Outing myself about mental illness

On Friday I had three mom’s over and a total of nine kids combined between the four of us. The sun was shining, and we were all in good spirits. Little did I know I would end up sharing an outline of my past struggles with mental illness. Right there at the patio table and chairs with all the kids running around.

Let me introduce these special moms:

  • One of the mom’s is my super good friend — the friend who sees everything and all parts of my me and knows about my mental illnesses.
  • Another is a mom of three who I connect with on a personal level. Her oldest son also happens to be best buddies with my oldest son.
  • The third mom is substantially younger than me with two littles one. She is also my next door neighbor.

To make a long story short, I had done some writing before everyone came over. I had basically made an outline of five events that I consider tough happenings in my life — eating disorder, parents divorce, psychosis (twice), and bipolar and anxiety disorder. The outline I wrote was basically the facts. Dates, events, and diagnosis, followed by a few quick reasons why I want to share my stories.

I hadn’t planned to print out and give these moms a copy of my draft, but I did. They read it, and I felt relieved. I felt SEEN, and it made me extremely nervous and uncomfortable, but I did not feel judged. And afterward I felt relief.

I am trying to pull together a story to post on a different blog I write that will expose my struggles to a larger population of people who know me. I honestly feel like it is the next step in my journey as a person and as a writer. Until I get these feelings off my chest I’m not able to go any further as a writer. It’s like they won’t get off my back, AND they are creating a block in my mind/heart at the same time. Not cool mental illness.

*****

Yesterday I traveled to Pittsburgh to hear five women share their stories about mental illness. The point of the readings was to “write away the stigma” about mental illness. This is something I hope I can do someday, but until I put myself out there publicly I’ll never get to that point.

These women gave me courage and helped me feel less embarrassed about my struggles. They spoke my language and as I sat there I found myself nodding my head in agreement, smiling when they made jokes about psychiatric facilities, felt sad when they talked about hardships, felt hope when they talked about triumphs. I am so glad I attended. The best part is that I introduced myself to a woman who spoke about her bipolar disorder. It was the FIRST TIME I have ever talked to another person face-to-face that has bipolar. It was emotional, but I am so glad to have met her. I felt so compelled to hug her after we talked because I felt so comfortable talking to her. Like SUPER COMFORTABLE, no hiding, and like she understand my illness and like I could relate to her. She was happy and bubbly and secure about her illness. I am working toward getting to that point. Holy wonderfulness that a real live person who has already done that stood before me.

*****

I went to church this morning for the first time in a long time (other than C&E). The sermon was about honesty and about being open about your feelings and not hiding the negative feelings or hard things that happen to you. It was about not running away. The entire sermon spoke to me in relation to where I am at in my life now.

*****

It has been a crazy (good) three days. First I outed myself in-person (there’s a difference in that from writing) to friends, then I connected and actually hugged another person with bipolar, and now this morning I felt myself listening to God.

In the next week (month?) I am going to write a concise confession on my other blog. I have confessed to family and friends over the last few months, but after attending the readings on mental illness yesterday, I shouldn’t live in secret beyond them about living with a mental illness. I believe it need not be the forefront of every conversion, but I imagine I will feel a huge amount of relief if I just get it out of my head and let it be part of me and not just some enemy trying to take me out. Mental illness has been a big pain in the butt in my life for a very long time. I am ready to own it instead of letting it own me. Who knows, maybe I’ll even meet others in my life who have mental illnesses that I didn’t even know about because I was too afraid to be honest with myself, let alone others.

The great part about meeting someone else with bipolar yesterday is that there is hope that I’ll find others that I can share some of the things that I went through who TRULY UNDERSTAND what the heck I am talking about. My friends and family can listen and let me talk to them until I am blue in the face, but they’ll never really get it. Unless you have had a psychotic episode it’s not something you can explain.

For me it’s not like, oh no big deal, I have had two psychotic episodes and spent time on a psychiatric ward. But it is OK to laugh and to be me and to let those experiences see light and not hide them underneath the put-together-high-functioning person that I also am. I cannot help but wonder what will happen if I alleviate the burdens that come with mental illness by talking about them?

I have a feeling that I won’t have to live so guarded anymore. To not always hide a part of myself.

So….. as I am able….. in my own good time…..

I choose let the light in. I choose to heal. I choose to confess. I choose to laugh. I choose to come out of hiding. I choose acceptance. I choose HONESTY.

 

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