Sunday, April 1, 2012
To Tell or Not To Tell?
The reason a pseudonym was created, is due to the fact there are folks I have told about my mental illness, and some I have kept my mental Illness secret from. Unfortunately, the latter I have found is the easiest route. It is risky, extremely risky, to tell folks who will judge you from that day on. If you cannot see it, it is not there. Obviously, the choice is personal and the decision to tell has to be an individual one. However, the question is whom should we tell and whom not? In what situations should we tell? Why should we tell and what will happen if we tell? Is there a right or wrong way to tell them?
When I first, started this blog I was terrified about asking individuals I know, to view it. Since the individuals know my name, I had to take the gamble that these folks would not judge and remain the same with their interactions. Fortunately, for those who do not know my name, I was able to call myself Bipolar Betty. I am hoping this blog reaches out to those who have been diagnosed with a mental illness and those persons whom need education. Although much of society out there is naïve, judgmental, ignorant, and stigmatizes mental illness, I took a leap of faith, with the hopes I will not lose individuals I know to the majority of society!
The problem regarding revealing is there’s not exactly a right or wrong answer, I feel for me it usually falls in between the two during which I hold my breath waiting either for an understanding reaction, or a “oh” response. I have found in the past that folks, who know about my mental illness, are closer to judge when I am moody or upset. I see their wheels turning “it’s just her bipolar acting up”!
While talking about the diagnosis is an opportunity to educate others, is the education worth the cost of potential judgment? Additionally some other questions to think about are would it benefit you by telling someone? What is the circumstances for telling, the reason, and is it enough of one to tell? Lastly if you do not experience any personal or professional benefits, why tell at all? Luckily, for me, I have some friends I have known for a while, whom have supported me for 16 years upon being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, ADHD, and an eating disorder. It is the relationships in my life that are not lengthy that concern me. Some folks are not as lucky. However, because mental illness is not uncommon, depending on the diagnosis, you may be surprised to find some of your friends have the ability to relate.
I was very fortunate when my parents found out; they were standing right by my side. They also signed up for the NAMI Family-to-Family group, which met for 6 weeks to educate family members about mental illness. It is also beneficial that my husband has bipolar disorder and ADD so together we ride the waves.
When it comes to physicians, if it is not essential to disclose my psychiatric diagnosis, or list my psychotropic medications, I usually avoid it. Surprisingly the majority of professionals today do not get it. Even among those in the healthcare field.
The World Health Organization, which is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system, predicts that by 2020, mental illness will be the second leading cause of disability worldwide, after heart disease. With this said, will revealing become easier, or remain static. Unfortunately, 2020 is eight years away.
So what are the pros and cons, about disclosing your mental illness? I have found that I have run into many cons. Prejudice and stigma about any mental illness is still very prominent in society. Disclosure to coworkers and employer’s can really be harmful. I have experienced this. Especially when you trust, a coworker and they decided not to keep it confidential, and prove untrustworthy and reveal to coworkers. Thus, revealing to another coworker, etc. At this point, every move I feel was analyzed. Questions such as, “is she late because her medications make her tired”? She seems withdrawn, “is she depressed?”, and the comments and questions go on and on.
For me some of the instances were unavoidable, and I really had no choice. For example, when I was employed, there were times that I had to take a leave of absence because I required hospitalization. This being said, my coworkers wanted to visit me or send me flowers to the hospital! No way in getting around that, without disclosing where I was being hospitalized. Additionally, there have been times when prescribed new medication’s, which may hinder job performance, due to sedative side effects. Alternatively, what about when you need to file paperwork through human resources, that too is a difficult situation for avoiding disclosure.
While discrimination is illegal, is hard to prove, it continues. I have also found chances for a promotion are really hindered. You cannot “untell” a secret. While each and everyone’s situation is different, it is important to sit down and write a list of pros and cons for revealing your mental illness to others, and to also assess the type of relationship you have with the person you may or may not tell. This is a personal decision, which has to be made alone.