I recently shared some personal information about myself with my family and, subsequently, with the rest of my friends. It was something that up until now just wasn’t openly discussed. There have been a few people in my family with whom I talked about it in the past and I have had some amazing friends who have known and supported me for many years. Unfortunately because the stigma attached to mental health and brain chemistry issues is so great, it is a subject that required careful silence. My revelation: I have lived with bipolar disorder my entire life and was officially diagnosed in April 1994.
We all have things in our respective “closets” that we are afraid of revealing. We are afraid it will so drastically change our world that we would rather live in hiding than risk upsetting what we already have. We are worried our families will struggle with the corners of our reality. We worry we will lose respect of the people in our professional lives. We fear that society will suddenly frame us in a different light and begin to judge us solely within that frame. WHY then would we ever want to come out into the light and fully show ourselves? Why would we want to open the door to areas within us that may cause people to walk away?
I have a faithful friend who, when I shared the news of my revealing with her, responded with a note filled with beautiful words. In it, she said something that resonated deeply within me. “Being open does not give other people power over you. It gives you power over you.” There exists such a wonderful truth in that statement. Coming out into the light of your truth will liberate and empower you. It will give you the ability to breathe more deeply because you aren’t constantly wasting your energy trying to shove things further into the dark. It will also allow you to more clearly recognize those beautiful people in your life who truly accept and love you as you are. It is not easy to come out of the closets in our lives, no matter what those particular closets might be. There is an endless list of things you might be hiding but there is one solution to it all. Turn on the light and throw open the door. Walk bravely out into the open and look around. You just may find there are many of your friends and family who embrace you in all your uniqueness. You already have the key. The question is whether or not you will use it.
“Coming out” is a term that applies to much more than simply the one thing with which we commonly hear it associated. Revealing our true selves is a process of steps. We first show our truth to one or two people (or maybe even a few) that we know we can trust completely. We lean on them and use their support and acceptance to help us grow stronger. Then we begin to carefully unravel the layers of our selves to others in our world. We may come out to friends but not to our coworkers. We may come out to coworkers but not our families. We may come out to our families but not to others. It just depends on the situations in which we find ourselves. You see, there IS risk in revealing the things in our lives that we (or we assume others) consider to be unattractive, embarrassing or negative and it is not always appropriate to run wildly into the open shouting our truths. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when we cannot help but do so but we must remember there are also consequences we may face as a result. If I had revealed the truth of my bipolar brain chemistry in my professional world years ago, it would have become an albatross from which I might not have been able to escape. My position (and my particular division) was one that was not conducive to such revelations. My successes would have been eclipsed by the glaring judgments of many of my colleagues which would have undermined my ability to continue to be viewed as productive and successful. It is sometimes a difficult dance to maintain and the sad thing is it is a dance you will dance alone. The same holds true for any other realm (family, friends, etc). Depending on what your closet holds, you may find yourself dancing alone in the midst, trying to find a balance between revealing and surviving.
I have been overwhelmed by the positive and encouraging responses of the people in my life and am grateful beyond belief but there are still areas that have not been fully breached. It is a process but I will take it as it comes. For now, it is an unspeakable feeling of liberation and I am excited to see what God is doing and what path He is clearing before me.
Often times, we THINK we are ready to walk the path before us but we continue to be faced with obstacle after obstacle. They are not here by chance. They are here to help us come to the place where we begin to see that the only requirement to being all we are created to be is to let go of who everyone else thinks we are. When we relinquish our need to always be in control, we will find there is a much greater power than ourselves clearing the path at exactly the right time, in exactly the right way. Honesty, truth, kindness and love…these are the great purifiers in our lives and refiners of our paths. Trust yourself. Embrace the truth and let the rest fall where it may. It is the only way to truly live.
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