Many years ago my daughter came crying to me with a tale of cruelty involving her tight circle of very-best girlfriends. In-between sobs she relayed a saga of vicious betrayal unique to the mysterious world of adolescent girls. I listened quietly and, when she was done, took her into my arms and said this.
“Sweetheart, despite your best efforts, people will always talk about you and 90% of what they say will be wrong. I know it’s not fair but the best thing to do is let go.”
I am polishing this chestnut from the McHarg family vault for one reason. No matter where you are in your recovery – (or if you love and support a person with mental illness) – you need to know this:
There is a beautiful place out there beyond fear, beyond shame, beyond inferiority, beyond jealousy, beyond regret, beyond denial, beyond self-loathing and the name of that place is – I Just Don’t Care.
America is a land of immigrants and consequently it is also a land of xenophobia and prejudice. We blow trumpets in praise of democracy but don’t be deceived, there is a very definite pecking order in our culture and the mentally ill are way down at the bottom.
Take it from me, no one is going to give you respect, no one is going to give you equal rights. Square America can’t even understand you; much less know how to bring you inside out of the rain. Do not look to others for your redemption. (If you doubt me, just look to the history of America’s other minority groups.)
I went public as a bipolar person 23 years ago; I even wrote the first bipolar memoir,Invisible Driving. (Click HERE to order.) Nothing could have prepared me for the wave after wave of rejection, fear, and marginalization I faced. (Really, I did expect at least a little respect for what I’d done!)
The point is, if you tie your emotional well being to the opinion others have of you disaster will certainly follow. Keep growing extra layers of skin until stupid comments and remarks bounce right off.
Today I tell people I’m bipolar the same way I might tell them I’m right-handed, it’s a detail that helps them understand me but I am not defined by it. I have absolutely no shame about my history of mental illness and neither should you when it comes time to talking about your particular challenge.
They say that guilt is when you feel bad about something you did but shame is when you feel bad about something you are. You’re a teacher now; let them know just what you are – shamelessly.