Monday, November 8, 2010

Speaking Up!

"A diagnosis is burden enough without being burdened by secrecy and shame."
Jane Pauley

I was accepted as a "candidate" for the Veteran's Administration position. The job would mean better benefits, more security, more pay, challenging work. Now begins the "boarding process," they tell me. I don't know what this means, but it makes me nervous. The thought that they are digging into who I am and what I have done, makes me anxious and fearful.

Why? I have a graduate degree from one of the best graduate schools in the country. I have 16 years post-masters experience; I look forward to learning more about working with veterans. I have worked hard, damn hard, for little money compared to what I have been asked to do.

The other day, I was at a training and the woman next to me spoke up with 50 fellow professionals there and shared that she had an eating disorder,in remission, and was in aftercare treatment for this. She was sitting next to me, so I thanked her for having the guts to share this information in a professional setting. I wondered what it would take me to have such bravery.

Why? Because I have not "come out" about my mood disorder. I hide it, like a shameful, embarrassing relative. I push it into the background, while I secretly take medications throughout the day, practice self-care and work on my thinking and mindfulness. I try to surround myself with things and people that give me the fuel needed to sustain this forward movement.

So, there it is. Genetics and environment have handed to me bipolar disorder. It comes and wreaks havoc in my world, and I pick up the pieces again and again. But, I am living well with it right now, whatever the hell that means. It means at worst that we are at an impasse; at best it has left my life through that back door. The truth is I am symptom free because I have worked hard and with the help of my doctor, friends, creativity, family, pets and work. I am well today. Today, beautiful today.

Some would say not to post this because "they" might read it. Even if there is a chance that someone from the VA would read it, I say ok. This is the truth. I am well. strong. ready to take on new responsibilities. This is who I am. I am not my illness: I am a strong person who has accomplished a great deal, living with my illness. And maybe this illness has given me empathy and wisdom that I can share

So be it. If I were a cancer survivor, I would be wearing a wristband.