Shhhhh…It’s a Secret

secrets

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…

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Friends

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We had friends, my husband and I.  We moved to New Orleans from Texas–we always loved the city and after I had completed my master’s degree, we decided to leave everything behind in that West Texas town and move to the Big Easy.  We had an ongoing love affair with all things New Orleans from the moment we set foot in this place.  Things were jovial and we were ready for whatever life had to throw at us.  It was exhilarating and scary at the same time.  We were able to make a few friends when we first moved here and that provided great comfort and a social life for both of us.

We visited and partied with our friends constantly.  After all, New Orleans always has a party going on, even in the most dire of times.  Is it Wednesday?  Let’s celebrate!  A hurricane is coming?  I’ll grab some supplies and we can hunker down together.  We were taking this city by storm and having a fabulous time doing so.

Then, things were becoming stressful.  My husband was working the over-night shift at one of the hospitals here, so I would only see him in passing.  We still hung out with our friends, but I was quickly becoming stressed by not seeing my husband and was having a difficult time keeping a job.  I have been fired from more jobs than seems possible in the time we have lived here.  I used to chalk it up to my big Texan attitude, but have since realized it is something more.  Yet, we still maintained our friendships.  They didn’t judge–at least to our faces.

Little did I know, my mind was spiraling out of control.  I had just gotten a new job and was attacking it full force.  I was so proud of my new position and was dedicating all my time to learning more about the industry I was working in and trying to be the most creative, best employee they had ever hired.  I was also not sleeping.  I would work and do research and then stay up late watching ridiculous documentaries that would warp my mind.  Did you know that people with bipolar have a hard time sleeping?  (I think that sleep is also evasive for those who experience anxiety in general.)

That’s when I had my break.  I hadn’t been sleeping or eating and I was working out constantly in an effort to calm myself.  I was becoming a waif of a person and while I still thought I was fat, I looked like a skeleton.  I thought I was doing an excellent job for my new employer, but I had started to slip.  I wasn’t making sense and everything was running together.  I didn’t know if it was day or night, other than the sunlight or moonlight.  I wonder what I was really like looking in from the outside…

Our friends were trying to stick by me.  At this point, they fired me from my job for inconsistent behavior and that was within their right because I was still within the 90 day introductory period.  I didn’t realize I had been fired.  That was a Thursday.  I really lost my shit on Saturday.

I melted down and thought I might be dying.  That’s when my husband took me to the emergency room.  I was hospitalized.  Our friends stood beside us.  I got out of the hospital with a handful of medications to take.  Our friends stood by me, but I think they had started to question their involvement with us.  More drama happened.  I was sent back to Texas for about 5 months to recover.

When I came back, our friends were gone.  They had stayed in contact with my husband while I was on my sabbatical, but when I tried to contact them, they told me they didn’t have time to be bothered with me.  Even a couple of friends back in Texas walked away.  It was too uncomfortable for them, I suppose.

Long story short, I believe that the cream rises to the top.  If a friend can’t handle you at your worst, they have no business seeing you at your best.  So, it’s just my husband and myself living our life in the Big Easy.  It’s not so easy, but we have each other and I for one am a lot more hesitant when it comes to opening up to someone in real life.  I have to be.  I’ve worked too hard trying to regain my sanity to have fair-weather friends and my husband deserves a gold medal for sticking by my side as well.

We will make new friends.  It is just hard to make friends as an adult.  Hopefully, true friends are still out there to be had.  If not, I have the small few that have stuck around and have come to terms with the fact that those individuals that we called friends prior were never really our friends.  It hurts, but I have managed to move past those situations.

Have you ever lost a friend over a life changing event?  Have your friends stayed by your side through thick and thin?  Tell me in the comments!

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