All Mixed Up

I haven’t written a column here in some time. I haven’t felt like I’ve had anything to say. I still feel that way. Like nothing I say is important or matters. Sounds like I’m depressed. Everybody around me says I’m stable. My psychiatrist, my counselor, my partner and my friends all think I’m fine. And I guess I am. Only in so many other ways I’m not. I was originally diagnosed with bipolar II, with mixed states and rapid cycling. I’m not sure if I fit the technical criteria for mixed states and rapid cycling or not. But it sure is my lived experience. And it happens all the time, every day. Or so it seems. In actual fact I’m sure it doesn’t, but I’m often in a mixed state, and the mood changes often happen more rapidly than I can easily handle. It feels like I’m bouncing around all the time.

I’ve been keeping a mood chart lately. I’ve also been charting my pain level next to it. The two so often go together for me. It’s been interesting, even though it’s only been a month. I’ve broken up the days into two or three or four hour sections. I put down a word to describe my mood and a number for my pain level. My pain has been pretty consistent at six or seven. With a few jumps up to eight or more. But my mood descriptors have been all over the place. Lots of Good’s and OK’s. But most of the entries seem to say Mixed or Depressed. When I fill in the space at the end of the day for overall mood and pain levels I have a lot of Seven’s and Mixed’s. What I want to focus on here are the Mixed days.

In bipolar disorder a mixed mood basically means you experience both the highs and the lows at the same time. That’s been a significant part of my experience for months and months now, maybe years. I’m not there all the time, by any means. But I’m there way too often for my comfort. I can be having a wonderful, cheerful conversation with my partner about how beautiful the garden is, while my internal dialogue tells me I don’t deserve to live in such a beautiful place or have such a lovely garden to tend. This constant back-and-forth makes me feel unsettled much of the time. Add to that the crippling social anxiety I experience as part of the PTSD, and the bipolar fueled rage that makes me feel like exploding half the time, and you can see why it doesn’t feel like I’m doing as well as I appear. And underlying it all is the constant low grade depression of the dysthymia. I may look fine but inside I too often feel like a basket case.

Fortunately my high times don’t ever approach major hypomania these days. But in my low times I go as deep as I’ve ever gone into the depths of depressive despair. In seconds my heart can plummet to the floor and my outlook becomes unbearably bleak. By then I can be in full suicidal ideation mode. Often there’s a trigger that sets me off, but just as often there isn’t one. To me it feels like it just happens in an instant, without any conscious thoughts on my part whatsoever. It’s very hard to pull myself out of that state. But I do it every time I have to, every day. Right now I wouldn’t even try to pretend I’m not depressed. I’ve been this way for a couple of days. But even now, if it was required, I could pull myself out of it and act normal, at least for a little bit. That’s why everyone thinks I’m fine. I maintain too well for my own good.

In reality it’s a lie I perpetuate out of shame, fear and embarrassment. At the moment I’m experiencing all of those emotions as I prepare to continue writing this piece. Because, as much as I’m embarrassed and ashamed to say it, I still don’t think I’ve come to terms with this fucking bipolar disorder. It will be 24 years next month since I was diagnosed. I thought I’d dealt with this and had come to terms with having this illness and accepted it years ago. Now it feels like I didn’t really get rid of the fear at all. In some ways the longer I’ve known I’ve had this disorder the more afraid of my perceived mental deterioration I’ve become. I say perceived because I know my brain itself is just fine. It’s my thinking that is disordered. I feel stupid. I know I’m not. But right now I feel ashamed of having bipolar disorder, especially the depression. And that’s just stupid.

As a gay man I know that coming out is a life-long process. The same is true if you have a mental illness. You may think you’ve come out but then you find yourself in another situation where you have to come out again. This has happened repeatedly for me as far as being gay. It’s not really an issue for me here in liberal Seattle, but when I go to conservative Eastern Washington it’s a very different story. It’s even more so for mental illness. Again, especially for depression. When I’m hypomanic everybody loves me because I’m charming, cheerful, charismatic, positive and full of life. When I’m depressed I’m afraid to even tell anyone because I feel so negative and boring. I’m sure no one really wants to even be around me. That often includes my partner Louie. I know he’ll love me forever regardless of my emotional state. But I’m still terrified that I’ll burn him out on me if I’m too depressed too much of the time. I know that’s crazy thinking, but it’s got me bad. So I hide my feelings, even from him.

If I feel afraid of burning out Louie, imagine how I feel about my neighbors and people in general. I’m bloody terrified. Most people still think depression is a failure of character or will power. Of course I know that’s nonsense. But it doesn’t stop me from buying into their opinions in some situations. When you’re already feeling vulnerable it seems crazy to make yourself even more vulnerable by acting depressed. People think you’re weak if you’re depressed and when you’re already vulnerable you can’t afford to look weak. This attitude seems to be shifting a bit in our culture now. But our cult of pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps rugged individualism is still too strong to allow for those of us with depression. It takes a lot of guts to be who you are in this world. I say this as a privileged white boy. Imagine how much worse it is for a person of color, a woman, a trans person or anyone else who doesn’t fit society’s definitions of what it means to be a man, a woman or any other sexual identity. Or what it means to be mentally healthy and functional.

Everyone I know would tell you that I’m a high functioning individual who just happens to have bipolar disorder. That’s what they see and I have no desire to try to change those opinions. Except I sort of do. I want to feel free to exhibit my depression whenever I feel it so strongly. I want to be real and true and honest about who I am. But I’m scared. I’m afraid people will think less of me if they see me being depressed. I have what is often called a shame-based personality. That doesn’t mean I feel ashamed all the time, but when I do it can be overwhelming. I once told a counselor that I thought shame had stopped me from becoming manic at times. He laughed at me and told me mania was too strong to let shame stop it. I’m sure that’s true for full-blown mania. But shame has definitely kept me from acting out some of my worst hypomanic impulses. In some ways it has actually protected me from losing it. What a weird fucking paradox.

I rarely feel much strong hypomania these days. But even so when I’m feeling really really good I tend to ascribe it to hypomania rather than just a good mood. I don’t really act out the grandiosity but I certainly think of myself in that way at those times. A part of me still thinks I’m hot shit. It feels good to feel that way, which is why people like mania. Especially since I’m depressed so often. I can still go way overboard with the hypomania if it strikes me that way. My “episodes” rarely affect me for just the four day criteria needed for a diagnosis. They tend to be more diffuse and spread out over days, weeks, months and even years. A couple of years ago I spent about three months in a hypomanic state that I didn’t even know I was in until it was over. Balancing my checkbook was the clue that I’d really overdone it. I was chagrined and embarrassed that I had let myself get so carried away. Because underlying the hypomania was the usual depression, and I really didn’t feel that good about myself. I was in a mixed state.

I hope I’ve given you some idea of what it’s like to live with mixed states. As I’ve said, it can be a real challenge. In my high times I tend to do things and make promises that when I’m depressed just fall apart. I’ve always tried to be a very responsible person and to walk my talk. I think I’ve mostly been pretty good at that. But as I look back over my life I see so many times that I blew it. In fairness to myself I also see plenty of times that I did OK. Most of my life I’ve lived in a hypomanic haze, with periods of depression now and then. I’ve been able to function really well and I’ve created some good things in my time. But the last 24 years have been really hard. I haven’t been able to hold a real job in that time, even though I’ve done some good work now and then. This really affects my self image. I feel like a failure even though I know I’m not. Feeling good, feeling bad, feeling good, feeling bad – it’s a constant merry-go-round of emotion, especially when both things are happening at the same time.

My hope is that I will continue to learn that when I’m in a mixed state I need to moderate my behavior as much as I do as when I’m depressed or manic. Sometimes I think I’m doing really good at that. I’m depressed right now so everything looks pretty bleak. But if I know anything about depression, I know that it doesn’t last forever. One of these days I’ll start feeling better again, maybe even today. Mixed states give me a different perspective on reality than most people get to have. Just having bipolar does that. So I could view all this as a good thing. I’m trying hard to do that. Sometimes I’m even successful. I hate to be trite, but yes, there often is a silver lining. It’s pretty dim right now but with any luck it will get brighter in the near future. I won’t say I have much hope, but I do know that the wheel of life keeps turning, and sooner or later it’s bound to come up roses.

With mixed emotions,

Steve

5th Annual World Bipolar Day

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Today is the fifth-annual World Bipolar Day, an annual global campaign to raise awareness about bipolar disorder and eliminate social stigma.

Events will be held in communities of all sizes, and online. Look to the bp Magazine for Bipolar Facebook community for promotions all day. Also check out the World Bipolar Day’s Facebook page, where people are encouraged to post photos and videos with the hashtags #WorldBipolarDay and #BipolarStrong.

Increasing sensitivity toward all mental health challenges is critical. World Bipolar Day is a collaboration between the Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder (ANBD), the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF), and the International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD).

It is celebrated every year on March 30, the birthday of artist Vincent van Gogh (born in 1853). The post-Impressionist painter is one of the most famous figures in the art world. His work is known for its beauty and emotion and while he influenced 20th-century art, he remained virtually unknown and poor during his life. Van Gogh died by suicide at the age of 37 after struggling with psychotic episodes during the last two years of his extraordinary life. He was posthumously diagnosed as probably having bipolar disorder. He is still considered one of the greatest Dutch painters of all time.

Van Gogh’s story is a strong reminder of the importance of raising awareness and breaking the stigma that holds people back from seeking a diagnosis and receiving effective treatment. World Bipolar Day goals include dispelling myths; raising awareness about signs, symptoms better drug treatments; sharing resources and healthy living techniques; and encouraging more investigations about possible biological causes.

It’s important to stay hopeful and determined, and World Bipolar Day is the perfect opportunity to help improve sensitivity towards it—and spread hope—letting people know it is a common, treatable condition.

If you have Bipolar Disorder today is the day to talk about it. With your friends, neighbors, co-workers and family. It’s not easy to do this but it’s so necessary. Only by being out and upfront about our lives can we ever hope to erase the stigma still associated with this horrid disorder.

They say that 15% of people diagnosed with Biplolar type I (that’s me) will end up killing themselves at some point in their lives. I tried to end my life when I was 29 and I’m so glad I failed at that. Life has been hard since then but it’s still worth working to get better and make a difference.

I wish you the best in your journey with Bipolar and hope that you can come out to at least one person today. It’ll make a difference and you’ll feel good about yourself! Your life matters!

Ending Stigma, one life at a time,

Steve

This article is excerpted from BpHope Magazine and all rights are theirs.

The Shauny Award

I’m very proud to say that Naked Nerves has been nominated for the Shauny Award by Jane Adams at “Jane Adams Art: an illustrated journal of eastern and western wisdom”. Jane’s blog is full of her beautiful artwork and images that encompass work from many years of her life. Her writing is as profound as her images and I always find something different and educational to read and see when I come to her blog. She has a deep sense of the wisdom of the planet and shares it in ways that are meaningful and accessible to each of us. I am continually amazed at the beauty she shows us in her work and her deep appreciation of life and all its mysteries. She’s a self described seer and lover of the wisdom of the ages in many diverse ways. You can find her blog at: http://janeadamsart.wordpress.com/ and I sincerely hope you’ll take some time to stop by and read what she has to say. I guarantee you’ll be as amazed as I am at the wonder she infuses into her work and how profound her understandings of esoteric teachings are, and how they can apply to real life every day. I learn new things every time I visit her and that’s very cool to me. She’s also a very kind person and has befriended me in a generous way and for that I’m truly grateful. Thank you Jane for offering me this award and for being such a knowledgeable, resourceful and friendly presence in the blogoshpere. Your work has deep roots and you exemplify the excellence this award is all about with your writing and artwork. It’s a privilege to know you….

This award is a relatively new one, and is given for Blogging Excellence, something that Jane does admirably and well.  It’s named after Shaun Gibson, a lad from Scotland who has offered us a unique set of “rules ” for this award. In essence the award says to:

“Show humanity, show love, be yourself,

don’t be others, don’t gossip

and then share with 10 others”

I do try to embody the tenets of this award in my life and work on Naked Nerves and elsewhere, and will continue to do my best to honor the spirit of this award in my life. These rules are just simple common sense to me and are so ingrained in my thinking that it’s not a hard thing for me to do at all. I’m sure the folks here on WordPress would agree with them and their aim – to create a better world. Shaun blogs about how that might happen on his site at: http://prayingforoneday.wordpress.com/ and I encourage you to check it out to see what he writes about there. Tho the rules may seem simple I think Shaun has hit on a profound recipe for kindness and love in this harsh world we live in. He’s a gentle soul and cares deeply for the state of the world as you can see in his writings. The rules may sound simple but they’re very deep in their wisdom. Thank you Shaun….

While I’ll follow the rest of the rules for this award I’m not going to nominate anyone for this just now. I’ve just gotten too many awards recently and have given them to others too frequently to feel comfortable in giving more of them out just now. Maybe some later day I’ll be able to nominate 10 people but for now I will just thank everyone who has come to this blog to read it and listen to my words and who has found some bit of help here, I hope. I know it helps me to write about the things I do here and I hope others appreciate it too. It’s not everywhere you can read about such things as bipolar illness, chronic pain and disability, and all the other invisible illnesses and mental health issues I  live with in one place. I’m grateful for this platform to be able to write from and for the acknowledgement of its good work. Work like this can change the world if we take it all in. I need to be honest about it and say I’ll just have to do the nominations later and respect the award in my own way. I’m truly honored to receive this and will do my best to play it forward when I can. Thank you again Jane…

Peace and Love to all of you who stop by to visit me here,

Steve

Blog for Mental Health 2014

I’ve been meaning to write a post about what Bipolar Disorder has meant for my life. And here comes a situation wherein I’m asked to do just that in order to qualify for putting this badge on my site and being a part of the 2014 Mental Health Blogroll. Here are the words of the Founder of this project:

“I pledge my commitment to the 2014 Blog for Mental Health Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”

I couldn’t agree more. I think that everything I write in Naked Nerves is about mental health in one way or another. That’s my perspective at any rate. It all comes down to your mind and how you treat it and to your interactions with others and how you deal with them when you have a mental illness. And how you stay healthy with one and don’t fall off the edge of the earth as it’s so easy to do.

A bit about my story. I wasn’t diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder until I was 45 years old. That’s pretty old for this disorder and all I can say is that I just plain didn’t get caught any sooner because I lived below the radar by living such an alternative lifestyle my whole life. I used different paradigms for my ways of being. I was just a hyper guy with some mood swings. No big deal eh? Wrong!

I’ve always been an alternative type and I never even knew what Bipolar was until shortly before I was diagnosed with it. But ignorance is no excuse and it’ll get you anyway. My mom gave me a book on depression and in it were stories of folks with Manic Depression. I recognized myself much better in those stories, so I went to a psychiatrist and said I think I’m bipolar. Am I? And he said, You Bet You Are!!!

At the time I was running a non profit educational center I’d started back in 1990 and I worked pretty hard at it. In fact I totally burned myself out doing it. I was grandiose in my Vision of what I’d created and I worked my ass off to make it happen. I overdid it and didn’t have enough help and it nearly killed me. Pretty classic I guess, for this disorder anyway…

I reached the point where I had such a severe mixed state episode that I lost it completely and had a mental/physical/spiritual/emotional breakdown that changed my life forever. I haven’t worked since and doubt I ever will since I’m now 63 years old and still too unstable for the job market. This cycle has happened to me Many times in my work life and it’s affected my career thru that my entire life.

Even tho I was 45 when I was diagnosed with BP, I was treated for depression when I was 29 and tried to kill myself in the process of coming out and dealing with identity issues and just felt too crazy and horrible about myself to live. Fortunately I survived that attempt and I’ve never tried it again, tho I want to often still.

But I have responsibilities to people and I can’t leave my lover, friends and family. I have to stay alive now, but it’s hard sometimes. I don’t care about myself then and wish I could just die, but it’s the love of others and my caring for them that keeps me here. I”m so lucky to have people to love and to love me. It keeps me alive.

I figure I’ve had this illness since I was a little kid. I can remember many rages and mood swings as early as then. I was a handful as a child and my parents didn’t know how to deal with me much of the time. I wasn’t a bad kid, just supper hyper and always changing in my moods and behaviors. I embodied the forms of bipolar even then before I knew it and it’s affected how I’ve lived forever.

I don’t mean it’s been the cause I’ve been the way I have been for my life. But I do recognize that it has had as big an impact on me as just about anything in my world ever has done. It’s allowed me to create so much in the world in the way of my work and cool things for my community. I did that when I was hypomanic and I’ve been that way most of my life so I got a lot done.

But I also had the crashes that came after my super creative days. I’ve fallen into the Pit so many times I can’t count them. But I always come back out again and that’s the main thing I try to remember about this disease. It always changes and if I feel like dying one day I can count on the fact that one day soon I’ll feel alright again and go on with my life. Knowing this can save me if I let it in.

I have to save myself. No one else will. I constantly work on my issues and my awareness of being bipolar and what it means for my life. I have to live Very Consciously and take good care of myself in all ways – diet, rest, people I hang out with, things I choose to spend my time doing and all the rest.

It takes a lot of concentration to do this and that comes and goes but my will is strong and I have excellent help from my partner, counselor and psychiatrist and other healers so I’m lucky and grateful for their help. I still cycle every day and some days I fall so deeply into depression that I just can’t believe it. In so many ways I’m a model of recovery, but in others I’m still a basket case.

But you wouldn’t know it to meet me. I seem fine, a curse in itself in some ways. Looking like you’re not ill and yet being ill is challenging and why I started this blog in fact. To write about what it’s like. Mental Health issues are about as Invisible as you can get, unless you’re in a super bad state of course. But usually you can’t see it and that’s a problem. It needs to be more Visible.

The folks who started this Mental Health Project seem to feel the same way I do as far as talking about it and how so much is connected to our mental health. You can read more about their project here: http://acanvasoftheminds.com/2014/01/07/blog-for-mental-health-2014/. I feel a connection with these folks because of our similar views and my support of what they’re trying to do in making the invisible more visible.

As they say, mental health is Everyone’s issue, not just those of us who have a mental illness. So please do check out their site and learn some more about this cool project that has been going on for a couple of years now. I think it’s great and I hope you’ll consider putting their badge on your site too if you feel the way I do about it.

Education is our salvation if we want to lead whole lives and be accepted in our societies. I’m trying to help others by blogging here, and to help myself too. I always feel better after I write a good post, not to say they’re all good…. but I try. So remember that we all have mental health concerns and it’s important to acknowledge them and come out about them. We’ll change the world if we do….

Blogging for Mental Health in 2104 and beyond!

Steve

Highly Sensitive Men

You know who we are. You’ve seen us around your whole life, those of us who just don’t fit the mold. Men who don’t seem to be as tough or “manly” as the rest of our peers. Some estimates claim that 1 in 5 men, and women, are highly sensitive. That’s 20%. I believe it because I’m one of them and I’ve met so many others in my life.

Men who are highly sensitive are generally not valued by our society, not openly at least, tho without us society would be a poorer and sadder place to live. We tend to value a tougher aspect in our men and want them to just shut down their feelings and go along with the program. But for some of us that’s impossible.

Some of us have our hearts on our sleeves and are always willing to let our feelings out and be open about who we are, but not all HSM are able to do this. It’s a difficult thing to do and you don’t get a lot of support from anyone else in this except others who understand our dilemma, or our blessings, depending on how you see it. It’s OK for women to be this way, but not for men.

I’ve always fit the profile of being a sensitive male. Been called names like sissy, wimp, faggot and others all my life. I’ve always been told I’m just too sensitive for my own good and I need to toughen up and get over it. Well, I’m here to tell you that I haven’t done that. I’ve stayed sensitive even tho it’s hard work. Here’s what I’ve done.

First I’ve reclaimed the concept of toughness. I Am tough, tough as nails, and I have to be to withstand all the slings and arrows from a society that doesn’t value me for who I am. I’ve had to hide my feelings too many times when it was too dangerous and I’ve had to learn which battles to choose to fight. In so many ways it’s about the choices we make in how we live our lives.

I’ve chosen to embrace my sensitivity. It takes a lot of courage to do this but it’s what is required if you want to live a good life as a sensitive person. I’m an empath and I feel the things that others don’t too often. Sometimes it gives me an edge in knowing a situation or gauging others’ feelings and thoughts. It’s a blessing to me then. But sometimes it just plain hurts.

Sometimes I wake up and I just cry. It hits me so hard. All the pain and suffering I see around me in the world, and in myself too. It’s overwhelming to me, a common thing for HSM to feel. Life is just too much to bear sometimes and when you feel it all so deeply you can get hurt by just about anything. I have to be compassionate with myself.

But I am compassionate by nature, and so are most sensitive people. We tend to be aware of how someone else is feeling and base our actions on that awareness instead of our own beliefs about them. We Feel them in our guts. This is what I meant by calling my blog Naked Nerves. I feel so much I’m stripped of protection, naked to the world.

Highly Sensitive Men tend to feel too much most of the time. We feel the pain of the world too deeply and the suffering of others causes us personal pain and distress. We have to learn how to deal with that and still be able to function in society. We have to learn to engage with our sensitivity and honor it and make it an upfront aspect of who we are.

I talk about reclaiming ourselves a lot it seems. Maybe it’s because I’ve learned that it’s so important to be who you are in life, and not pretend to be someone you’re not. I’ve done both and life is much richer if you’re real about who you are. If you’re a HSM then you have to reclaim that part of who you are and let it shine in your actions. You Have to be Real.

This can mean some people will still trash you and chastise you for your way of being. Being sensitive for men is seriously stigmatized in our society. It’s like any stigma – rooted in fear and ignorance about who we really are. That’s why it’s so important for us to come out about who we are and show ourselves and Be who we are in the face of the onslaught of incivility that is sweeping our country these days.

The world needs us! It needs men who are willing to take the risk to stand out and say what’s right and what is wrong. Men who have been great leaders in our world have often been sensitive men who used their skills to enlighten society. They shower us with compassion and empathy for those that are without the basic needs of life. They show us a different way to be.

HSM are kind people as a rule, tho some who haven’t accepted themselves can be truly whacked. If you continually stuff your feelings they may tend to come out as anger and rage in most inopportune ways. Anytime you try to withhold yourself from who you are you face this risk, but it’s a serious one for HSM. We risk losing who we are if we stuff it. That’s not OK.

We can be wonderful partners and spouses to our mates because we care so much for them and often put their needs ahead of our own. We shouldn’t really do this but it’s so easy to do. But we risk losing ourselves in others too easily anyway by feeling what they feel to allow it in a deep interpersonal relationship. We can care, a lot, but we have to keep it in balance.

Balance is all part of this dance. How do you balance your own sensitivities with the needs of keeping up a bold face to the world? If you try too hard to meet society’s expectations of you as a Man, you can obscure your true nature of being a HSM and betray yourself. There’s a way to be who you are and still be strong and face the world on your terms.

It just requires you to allow those parts of yourself that Feel to come out to play whenever you can.  By being who you truly are people around you will gradually realize your gifts and accept you for what you can offer to them and the world and you can be yourself and just let it be. Sound real? Not really easily…. But it can be done.

It’s up to you to be real and accept who you are and to know that you are a Gift to the world just as you are. Don’t ever forget that. It’s a big deal to remember this. The world needs us and we owe it to both ourselves and our communities to be who we are. Our particular gifts are so needed these days and it’s just getting worse.

It’s time for us to stand up and take our places as Sensitive Men who are still able to withstand the difficulties of our heritage and yet change the world while we’re at it. Why not think big? It’s your life and you have to choose how you will live it. I sincerely hope you choose to let yourself be as sensitive as you need to be and let others see it and let it affect them. It will change the world if we do this.

Sensitively yours,

Steve

Coming Out of the Closet

When I say that what do you think of? If you’re like most people you’ll think of someone who is gay and is coming out about that. And it’s true that I’m gay and I’ve talked about it some already here on this blog, especially in About Naked Nerves, but elsewhere as well. I’m doing it again here. It’s a constant process, coming out is. It’s not something you just do once and it’s over with. You do it everyday in many ways whenever you’re with someone who doesn’t know and you want them to. Or when they find out somehow or guess. But most people don’t see me as gay unless I want them to. I don’t act in a particular way or look or dress in a specifically Gay Way, whatever that might be. That’s why I’ve included it in my list of Invisible conditions I live with.

Coming out isn’t something that just gay people do. It’s something that we all do. We all have to come out at some point about who we are in this life. About what moves us and makes us tick. What we share with others and what we don’t. Especially for those of us who have Invisible Illnesses it can be a challenge to come out. Is it something that you want people to know about or not? It’s always a question for anyone to come out as to whether or not you want them to know the real you. After all what you’re talking about might impact a career or your job, or a relationship or a possibility in your life for happiness. You have to really think about it and decide what to do.

When you have an Invisible Illness you are constantly put in this position about whether or not to come out.  On the one hand you may want people to know what you live with, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s to gain support or understanding. Sometimes it’s to gain an adjustment at work or in school. Sometimes it’s so you can have a more real relationship with someone. With a partner or spouse. And sometimes it’s in our best interests to come out to let people know what we deal with all the time.

Sometimes it works against you  and you don’t really want people to know. It could cost you a job or a promotion if they knew. And sometimes you don’t Want people to know you’re sick because of the pity you might get or the “help” people often mistakenly offer that we don’t want or need. Or it could stop a relationship cold. I’ve had people tell me that when they found out I was Bipolar that they didn’t want to have anything more to do with me anymore. It’s hard sometimes. I’ve lost friends because I’ve come out and been judged unfairly about who I am. It hasn’t always worked in my favor, whether its about being gay or being sick. It’s a tough call to make.

I’m going to suggest that it’s a good thing to come out when you can. I’m not being absolute about it. But consider that it’s the very act of coming out that helps us gain support for our causes and for our illnesses. It’s been true for gay people that coming out has gained us greater visibility and this changes societies mores. This is true for mental illness too tho that’s a really tricky one. So are many other illnesses. But again if people know that you have a condition or are a certain way and they know you then there’s a good chance that they’ll think about that condition with favor and not condemnation. You certainly find out who your friends are, and aren’t.  And you may help change the world if you do.

I’ll agree it’s not for everyone. I know a lot of closeted gay people and people with Bipolar who just don’t share it with anyone. I don’t fault any of these people. It’s an Individual choice and the first rule about coming out is that you Never come out for someone else! You let them choose and I’m not pushing you to do something that’s against your will. It’s up to you.

I am asking you to think about it. This is how the world changes and how morals and attitudes and mores change in our societies. Remember about the squeaky wheel getting the grease. If we want people to understand us it’s ultimately up to us to educate them about who we really are. It can make or break a movement, which is how I see things here. “The personal is political” is an old saying and it’s true. How we act in our lives affects our society and changes our world. Is it time to change yours?

Good luck with your decision,

Steve