Coming out as bipolar: self-disclosure cannot be undone
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Coming out as bipolar
This is Jes Edgson’s personal story about coming out as bipolar to her family, friends, and the wider world.
As I received the message that my last piece would be published about coming out with bipolar disorder, My asshole brain, and how I plan to F#ck The Stigma, I froze. At the time of writing, I was feeling pretty brave. I was committed to the cause, and the cause was, as the article so eloquently states, Fuck the Stigma.
And yet, when I realized my personal struggle with bipolar disorder was going to be published online, I was scared. And I mean, as the kids would say, I was shook.
How could I possibly be afraid of the consequences when I knew all the possible outcomes when I wrote the piece? Well, it’s pretty easy to be brave when you’re sitting behind a laptop, and all you can think about is the story.
However, when that story has been written, sent off, and is accepted for publication, it’s a whole other ball game. Now, it’s officially out there. Now, it’s there for anyone and everyone to read. Now, it could affect both my personal and professional life for as long as it remains visible to Google. And that is terrifying.
Coming out as bipolar: now everyone knows
Think about it for a second. Anyone who googles my name from now on will likely have access to information regarding my mental health. And that means that any potential future partner may come across my articles and decide I’m not worth the drama. Or any prospective employer may find these pieces and determine that hiring me is too much of a risk. Scary, isn’t it?
Then again, I have to remind myself that this is the reason I choose to talk about my mental health issues. This is the reason came out as bipolar. This fear that I’m currently feeling is the reason I wrote that previous piece. Not because I want to label myself out there in the real world and limit my personal and professional options in the future. No, because I shouldn’t be scared of that happening in the first place.
I shouldn’t be afraid that I’ll live out my days alone because I was honest about my mental health and I shouldn’t be worried that my career will ever be limited because there is a chemical imbalance in my brain. In an ideal world, everyone would be able to talk freely about mental health issues. And, even though we don’t live in a perfect world, if no one tries to change the status quo, we never will.
Every potential partner might move on
So, yeah, some guy might read this before our first date and decide I’m not worth the trouble before even getting to know me. And okay, so a future potential employer may see this article and think it’s probably best not to hire the unstable person. But that’s alright with me, I guess. Because I can’t complain that nobody speaks about mental health if I’m not willing to speak up myself.
If the subject is talked about more freely, potential partners and employers would know that dating or hiring a person with mental health issues is not a big deal. They’d also know that many people suffer from mental health issues and are great people who work hard. And if I want things to change in the future, shouldn’t I be willing to be part of that change (no, I’m not about to quote Gandhi, but you get the picture)?
Read more: Gaslighting and Bipolar Disorder
Oh shit… have I said too much coming out as bipolar
The thing is, this piece isn’t only about this situation, and it’s definitely not just about me. If you struggle with any sort of mental health issue, especially anything related to anxiety, you’ve likely had that “Oh shit… have I said too much?” moment.
It may not be after writing an article about it for an online publication, but it’s still the same fear that grasps at you. It could be after telling a friend, a colleague, or even a family member about your mental health issues in what is often a very awkward conversation.
And that moment doesn’t come after someone says something mean or ignorant in response. It happens a while later when you’re alone. It creeps up on you and attacks you with a sudden realization that, oh shit, you may have said too much. You may have confided in someone who can’t be trusted. Or you may have shared a part of yourself that maybe you should be more ashamed of?
What if they think you’re only after attention? What if they think you’re just another millennial in search of special treatment? What if they believe you are anything less than who you really are?
This is kind of the problem with that whole “Oh shit… have I said too much?” moment. Because that worry stems from how other people perceive you now that they know you have mental health issues. And that is the last thing you should be caring about. Let’s face it, we have a lot of thoughts to battle and emotions to control, why should we be focussing on handling those that belong to others?
So, even though I’ll likely continue to freak out and question whether I’ve said too much, or even if coming out as bipolar was a good idea, I’ve decided to answer myself by asking another question: “Have I said enough?”
Jes Edgson is a writer and editor from Cape Town, South Africa. After living in denial for far too long, she’s committed to breaking the stereotype and “Fucking the Stigma” of mental health issues.