Do you tell people you have bipolar? Why/why not?
As I continue to go through this writing prompt, I’m allowing myself to learn more about what I’m learning to live with. I will edit all of these to include links back to the original prompt list. There’s so much I’ve experienced since starting on this meme two years ago.
The short of it, sometimes.
Just like the fact that I am transgender. I don’t just introduce myself as “Hi! I’m Fin and I’m mentally ill!” or “I was assigned female at birth!”. I’m usually just another invisible bastard on a train. No one suspects that I’m transgender, nor would they guess that I’m mentally ill. And I like that invisibility. I get enough attention for my plethora of facial piercings and my ever-changing haircolor, which is currently a mix of midnight blue and purple. I almost like having a mostly-invisible illness. I don’t have to constantly explain myself. Now… my physical disAbilities? Can’t hide my slight limp, especially when the weather changes as much and as quickly as it has the past few weeks. When I’m flying, I suppose I can’t hide that, either. My behaviors become so..accented. And I don’t remember. I also can’t hide a panic attack or flashbacks, but I’m around enough people who get it that I know I’ll be ok.
I use to be very closed off about my diagnosis. I denied it for so long, but hospital stays are hard to hide when you do the kind of work I did before getting assaulted. I’ve gotten more open over the years. But still not to the level of just blurting it out at every chance.
Now there are a few situations that I will disclose my diagnosis. My closest friends know, and I’m fairly open about it on social media. There’s also this blog. I will disclose in 12-step meetings — when it’s relevant. My mental illnesses are closely related to my active alcohol and substance abuse. I used to deal with my mental illness by drinking heavily and abusing drugs.
When I am open about it, it’s because it could be a learning opportunity for someone. As I’ve mentioned previously in a few other posts, I am a staunch believer in reducing stigma. Speaking up helps reduce stigma through education. American society still views mental illness as one of society’s ills — the very reason people go on murder sprees. If I’m able to use my very existence as a pacifist living with mental illness to speak out against that trope, I will.
My relationships with my mental illnesses have drastically changed since I was diagnosed. Primarily, from fear of the unknown and my own personal biases…to acceptance and learning how to live again.