Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." Genesis 9:13

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Openness

A recent comment from Diana mentioned she wished she could be as open as I am about my illness.

That's something I've been thinking about a lot lately. In an ideal world, mental illness would not cause us to need to consider being secretive at all. This is far from an ideal world. Oddly though, I am more open in real life than I am on the internet, where I do not use identifying information. In real life I talk about being ill a lot and I try to educate as I go, which has currently become one of my greatest frustrations because the people I work with don't really listen or accept that I am the expert on this disease/my version of it.

On so many levels I resent that this blog is cloaked in so much anonymity. I have been more free than I thought I would, and if you were incredibly bored and had a lot of free time I know at least one way to figure out my name and probably where I live, but it's not a way you're likely to think of. It irritates me that I have to constantly remember to not use my real name.

Yet it lets me say more than I could otherwise. I can't talk openly to anyone about my plans to eventually leave my job, probably after a disability usage. They won't be thrilled about that, so I'll keep it quiet. I can't talk about how much my job hurts and frustrates me, because that's a good way to make it all worse.

Deciding to be open with the internet was really challenging. When this blog was started it was because I wanted a way to reach out a little. I was so tired of people assuming I was automatically not able to be who I am because of my illness. I was frustrated because I had earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's requiring a lot of psychology knowledge and had not known that someone could be severely mentally ill and still be able to function. It was hard for me to accept that I could do this and that delayed my treatment substantially, especially since I had a psychiatrist at that time who was assuming I couldn't be that ill because I had educational achievements, a job any new therapist would be proud of, etc. So ultimately I realized I wanted to share that bipolar wasn't what people thought, hoping that it would help even one person not be diagnosed because of what they were doing, rather than what they weren't. I also wanted to help people understand that it takes a lot of variations to get the "average bipolar", yet everyone looks for this type. Again, I missed out on years of treatment that could have helped me not have nearly as severe symptoms because I don't meet stereotypes. When I was first diagnosed, the world guru for bipolar disorder I was seeing said this was especially true because I had severe and consistent symptoms but expressed differently. I have now developed some issues that are more typical, but then it was really hard to see a lot of what was happening. After a lot of trying to find a way to do this, a friend offered to share a blog with students in his psychology classes. Funny enough, I don't really acquire readers from that; I acquire a few glancers and that's it. But even then, the goal was to talk about my type of bipolar, not my experience. However, 8 days after I started writing my life started to drastically change and last year's episode started. Now I'm on the other side of that, but learning to deal with a life that was changed irrevocably. My baseline is worse and I know it. My abilities are worse and I know it. My good times are even more rare than before (and even more appreciated; even the current ok time is a very, very happy thing).

I truly believe that out of all bad things good comes. The good that came out of getting so much sicker has been that I have had to become so much more honest. It's too bad the blog doesn't go back a bit further so you could see this for yourselves, but before I was so sick and did not recover fully, I wasn't as open. I hid it nearly totally. I still have the ability to hide symptoms from pretty much everyone but my doctors unless they go above a certain point of severity. I try to do this less now because I got so good at it that last year I was severely manic for months before I had a clue, and that's not good. Now, I have no choice. I have become ill enough that if I don't tell my life won't work. I'm ill enough I have to have support from others, pretty much all the time. There's a great likeliehood that things will get worse for me before they get better, and that much of what I've lost in the last 15 months is gone for good. I no longer have certain basic abilities, so I have to ask for help.

It's hard and I'm still learning, but it is working. I'm still afloat. A year ago I was starting to feel better and still wanted to die most of the time. This year I'm living. That's a big accomplishment.

1 comment:

Emilija said...

I have a policy of not telling people at work. I beleive that I would not have gotten my job if they knew my past. Maybe I am wrong, but that's how I feel it is. Now, I kind of feel like I have proved myself, and I have thought more about disclosure, but I'm not sure what it would "buy me." I did tell my direct supervisor after I got written up for excessive absences, but otherwise I don't tell. I do tell friends and family, to a certain extent. Some more than others. Some family doesn't want to hear, and doesn't understand.