When I started this blog, I actually believed I could fill the spaces with funny, anecdotal stories about writing. Surely my wit could carry the day, right? As it turns out, I was mistaken. After this week, it feels disingenuous to project such a simple, one-sided view. It’s not about the lighter side of life. In fact, I’m making some changes to the site to reflect more honest content.
Last Friday, I attended a gala fundraiser for a non-profit organization that provides mental health services. For the last several years I’ve donated money to them, more or less under the radar. When pressed for a particular reason, I always demurred. I mentioned “a family member” or some other less than candid response.
With the recent completion of my memoir, I decided to quit hiding. If the subject came up at the dinner, I wanted to dare myself to state why I had a connection to this particular charity. I was asked, and my first response came out haltingly. “I’m a donor.” I said. I checked her eyes for receptivity, then continued. “I actually have bipolar affective disorder. I’ve been fortunate to have had good medical care. A lot of people don’t, which is why I support [x].”
The woman smiled politely. I told a complete stranger I was mentally ill and neither of us turned into a pillar of salt. I disclosed my affliction to the next person who asked why I was there. There was a slight deer in the headlights hesitation, then she continued chewing her over-cooked roast beef. Morris Day and The Time came onstage and the evening ended on a high note.
Later in the week, I posted publicly for Mental Health Awareness Week. It still feels weird. Vulnerable, exposed and raw in an era when bullying and shaming are commonplace. I genuinely feel it’s worth it to be part of the conversation, however. Huge sigh of relief. Onward.