Contra Mundum / Telling Everyone
My God! You’re worse than Ikari Shinji.
After finally being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2010 I felt so far apart from my family and friends. A haze, of sorts, sifted down and I could not see anything beyond the confusion and loneliness that mired me. I remember my psychiatrist back then telling me that sooner or later I’d have to tell others. I’d lived and still live most of my life not ever telling the people closest to me everything about me.
Telling my maternal grand-mother and second cousin was easiest since ‘mood disorders’ ran on my mother’s side. My great-grandmother had been hospitalised multiple times for nervous breakdowns. My great-uncle suffered from severe depression, my second cousin was suicidal and bipolar, my grand-mother was an alcoholic, addicted to opiates and cocaine and also bipolar. And mummy suffered from dysthymia. What shocked me most about all of them was how terribly successful and put together they seemed to be.
I remember my grand-mother cried when I told her. She believed it to be all her fault (she’s a proponent of the genetic theory to psychiatric illnesses) and she’d kept repeating, ‘Pourquoi vous?’ over and over that afternoon. Still, I did get a fantastic lunch at Ledoyen out of it. And my second cousin was terribly supportive, if distant.
Telling my immediate family was going to be an hard task since I had to take into account culture (stout East-Africans) and religion (pater and mummy were terribly fundamentalist in their Christian beliefs).
I’d always thought people would react with fear to my telling them. I’m feeling slightly ‘up’ at the moment and I have been told by my psychiatrist that ‘memory is mood-specific’ but I remember my friends being awesome with my confession. I’d made a note of what they all said in my journal:-
Sasha (told him as we got high together) – ‘Really? I thought there was something odd about you. Haha, no worries, we’re all fucking mad.’
Loz – (told him on the train to London) – ‘My mum’s bipolar. No biggie.’
Maxy, Joe & Freddie (told them over afternoon tea at the Hurlingham) – ‘Wow! That’s pretty cool. We’re here for you mate. So, polo?’
Dalila (told her after we started going out) – ‘Yeah, I kinda guessed.’
Tao (told her on a flight to NY) – ‘Yeah, I know. X told me.’
and so on…
Over the years it’s become easier, but not easy. Now I just say, ‘I want to tell you something about me – I’m bipolar. It’s okay. I’m on meds and seeing a psych. It’s just that you’re my friend and I wanted you to know.’
Telling my immediate family wasn’t so easy. My parents, being doctors, were helpful but in that parenty-doctory-religiousy way that those sort of parents are. My brother and I aren’t that close so he was / is pretty much indifferent and my sister is just a precocious 12 yr old genius who is always concerned (we Skype every week). What I didn’t expect after a few years was my father becoming distant and my mother taking the ‘spiritual’ route to this all. I know I’m being super vague but this is hard for me to talk about and I’ll probably write an entire post about it later. Sorry.
With regards to work, I’m lucky to be one of those people who rarely (only had to thrice) ever has job interviews or fills in application forms. However, on all three occasions I deliberately lied and did not mention my diagnosis. To this day I will still never mention that I am bipolar in job applications. There is still a lot of misinformation out there. Each to their own. My attitude now is that if someone becomes distant after my telling them I’m bipolar then they really weren’t worth it in the first place.
Completely off point for the remainder of this post; I’d seen my psych today and we’d discussed my mini-cyclical moods in my current depressive state. I don’t know about other sufferers but it’s getting bloody tiring just keeping myself level, even with the meds. I feel like a prima-donna. There’s also this sudden need I have for planning things to do. Here’s a list of everything I have planned for the next month:-
Daily blog, work on a zine, article for Denizen Magazine, article for Casa Brutus, notes and interview prep for LDF, look for new freelance positions, prep score and orchestra for Bach concert at Eton, article on Sagisu Shiro for Piano Style, begin architecture portfolio for the AA School and finish composition for Gstaad piano concert. This all seems very normal for me, having so many different projects on at the same time. I’ve been told I need to take it slow but this is the one time in my life I have time to myself and no big self-expectations. I am truly free from myself and others.
Day in, day out I’m fleeting between the fashion and design writer, the poet, the author, the architect, the conductor and the aurelian. I’d also like be terribly sex-positive and turn myself into a bisexual role model because there’s anti-bi attitudes in both the straight and gay communities…we need liberal identity politics and anyone who can be out should be out. People are social animals (ironic when you consider my blog’s name) and I want to help people believe in themselves. Meh, I shall expand some other time.
So, to all those who are freaking out about telling their parents and friends about how they feel then take solace in this:- I had to tell my immigrant (to the UK) fundamentalist Christian parents that I was a bi, Tory, bipolar atheist. It 100% gets better. 🙂
Oh, and the quote at the top was from my Japanese ex-girlfriend. Evangelion fans should totally get what she meant. Ha! Another hilarious quote from a good friend:-
I’d find it difficult to go out with a bisexual. I mean they could even leave you for a hermaphrodite.