On Anonymity and Mental Health

I’m in a pickle. I want to talk openly with my friends about my life but there are too many things I’m supposed to be ashamed of that prevent me. For example, I joked about my ADD earlier and I guess that’s prevalent enough these days and sufficiently mainstreamed to the point that it’s socially acceptable. That’s all fine and good but mention bipolar and people raise an eyebrow. Why am I supposed to be ashamed of that? Would I be ashamed if I had cancer or diabetes? Is that an unfair comparison? In my limited experience I think the chance of it resulting in death is just as real. The amount of work I have and continue to put in to staying alive is just as hard. Yet, I am doomed to suffer in silence. My close friends know; the ones I know won’t judge. But that circle is in the minority. So for now I blog in half-shadows with no lack of awareness of the irony that I can tell eleventy-billion strangers my deepest darkest with less shame than I can tell my causal friends, my coworkers, my extended family, or my love interests.

All that said, bipolar isn’t a death sentence and it isn’t actually all bad. I live a highly functional life. As a matter of fact, I have a job that 99% of the people I know have already admitted they could never handle. Maybe facing the abyss every once in awhile removes some barriers to life.  Once you’ve looked down the barrel of an open 19th story window, other stuff just isn’t so scary. I get on a plane every-freaking-week (side topic; newly acquired claustrophobia, will address later) and fly off to god knows where to the office of Client X, Inc. I interview people, gather requirements, actively listen (the hardest part), and play psychiatrist, consultant, designer, process analyst, friend, devil’s advocate, scapegoat, or whatever they need me to be for them at the time. It’s mentally and physically exhausting, but I’m good at it. In fact, I’m good at a lot of stuff and I rarely give myself credit for that. And the public speaking. Was my worst fear for years…until I got perspective (see 19th story window). Now I do it almost weekly. Do I love it? Not really. Am I good at it? Well, yeah, I guess I am.

So, my first piece of unsolicited advice for anyone reading this who has *any* sort of mental illness: Try to look at it as an opportunity of sorts. You have a unique experience with this world. Yeah, you got dealt a sucky hand and I will not minimize the gravity of that, but the reality is what it is. We don’t have a choice but to make the most of it. Wallowing gets you nowhere. Get a good Dr., a great therapist, some excellent drugs, and then go for it. There’s nothing you can’t accomplish. Your brain is a unique gift. It’s receptors fire in different ways, finding unusual pathways to innovative solutions. Use that, harness that, and forge ahead in the glory of your own uniqueness.

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