I wasn’t Outed, I was never In

It was never really a big secret. See, that was probably my first mistake.

I thought, old art-lady that I am, that I was past naïveté. (Bzzzzz! Sorry, Contestant. Wrong answer!)

So, idiot me, when I had ups and downs with my illness, I kept The Right People in the loop. (See, I even used the jargon. I team-played, I pro-acted, I thunk-outside-the-box…) Averaged out, I was still a top producer, and the go-too artist for the “tuff stuff.” I was told they respected my honesty, and that “we in the creative field” were more tolerant. In other words, I worked hard, managed my health, hit my deadlines, and only those closest had any idea I had a serious medical condition. But it wasn’t really a secret.

Then when my brain and bipolar meds got scrambled last fall, I explained what was going on. (Bzzzz! Oooh, sorry, wrong answer again!) I explained to them that “med X” was acting like Kryptonite on my “innovation” superpowers. (That seemed clear enough to me. Maybe I should I have used hand-puppets?)

When I took time off for blood tests (too many blood tests!) and p-doc appointments, I gave the honest-to-God reason. (Bzzzzz! You’re kidding, right?)

(Side note: You know how no good deed goes unpunished? Here’s another one: “Any shared truth might bite you in the ass.” Which is why I use a pen name.)

I thought we had come to an accommodation until the fuzzed spot in my head could clear. I actually apologized (can you believe this?) that it was taking so long. I’d like to blame the blank spot for my stupidity, but I was simply blind, blind, blind.

For just a sec: imagine terminating someone without warning because their chemo was “interfering with their work.” Unfair? Cruel? Hah!

You see, it’s not cellular chemistry, it’s brain chemistry. As my spouse might say, a completely different kettle of monkeys. Or in their words: “lack of creativity isn’t an illness.” (C’mon, really? Suddenly, after 17 years, I just sort of “lost” my creativity? Did I misplace it or something? Jeez, where did I put those hand-puppets?)

So to them, it didn’t matter that I was sick. I didn’t matter that I had an illness that, untreated, had a higher fatality rate than some cancers, and that not taking the meds wasn’t really a reasonable choice. It wasn’t a “real” illness or disability (to them), so that made it okay, and they could sweep the rest under the rug. After all, how could I complain? I was freaking mental patient. It doesn’t matter if it was legal, or even ethical; the damage was done and I won’t re-hash that part here.

But here’s the irony: in the midst of rebuilding my health and shattered self-esteem, do you know what happened to that blot, that fuzzed out spot in my brain?

It didn’t just clear. In fact, it’s starting to shine.

I’m painting again, after four dry years. And writing? The words are pouring out, faster than I can keep up. It may not last, this wellspring, and I’m still both exhausted and unemployed, not to mention gun-shy and trying to start a freelance biz (of me – great time to need strength for self-promotion, huh?) besides.

It’s sad, though, that the price is this: I know I have nothing to be ashamed of, but it’ll be a long time before I feel safe enough to come back out of the shadow. My words might, but not under my own name.

I’m not back in the closet (I never really was), but maybe just behind the door.

Maybe you see the light peeking out?

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  1. Translunary Things – I wasn’t Outed, I was never In | The Official Blog For Mental Health Project

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