Thursday, January 25, 2007

Do I dare?

I'm too exhausted to concentrate on the reading for my next class, and I'm so blown away by the openness of my fellow social work students, I have to write about it.

(I think it's time to stop the flaxseed oil megadoses. I don't know how parents of newborns function on less than 3 hours of sleep.)

Jerry is in his 50s, so I like him already for being older than I am. He had two careers in finance -- on Wall Street as a trader, and then as the CEO of a startup tech company. He's a big WASPy guy, who wouldn't look out of place on the deck of a yacht or in the Oval Office. But during our daylong seminar on multicultural awareness, when Jerry was told that as an educated, affluent, white male Protestant, he experienced tremendous power and privilege whether he knew it or not, he replied that he tried not to exploit that power -- he works very hard to be gentle. Which I thought was a beautiful way of saying, "Don't shovel me that P.C. b.s."

I spoke with him today in the student lounge, and learned that his wife has suffered from bipolar disorder for 17 years (it seems to be more or less under control now) and his son suffered from substance abuse and terrible allergies, which created such stress that he experienced symptoms of bipolar as well.

Wow. I was blown away by his matter-of-fact description of what they've been through -- some of which parallels what I've been through.

And I wonder why I'm still afraid to talk about my own illness and the experiences it's plunged me into. Jerry and Clive, the British dyslexic recertifying social worker, are so open about their own pain and struggles.

I'm terrified of revealing this part of my history. I don't want people to judge me, to make assumptions about who or what I am because I've got a diagnosis. I am not the sum of my diagnosis; it's just a disability.

But -- but -- but: it is becoming increasingly clear to me that this program is not at all like The Bad Place. It is supportive. It recognizes our differences, our weaknesses. The students are more mature, realistic, down-to-earth. If I am going to come out and identify as openly bipolar, this might not be a bad place to do it.

Not yet, though. Not yet. I sort of promised my mother I wouldn't disclose about my disorder until I got into grad school and got married. I had a rough start with part one of the agreement, and part two continues to elude me. I don't want my diagnosis to be the first thing a potential husband learns about me -- how could anyone get past that? I don't know if I could.

So, not yet. At least I have enough friends and supportive relatives, and a good psychiatrist, so I don't feel like I'm entirely living a lie.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

1 comment:

  1. You're not living a lie, you are being discrete. There is a difference. Don't be so hard on yourself!