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Reactions to My Mental Illness

Posted on May 27, 2017 in Bipolar Disorder Neighborhood Stigma

square965In my manic days, I told everyone. Their eyes darted around the room as if checking the escape routes. Eyes that told me that I was a freak, that I was dangerous.

Shame is how I feel about those days. Looking back leaves me with a heaviness in my chest, a surge of blood in my head that can turn into a headache.

I keep it a secret now. I don’t share the knowledge — not with my neighbors, not with my fellow students — except I have revealed myself in Toastmasters where I told the story of my journey to a diagnosis. It was a tale of knives and crazy text messages. I knew they would feel badly for Lynn, but how would they feel about me? Once I had finished, it was out there. And no one attacked me, no one told me that I should leave the club. I have told exactly one neighbor — when Lynn had uterine cancer — and she told me that she lived with bipolar disorder, too! And so did another neighbor!

I have not told the others. They don’t need to have this tidbit for gossip, they don’t need to worry that I might be a child molester or a knife-slashing maniac. My angersometimes gets out of control but it hasn’t happened in a long long time. The neighborhood has no need to know.

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