Yesterday, after my epic post, ItalianHurricane posed the question, “You still don’t talk about your disorder, right? Nobody knows in New Orleans?” This made me think about how I navigate in my world with this giant, pink elephant in the room. Part of me wants to shout it from the rooftops, but I know that would be social suicide. Mental illness is still a very taboo subject and people get scared when they are faced with the fact that someone they know suffers. It simply makes people uncomfortable.
This blog is not completely anonymous. I haven’t told many people that I am writing again, but I do include my picture and have revealed enough about myself that if, by chance, someone that I know happens upon this blog, they would immediately know it is me. I am not going to advertise this blog on Facebook and I’m not going to shout it from the rooftops that I am writing again. This is my safe place, so far, and it is nice to have some anonymity in telling my story. I am overwhelmed by the positive response I have received since starting this blog two weeks ago and I am going to continue to let it grow organically.
Back to ItalianHurricane’s question. No, I don’t talk about my disorder in real life. No one, except for a few select close people know that I have bipolar disorder. I think that if I tell them, it will make me seem handicapped, and I am not handicapped. I just move through my world a little differently than others – a little more anxiously, as it were. I don’t tell my employers that I have this condition. However, I will be applying for FMLA status with my next employer. This will be my insurance policy so I do not lose my job if I miss work due to anxiety. I don’t want to do it, but I need to protect myself and my income. That means they can’t fire me because of my condition, even though I will have to reveal my big secret. I think I am okay with that.
As we don’t really have many friends here, I don’t have anyone to tell about my diagnosis. As I explained in my Friends post, everyone abandoned us after I got sick. People just don’t deal well when you change your story. My story changed in a massive way and I went from being outgoing and bubbly to depressed and drugged. Needless to say, our social calendar is wide open.
I don’t know when the right time would be to reveal to a new friend that I have this condition. I don’t want to lie about it, because it is such a huge part of who I am now, but I also don’t want to scare anyone away. I guess it goes back to the idea that only those that are accepting and understanding are truly worthy of a friendship. I’m tired of lying and hiding, but this secret is a doozy. It’s up there with schizophrenia and if I am honest with myself, I would take having bipolar over schizophrenia any day. I couldn’t handle the hallucinations. However, I would never not be friends with someone because they had an illness.
Discrimination. That is the root of all the rejection that my husband and I have experienced since my break. That, and ignorance. People are afraid of what they don’t understand. If someone wanted to talk to me about my condition, I would be very open about my experiences. I just have yet to find someone who really wants to talk about it.
Let me say this, I have a friend base that goes back to my younger years. They have not walked away and only offer support and encouragement. I am lucky to have them, even if I am only able to connect with them through the computer and texts. It’s just the new friends that I have come across that are not accepting. Maybe it’s because it is harder to make friends as an adult – you already know who you are and what you like and to bring someone into your life who is a little “off” can seem daunting. This makes things lonely on the friend front.
My husband can’t be my everything. I don’t expect him to be, but there is a lot of pressure on him and me, for that matter, to make each other feel fulfilled and nurtured. That is why I am really enjoying the outreach of support I have received through this blog. The encouraging words and compliments really push me forward to keep writing. It’s nice to know that I haven’t lost all my writing skills and can complete a coherent statement.
So, thank you for being my virtual friends and reading what I have to say. You are aiding in my recovery and giving me a confidence boost to head out and try to meet new people in New Orleans. The real test will be when I reveal my big secret…