Posted by: hypomanic | October 28, 2020

A DISCLOSURE 24 YEARS IN THE MAKING

I have a secret. One I’ve been keeping for 24 years. Today I choose to live openly about this part of my life because I’ve reached unconditional self-acceptance. I no longer worry about what people think. Like most people, I want to live honestly and authentically. I’ve exercised my right to experience my diagnosis privately and now it’s ok to come out at this stage of my life. I’m at peace with it. I have nothing to be ashamed of.

Since my diagnosis of bipolar in 1996 I’ve experienced a life of being misunderstood, misrepresented, and ultimately judged by others for something out of my control. I have suppressed a large part of my identity behind closed doors because I was frightened of the consequences. 

In another life, I would’ve openly shared my diagnosis because you would feel like you are surrounded by sympathetic and understanding people. In that type of environment, your confidence is firmly intact because you’re enabled and encouraged to share larger parts of your life with others. It would not enter your head to separate and hide part of who you really are because you could not be made to feel ashamed of who you are by anybody. People who know me would have known more about the real me over the last 24 years had I not hidden it. This is how stigma works if you let it. Very early on after diagnosis, I got vilified in many different, unrelated parts of my life. They put fear in you when there was no fear there before. They imbue a cloud of doubt and uncertainty over you where a series of no-go access areas are flagged up and you are made aware of the places you are no longer permitted to inhabit anymore. You are not welcome. Stigma isn’t clearly signposted for a reason. It is covert. Those segregated instances imposing your limits are not even organised or related, there’s no map and if there was one it would be invisible. So because you cannot find the edges of the stigma universe when you’re young it feels huge, very imposing, and dominant, when in actual fact it is not even majority thinking. It is a minority that trades on negativity and in psychological terms our behaviours and attitude tend to be shaped more powerfully by bad news, experiences, and information. Negativity bias is deep-seated in survival. If you are cast as bad news, as stigma does, then when you realise people see you as a threat, access to certain things becomes denied. This is a complete life transformation and you have to be brave, courageous, and shrewd to negotiate this new playing field.

You can’t tell by looking at me that I’m bipolar so if I choose not to tell anybody then I can protect myself from the effects of stigma and gain access to the things that can progress my life and the lives of my family. At least if I withhold, I can buy enough time to prove to other people my value to them before they find out and reserve the right to judge me in a negative light. This was what I judged as a threat to my survival and took the decision to try and control people’s perception of me, even if it robbed me of my openness in closer relationships both socially and professionally. Taking my illness underground and being exceptionally private about it had its benefits as much as its drawbacks. It has bought me 24 successful years in a competitive industry and allowed me to ascend into senior positions with great responsibilities I may not have been allowed to prove myself within, had I disclosed. 

As you move through life your diagnosis moves with you through word of mouth and you simply cannot control that narrative or the way your story is told. You are constantly asking yourself when you experience a failure in progression, such as not landing a new job, ‘Do they know, do they not know?’ This is what causes so much anxiety and pain.

Although I adapted, the path of isolation I had to take, silently experiencing something so profound, should no longer be accepted as a means of suffering. You can change your mind, overcome adversity, and stay well for longer. It may not be the life you originally wanted but once you conquer your condition, life really does get better.

Over the last 24 years I’ve tried to better understand myself, my illness, and the new world I found myself living in. First of all the ability to cope day-to-day and as time passes the ability to understand why it happened, then that multiplies into the greatest ascension of all, peace. Being at peace with yourself is the greatest escape from stigma there is. I wish I had got here earlier, I guess I took the long way round. The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.

Now I want to synchronise both sides of my life and not live in the shadows anymore. I believe there is a philosophy around the concepts of authenticity and vulnerability. Vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them. Healing takes place when openness unconditionally and tenderly embraces the past. Openness and vulnerability help to heal wounds that we don’t even know we suffer from. Being authentic begins with unconditional self-acceptance – imperfections and all. Authenticity begins with awareness, acknowledgment, and acceptance. It is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be, and embracing who we are. Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect. 

Use your life to make the world better. Don’t cheat the world of your contribution. Give it all you’ve got. The circumstances of your life have uniquely qualified you to make a contribution. And if you don’t make that contribution, nobody else can make it. Coming out like this has been many years in the making. I take my role in all of this seriously, it is a big part of my life’s purpose.

If we are to use our minds rightly, we must live in an attitude of constant openness and learning. I’ve always had the courage to take this step and I’ve dreamed of doing it but now I’m ready. I want to use this opportunity, which will help my recovery (making the future I want possible) and help others benefit from the act of coming out itself. I help them and this helps me to help myself. It’s a win/win. We are entering an era of acceptance and this should represent another nail in the coffin of stigma.

If you’d like to read my book; HYPOMANIC – Mad in England, A Memoir visit: http://www.hypomanic.co.uk/

A huge thank you goes to James, David, Louis and the team at Bear Jam Productions for producing the video for me and for enabling this huge step in my recovery: https://bearjam.co.uk/ @bearjamproductions

Finally, the biggest thank you of all goes to my wife & my carer Bel whom I owe my life to. ¡Tu eres mi vida! https://www.belenwilson.com/ https://twitter.com/beleno.

Stuart Wilson, The CD Whisperer – Answers built on listening.
My portfolio: https://www.cdwhisperer.com/ Call me: +44 7754712789 Email: stuwilson@mac.com.

#opentowork #creative #director #multidisciplinary #bipolar #mentalhealth #recovery #comingout #thankyou #bearjam #bearjamproductions


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