Anonymity is a big thing in our community. While there are brave souls who take that courageous leap into the public arena with their real names attached to that word Bipolar. Most of us sit quietly in our closets. Well maybe not quietly we are a talkative, expressive group and sometimes we get angry or agitated or just really pissed off and we kick at the door feeling like we should get out and fight but then thinking of all the possible repercussions we fold our hands and sit back down. Then maybe get online and get a good rant going in a forum somewhere.
Fear. Fear holds us back. And as Bipolars we are experts in fears of all kinds.
We are in a tough place because I think most of us would agree that the best way to defeat stigma is to stand up and own the Bipolar. To show the world one more example of what Bipolar really looks like. Not the salacious Bipolar that you see on TV. Bipolar is the girl next door, the football star, the little old lady down the street, the soccer mom with the juice boxes, the lawyer doing the closing on your house, the nurse putting an IV in your arm.
Is it fair and or reasonable to expect us to take the risks associated with coming out? We are not the first group to have dealt with this kind of thing. It isn’t an easy thing. And it isn’t a quick thing. A person who braves up and goes out there may not ever notice a discernible change. It is slow.
Many of us who are closeted are out to a few close people. In my own experience coming out to a select few has opened the space for those people to share struggles in their own lives with me. It grows the friendship. However, I check them out for a long time before I drop that little tidbit. If they seem good friend worthy I take the shot.
But while coming out to a few close friends is a good personal step for each of us. What about our collective safety and security and the discrimination that we face?
What about defeating stigma? Defeat is a strong word. Has any marginalized group ever truly defeated the discrimination and marginalization they face?
Anyway. It isn’t a fair fight. Because we are the crazy ones. And as long as they can dismiss our voice because we are crazy and therefore not capable of making any real sense then the stigma remains strong. People are afraid of us. Let’s just put that out there. They are. We make them nervous. It is easier for the Muggles if we are kept out of mind out of sight (even though we’re right in front of them) So we oblige and for the most part we keep ourselves to ourselves.
I could wear a shirt that screams “I am Bipolar” in big bold print on both sides while I am at the grocery store to show people that a scary Bipolar person calmly buys groceries at the store just like a normal person. Would people make eye contact? Would they back away? Would they try to hit on me and then run when they saw the print? Would they stare and then turn away real fast when I look at them? Would some people hang around eagerly waiting for me to do something unstable?
Where is this going to go? How are things going to change?
Can we fight stigma from our closets? Maybe. I don’t know. We can try.