Sunday morning I was planning to write about the porcupine our dog seems to have adopted but instead found myself writing about my mental illness. I had been slipping into my fantasy world alarmingly often recently, and the indulgence was not enhancing my performance in any part of my life. So, I started writing about it, mostly for me.
As I wrote, I realized this was something I was sill hiding. Most of the time I try to keep my politics out of the blog – there’s enough of that in the real world, and readers can infer what they like – and, being a bit of a smart ass, it tends to be a bit acerbic once in a while. But I always hesitated writing about my dark side when it appeared, trying to write as if blue phases were anomalies so as not to scare readers off.
Sunday I took a chance and a stand.
At Christmas, my sister gave me a book by another writer/artist called Marbles. Written by cartoonist Ellen Forney, it details her discovery and management of her disorder as an adult. Reading it was like looking into a funhouse mirror and realizing the reflection wasn’t a distortion. And that reflection made me realize I was still being a coward in my life and what I want to be my life work to be, so I gambled, and the response has been overwhelming.
Afraid I would come off like an open wound, instead I learned from comments and emails how many people struggle with this. They struggle not just with the effects of mental illness but the fear of what will happen if they expose themselves to the world.
Blog started out focusing on rural life (the main theme of the writing workshop I’ve been attending at Hubbard Hall, a local community center in Cambridge, NY). An exercise in discipline and discovery, I’ve come to realize that, as important as our Vermont life and lifestyle is to us, the mountains and farms are the setting, not the scene. Still a wayfarer under the skin, I’m realizing the rurality influences my life, but it’s not who I am.
First and foremost, I am a wife-and-mother, and in learning to see the stories close to home (the first directive issued by our workshop leader), I’ve found that – good and bad – that status is one of the two things that has most defined my identity. The only other thing I’ve carried with me to every place and through every phase of life and identity (and I’ve had a few) is my bipolar.
It’s not easy to come clean – it’s the kind of thing that makes people slide a little further down the ‘Group W’ bench from you. People who know you aren’t put off by it because it explains things. People who write it off, however, write you off as undisciplined (certainly true in some parts of my life) or lazy. And, while I certainly don’t want to make this the mental illness blog, I am glad I wrote about it because it’s a battle I do fight every day. I have to fight it because I can’t not pick it. It’s picked me.