Should I or shouldn’t I?
I realize for the first time that I have spent the better part of my career (25+ years) trying to hide my disorder instead of trying to advance my career.
Let’s face it, that many years ago, if I did try to talk about it, the subject was either too uncomfortable for others or I was too embarrassed to bring it up. I looked for excuses to cover up any behaviour that could now be attributed to my disorder when I probably should have thought about healthier ways to cope.
As a young adult, I self-medicated. Not gonna lie, it was a method I grew accustomed too and relied on for way too many years. I could kick myself sometimes, and then I try to switch my thinking back to being positive. I didn’t know then what I know now. It’s a simple explanation, but difficult to process nonetheless.
As an adult who lives with a mental illness diagnosis, it’s hard sometimes to forget about it. It’s there and depending on who you are talking to or working for, there’s always, always trepidation about how much to share and when to share it.
I don’t hide it anymore, but I sure don’t wear a sandwich board announcing my condition to passersby. It used to be shame that kept my mouth closed, now it’s more careful thought given before opening my mouth. I’ll do it, I just try to gauge my circumstances as thoroughly as I can before I do.
I ask myself a couple of key questions (knowing that I may not get the honest answer, but I accept that).
Why am I disclosing? Does it benefit my situation and does it make sense for the other person to know? Will my disclosure bring about common understanding that can be useful? Do I trust the other person to at least try to process and understand?
There are probably a slew of others, but those are some key ones that I keep in mind.
I am an advocate for mental health awareness and so I’m obviously not shy about talking about my disorder (after all, the internet is kind of a public forum), but not everyone is going to read my blog and not everyone will be interested in hearing my particular story.
The whole point of my work around eradicating stigma (wouldn’t that be wonderful?) is to at minimum start the conversation toward understanding. A person with mental illness shouldn’t have to prove to anyone how sick they actually are or how little/much they can handle. Conversely those suffering with a disorder such as mine, should not force others to be compassionate and make demands that we may not have the right to make. People understand or they won’t.
I will keep at it as long as I can to spread the positive word around coping with mental illness. By god, it can be done.