Should I Come Out?

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  I announced on Twitter recently that I was mentally ill (it’s no big secret), and proceeded to name some of my ailments.  I have a laundry list of them you know.  I’m pretty sure it cost me some followers.  (Oh, well.  If they can’t handle me crazy, they don’t need to be in my life.)  So far, that is all I have done to spread awareness.  But I’ve been thinking of doing more.  I am seriously considering coming out to a friend in Real Life about my being mentally ill. I keep weighing the pros and cons, and I repeatedly keep coming back to the point of it being really important to have support.  We don’t have a ton of support.  I mean, I have our shrink, and Husband, and social media, like Twitter.  I can’t tell you how many times a simple @ tweet directed to me has affected my mood in a positive manner, perhaps even pulled me away from the edge of insanity.  It feels good to send out a message in a cyber bottle, and have someone from around the world answer that message, and give me words of encouragement,  or just make me laugh. I think the narcissist in us loves being singled out.  Of course, at least one of us hates the attention and would rather no one pay us any mind.  It’s an inner struggle most every day.

If I do decide to come out to someone, I need to plan out what I will say, how I will put it into words.  So let me think about that for a minute.  What exactly do I want to tell them?  How much information do I need to share?  I certainly don’t want to overwhelm them with too much, too soon.  And it would be a shame to tell more than is necessary and cause myself greater embarrassment.  Yes, this will be very embarrassing.  And what about their questions?  I need to be prepared with answers to the basic questions which they are bound to ask me after I drop such a bomb on them.  I don’t even know which of my illnesses to share with them; certainly not all of them-that’d be too much information.  So I need to pick an ailment, and prepare a little speech about it…  But first, before any of this comes to pass, there’s something even more important that I must do.  I must decide which friend I want to reveal my secret to.  I know that whomever I choose will forever see me in a different light after my confession, so I have to choose carefully.  Whom do I feel closest to? Whom do we need support from?  Who do I trust enough to tell?  That last question is easy. Answer: No one. I don’t trust anyone enough to tell them about my mental health issues.  I’m afraid, I admit it.  Afraid I’ll be thought less of, afraid I won’t be invited to socialize anymore, afraid the person I tell will spread rumors about me.  It would be a huge risk on my part to open up to an outsider.  I don’t take this decision lightly.

When, or if, I decide to open up to someone, I need to make sure that person understands that this is a very private matter and that I’d rather not have everyone in town know about my condition.  They need a strong ability to keep a secret.  I have to assume that whomever I tell will most likely tell their spouse, and that fact makes the decision even harder.  Right now, the only people who know about my DID are my doctor and my husband.  I’ve only come to accept this diagnosis myself as of January, so all of this is new territory for me.  I’m still learning about myself, about the different me’s, about who and what we are.  I can’t imagine trying to explain all that to another person.  How can I, when I don’t even understand it myself?  I am still learning to recognize my parts, so I couldn’t possibly introduce them to an outsider.  I know what the first question out of their mouth would be: “How many of you are there?”  This is the question everybody always asks, and I wish I had the answer.  The truth is, I don’t know how many of me there are.  I’ve identified a half dozen personalities, but there are still more voices inside my head which haven’t been singled out.  So I don’t know how many K’s there are. Hmm. Perhaps telling about my Dissociative Identity Disorder would be too much; I don’t want to overwhelm my friend(s).  Maybe I should confess only to something simpler, something easier to come to grips with, like my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Social Anxiety Disorder.  I’m pretty sure my friends already have their suspicions about these things, so it wouldn’t be such a stretch for me to just come out and admit that I have these disorders.  I’m fairly certain that whomever I choose to tell will be understanding and sympathetic, and I don’t think it will have any sort of negative impact on our friendship.  Knowing that then, why is it so hard for me to imagine revealing my secrets?  What am I so afraid of?

stig·ma [stig-muh]

noun, plural stig·ma·ta [stig-muh-tuh, stig-mah-tuh, matuh], stig·mas.

a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation.  Social stigma is the severe disapproval of, or discontent with, a person on the grounds of characteristics that distinguish them from other members of a society.
That’s your answer. The stigma of mental illness is what I’m afraid of.  Don’t think that there isn’t one-it’s alive and well and I’ve seen it firsthand.  I know what it is to be discriminated against because of my mental status. I know how it feels to be the butt of jokes at the workplace. I’ve seen that look that people get in their eye just as soon as my mental health is brought up. It is impossible to fully understand it unless you’ve experienced it.  People treat you differently.  Medical doctors often think the physical ailments I complain about are simply “in my head”.  They are afraid to prescribe medications as I’m seen as a suicide risk.  At work, I’m not trusted with important tasks or asked for input on anything serious.  People seem to think that because I’m mentally ill, I’m less intelligent than they are. I’m not taken seriously. Or I’m thought to be lying, or making up stories.  There are a thousand different ways in which to discriminate against the mentally ill. Unfortunately, I’ve dealt with quite a few of them; I’m not eager to deal with any more.  So perhaps I’ll just keep my mental illness to myself.  After all, I’m very good at keeping secrets.  As far as Mental Health Awareness Month goes…I assure you, I am aware.