When the inevitable is asked, as part of an introduction, I tell them that I’m “taking a career break before rushing into anything.” Which is a glossy version, and not at all a lie, but certainly not the whole truth. I get it: what is a normal looking woman in her mid-twenties doing in an art class made up of mostly retired middle aged/senior men and women on a weekend when she should be having mimosas with her other friends from work? I’m sure they wonder. But I don’t give them a clue- not even when the lady at the easel next to me talks to another lady about her real world job concerning psychiatric medication research- because what follows is the belief that psych drugs make people violent, said by the another lady, and then comes rushing in the Dylan Roof theories, and so on and so forth. I’m a coward, so I don’t let my intimate personal experience with mental illness be known as a point for counter argument, as it was only my second class, and I didn’t want to be pigeonholed as the mental ill girl, because for some people, that’s all they see once they know. And I certainly did not want the second lady (who strongly believed that all mentally ill people are inclined to shoot a lot of random people) to think that I was going to shoot the whole class one of these days. (By the way, I’m getting pretty tired of ignorant people grouping together violent people and mentally ill people together, which are very independent characteristics.) Instead, I’m pigeonholed into something more mundane- math major, ex-financial analyst who is taking a career break and who now is back at art to pass the time until she feels like getting a job again, like a normal person.
I feel slightly embarrassed that I have to lie/leave out about a very essential part of my life at the moment, but at the same time, frustrated that even if I wanted to reveal it, it might do some damage to my character (when I have done nothing wrong.) I also feel embarrassed that I still don’t have the balls to stand up for myself. But I so desperately want to be back to normal, that desire is getting in the way of advocacy- For the 4 hours I’m there in the class, I want to feel like a normal person again, whether if I need to be incognito for it or not. So I keep pretending, But who isn’t pretending? We don’t go blabbering about all our troubles and tribulations to the strangers we meet, and they’re not entitled to that kind of information, anyway. Maybe I’m just so used to being transparent that hiding a piece of me from the world is difficult. That is one thing I don’t like about getting older- it’s the secrets. And as time passes the secrets snowball, every time we avoid talking about it. We cover it up with something else, patch it up with another lie there.
I sometimes liken my situation to another group. I imagine how the gay community did it, when they first came out to their fundamentalist parents, to a mostly religious society- that must have taken immense courage, and I respect the LGBT community for taking that big step. They’re getting normalized to society now, after that hard work. The movement didn’t start overnight of course, and not by one person. So sometimes I think that maybe as an individual, I risked taking that first step to speak out, come out, and educate, I wouldn’t be seen as this would-be-murderer, but as rather as another normal 20-something year old, who happens to have the misfortune of catching bipolar disorder along her journey.