Just like a game of Risk, coming out about your mental illness takes courage and planning. You sometimes rely on the strength of your allies, calculate the effects of stigma, and develop a strategy. Who to tell, how much to tell, when to talk.
Since my diagnosis, I have decided to be very open about my disorder. I make a conscious effort to share my experiences with others in the hope that someone might be inspired to share his or her own story. I remember talking to my therapist about friends, family, strangers, and future employers finding my blog and learning that I have bipolar and OCD. I was concerned that people would reject me or avoid me based on what they found out on my blog. I feared judgment.
I have been “out” online for about a year now, and my fears have not materialized. I have not been judged, rejected, or hurt because of my honesty. On the contrary, I have been overwhelmed with support and love. There is much less stigma than I thought there would be. Yes, stigma exists, and when you hear that “people with bipolar are just moody and acting out for attention,” it feels awful. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation.
When we make the decision to come out and share our stories, we are educating others. We are showing them what our lives look like. It is difficult and sometimes painful. There are aspects of my illness that I am not ready to share online. What is important is knowing that because it is your story, you are the editor. You share what you want to share. Just because you decided to share a part of your story does not make you obligated to share the entire thing.
If you have not yet dared to tell others about your mental health, I challenge you to reach out to one person this week. Tell them in your own way – in conversation, in writing, whatever makes the most sense to you. You don’t have to go all out and start a blog, but if you want to, go for it!
Have you come out? How did you do it?