Coming Out of the Closet, Finally Accepting Myself Completely
It hasn’t been easy living with Bipolar Disorder. Not only do I have to treat my intense moods that are the hallmark of the condition, but ever since I was diagnosed at 16, I was always taught directly, or indirectly, to be ashamed of who I am because of it. From the very beginning, close acquaintances, and society at large, have told me to hide that part of myself…to reject that piece of myself that’s “unacceptable” and “intolerable”.
I remember desperately wanting to write about my Manic Depression for my college entrance essay, only to be told by a teacher that I shouldn’t because colleges might reject me because of it. I remember my father telling me to hide my medication, in case a stranger or distant relative thinks I’m “crazy” because of them. And of course there are all the jokes that people make about people with mental illness and taking medication, as well as movies, TV shows and news reports of “dangerous lunatics” who are mentally ill and go around hurting people.
So throughout most of my life, I lived a double life. My outer world that I allowed the public to see, and my inner world that I desperately wanted to hide, that only I and my most closest acquaintances knew about, always afraid that my two worlds would collide and ruin my chances of having a “normal” life.
It’s a hard to live a life where I only accept one piece of myself while rejecting the other, loving one part while hating the other. I suppose that’s why I’ve gone off my medication so many times, desperately hoping each time that the psychiatrists had made a mistake and that I was actually “normal”. After all, who in their right mind wants to be labeled “crazy” and be the constant butt of everyone’s jokes and derision? But no such luck. Each and every time I went off my medication, I’d eventually end up in the hospital.
But recently, after a very challenging series of events that showed me how much stigma our society still has towards mental illness, I finally decided to take the plunge and come completely out of the closet with my condition. I started talking about my Bipolar Disorder on social media, with people in my church and even sometimes with strangers. Through conversations, discussions, and meetings I wanted to do my part to fight to eradicate stigma.
I have been astonished by how much support I’ve gotten. My worst fears of being socially excluded and isolated were instead replaced with others coming to my support in sympathy, compassion, and empathy. People from my church started telling me about their own experiences with mental illness and with that of their relatives. People on Facebook started to “friend” me and respond positively to my comments, and even strangers gave me their approval and support for fighting for the cause of ending stigma of mental illness. I was simply amazed by the level of acceptance I felt not only from others, but also from myself. For me, it’s my firm belief that I was born to have my mental illness as many people were born with the genetics that caused their own mental illnesses. And it’s also my firm belief that no one should ever have to feel ashamed simply for being the way they were born. I can finally be my whole self now without feeling shame.