There is a saying that goes, “Happiness is a journey, not a destination.” Well, same thing with acceptance. You will find that thanks to stigma, there will be moments of self- doubt and worry even when you feel comfortable with your diagnosis.
The other week, a friend called me and said that he was talking to another friend of ours, and “had to tell me something, but don’t freak out”. I experienced a moment of worry, thinking, “Okay. He just told me not to freak out. It’s bad. This friend found out I have bipolar disorder from the Internet.” The story my friend told me ended up having nothing to do with that, but it’s interesting that was the immediate thought that ran through my head. Not all of my friends/my husband’s friends know about my diagnosis. It’s not that I don’t want them to know, it’s more that I don’t see a point to telling them this information because they may not know what to do with it (I have mentioned this in previous posts), or there is no benefit to either party in sharing this information.
At the time, I didn’t say to my friend that I was relieved when what he had to tell me had nothing to do with me/my mental health. Yesterday, I decided to bring it up. He said, “Why would you care? It’s not a secret. You post about mental illness on your Facebook and Twitter. People probably know something,” and of course, being the comedian he is and trying to lighten the mood, he added, “It’s not like it’s some secret porn film.”
Yes….a secret pornographic film would be embarrassing and definitely something most people would want to stay buried. But there’s no need to bury my diagnosis or to care who finds out. We had a conversation about how it seems that people may be more understanding now about mental illness and that everyone we know knows someone with a mental illness.
Along the same vein of “burying” something, I found a great article, “Why My Mental Illnesses Aren’t Dirty Laundry“, where the author discusses why she is not ashamed of her multiple diagnoses and explains what each of her diagnoses has taught her. Here is an excerpt:
For a long time, I believed these illnesses were bad and something to be ashamed of. Because my brain didn’t work like other people’s brains, I thought there was something wrong with me. Like someone forgot one of the screws or read the directions backwards. But I am not a mistake. My brain was designed specifically and perfectly just for me. I don’t suffer from an illness. I have been gifted a fuller, richer, more meaningful life because of the experiences I have had. Each one of these special journeys has provided me with a critical piece to this puzzle called life.
I couldn’t agree more. I know I have touched on this in previous posts, but I am a better person because of my experiences with bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety disorders. I have learned so many lessons and have a different perspective on life. Yes, I changed but it was for the best and I grew on an emotional and spiritual level. I am not entirely at peace with myself, but it’s a work in progress and I won’t give up on it.
Being able to be more open has helped me to gain back some of the confidence I lost. However, I can’t say that my automatic thought that I discussed at the beginning of this post doesn’t bother me. Why should I have a “fear” of being “found out”, and fear being embarrassed? What’s the worst thing that could happen? More people know “the truth” and…what? Nothing earth shattering is going to happen and I doubt my life will change. I am not doing anything wrong by having and living with mental illnesses. I will not apologize for leaving my “dirty laundry” out of the basket, on purpose. I will never apologize for being me.
About Melanie Luxenberg
My name is Melanie Luxenberg and I am finally ready to live openly with mental illness. I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in 2003, which I still experience. At the same time, I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety (which I also still experience), and then briefly experienced Agoraphobia. I have had depression on and off since I was 13 years old. In July 2010 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II. Shortly after it was realized that I experienced rapid cycling. I can experience multiple cycles in a week. Despite my diagnosis, I completed a university degree and then a college program. I have always held stable employment, regularly taken my medication and regularly attended my doctor’s appointments. There have been times of hopelessness, but I have always found support from my family, husband and 3 dogs. I am a law clerk, social media/content writer and of course, mental health advocate. My Twitter feed is full of mental health advocacy messages. I hope one day to see the end of stigma towards mental illness, because stigma has to stop!