic and

  • iamSpartacus

    It’s worth saying one more time – you’re a good man. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • “I’m fortunate enough to have a co-morbidity of not really giving a damn what most people think about me.” New personal philosophy, totally stolen from you. Funny, acerbic, observant. That’s what I think of you. I know you don’t give a damn … and that’s A-OK =)

    • I think I need to bottle that shit…

      • You do. Millions need it. Particularly in Hollywood …

  • Colin Hung

    Nice post Scott. I echo what was said by attendees of your session – you ARE brave to speak openly & candidly about your own challenges and journey. Patient stories are powerful and are only possible if people are courageous enough to get in front of a room full of strangers. Kudos to you.

  • AfternoonNapper

    Thank you for your willingness to open yourself to me and join in this conversation. We are people with knowledge and experiences to share – and if we can help someone by being honest about our inner selves, then we have been given a gift, even though it may not always feel like one. I don’t want us to be construed as brave because I want anyone and everyone to live free of judgment and stigma. When we allow others’ judgments to impact our sense of self-worth we are giving them power over us that they do not truly hold.

    • “I don’t want us to be construed as brave because I want anyone and everyone to live free of judgment and stigma.”

      Sarah, that is the best explanation I have ever heard of how I feel about this. Thank you for giving us the opportunity

  • Was one of my favorite panel discussions.

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