Posted by: hypomanic | September 30, 2018

Self-Disclosure

I’ve got something to tell you.

Sharing this isn’t easy. In fact it is painful. Our relationship is about to fundamentally change forever. It’s a secret that will ultimately change our dynamic. I know this from bitter experience because the energy of the relationship changes once I disclose – always.

I may look ’normal’ but I am far from it. I wear a mask and hide in plain sight. You can’t tell by looking at me but I am bipolar.

I don’t want to avoid the conversation, I just want to manage the message. If I own the narrative then I control the message.

Part of me knows I am forced to confess, I have a duty to tell you, as I am confirming that I am hiding a huge part of my identity and not being completely honest about it is somewhat unscrupulous – even though I may not even be under suspicion.

If I don’t tell you myself, then there is a risk that you are going to talk about me to somebody else and invariably that someone is going to tell you I’m bipolar. This is where I am not in control of the narrative any more.

I want you to hear it from me first. Because we are equals.

There’s me then there’s my illness.

Don’t judge me on this one single facet of my life, of who I am.

Have I come out in the past? Has it always worked? No it hasn’t. Has that affected me? Yes, there is always a risk when telling people. It just depends on you. Will it be good or will it turn out bad?

Am I afraid or am I brave? Have I suffered in the past? I don’t really suffer symptoms, I just suffer other people’s perception. It’s called stigma. And sending this message is the antidote to stigma, not just for me but for every person who has the diagnosis.

The back story.

I had an incident in 1995 at Uni. It happened 23 years ago when I was 23 years old. The How: After much drinking, not enough sleep, too many all nighters, too much alcohol, too many recreational drugs and too many over the counter drugs too. That incident pushed me ‘over the top’ (loony, psycho, two sheets to the wind) and I got my diagnosis.

For nearly five terrible years I was deeply troubled and didn’t cope very well with life. Hugely painful for me. Awful for my family.

I want to put your mind at rest.

I have to prove to you that I’m ok. Address your doubts and then put your mind at rest.

I know we’ve all been programmed to have legitimate doubt about the crazy dangerous unpredictable ones with potential to harm – but this is a media based assumption.

I am safe. I am not a threat.

I was discharged from psychiatric care in 2013. ‘The spell was lifted’ You only get discharged if you are well over a long period of time. In 18 years I’ve been hospitalised once.

Someone who copes is not extreme, not a media level story. My life is not worth putting on a sensationalised front page story because it doesn’t contain any fear, it would not sell newspapers.

The science behind the stigma.

Exactly how did it happen? i.e. What were the circumstances? What led to it happening? What exactly is behind your diagnosis? The origin – Genes/Blood, Stress, Crises? What led to hospital? What is the ‘official’ psychiatrist report on you? At 26?

Every experience of mental illness is unique and different. Some have it bad, some don’t have it too bad.

It’s as normal as any other medical diagnosis – very similar to diabetes.

What keeps me going?

Did it beat me? No. I’ve already reached recovery. Wife, kids, 20 year career. I am settled down. Ten years and counting – Two little wonderful children. A proud family man.

How did I make it? What is the secret of my success? My wife is the key! She’s my consultant, psychiatrist, nurse, my coach, my mum, my boss. We’ve mastered self management, created checkpoints – preventative measures and contingencies; i.e. If I wake up at 5:30am three days in a row then take action. My wife will not allow me to ruin all of our lives with my behaviour. And I am forever in her debt for this attitude and approach. Not to mention accepting me for everything I am in the first place. She is my rock.

If I’m with you and I get ill, happens?

I care about my reputation as a professional. I got the best part of the illness in I have what is called bipolar type II. Which means no depression, just highs and elated moods – more inspiring ideas, more mania, faster thinking, less downs.

I’ve harnessed it’s strengths.

I manage it’s challenges, in order to live well, do excellent work and contribute positively to the world.

I take my meds – never miss
– I exercise
– I sleep

My wife and I have developed Healthy habits. And it works. I am under observations constantly by her and if we detect a change then just like when you get ill, I’ll take a day or two off work to recover. That’s about the long and short of it.

Where do I find myself now?

I wanted great career success before coming out. I haven’t come out thus far because I wanted a 20 year career behind me so I could clearly prove on my CV that I can handle the pressure of advertising at a senior level. I owe that to every employer.

Bipolar type II is perfect for adland. I have neurodiversity. I don’t think from the centre, the mainstream. Since 1995 I have always occupied the fringes and edges. At first that felt nomadic but now it is clearly my saviour.

I harness bipolar’s strengths. There are real benefits to being bipolar. It is a disorder designed for design. It’s linked to creativity. Seeing connections at speed. Being bipolar confers both vision and the attitudes necessary to turn a vision into reality.

And finally, bipolar has made me a better person. More understanding of others. More sympathetic to my fellow human being. Less ego driven and selfish. But above everything else bipolar seats you in possibility. For 23 years I’ve lived in a stasis of optimism. I know I was given this life because I was strong enough to live it.

Thanks for listening. I hope we can still be friends now you know.

There is a 60 second video book trailer available to watch at hypomanic.co.uk
Or watch a YouTube version of the Hypomanic video book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkQbVibNH0o
To follow me on Twitter: @victorjkennedy

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