I made a small presentation at a mental health facility today. I presented my story to a group of clients and their family members. Took about 7 minutes, not long. And that’s okay because I’m still learning how to do this.
I was followed by a professional presenter (boy do I learn a lot from watching him) so the whole thing went about 3 hours with a break.
Afterward, several people came up to me and thanked me for sharing. They said I was brave and that I told their story. Wow. I don’t think of myself as particularly brave, I mean, it was 35 people but that was the hardest part for me, all those eyes. Telling my story is cake. I mean, I talked about myself, who isn’t the expert on their self? But when I said as much they assured me that being willing to share was the brave part.
I forget, even after years of women’s studies, that simply being willing to speak one’s truth can be a radical act. I am willing to stand up there and say, “Hey, I have bipolar and I manage it okay, and you can too. You’re not alone, our experiences are parallel.”
Plus, the more I talk about it, the more normal conditions like this become. Because I am not crazy and you wouldn’t know I have a diagnosis if you passed me on the street. I am pretty much as normal as the next person except for this issue with brain chemistry. The biggest difference between me and a “normal” person is duration, intensity and frequency of symptoms. That is, we feel the same things, but I feel them longer, stronger and more often. I can’t “just snap out of it” because mine is biochemical, my brain functions differently, so I take meds. Different is not bad. Some people don’t take meds and that’s okay. For me, I find they make my life more manageable. Not perfect, just more manageable.
And the more normal behavioral health concerns become, the less stigma is attached to them. Less stigma is good for all of us. It allows for a broader range of acceptable behaviors and perspectives. It keeps us all in the realm of being a typical person having a typical experience. I am average, and that’s a good thing to be. I’m just another person, not my diagnosis. People see me not an arbitrary label.
So here I am, being all radical and stuff, and I thought I was just talking about myself.