To Disclose - Or Not: My Life as a Former Bipolar Bubble Boy
Do we or don’t we? Do we disclose our illness or not? It’s an issue we’ve all had to face head-on. Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, we can’t exactly put it back in.
My experience is somewhat different than yours. Back in 1999, soon after I was diagnosed, one year after Google came into existence, I started up an email newsletter devoted to depression and bipolar disorder. Soon after, I had a website up and running.
I wrote under my own name. The toothpaste was out of the tube. I could never put it back in.
For six or seven years, this didn’t matter. I lived in a hermetic bipolar bubble. Identity, work, social life - everything was encased in those walls. But things shifted after moving to southern CA in late 2006. I stepped out and started leaving my bipolar bubble boy identity behind.
I breathed the fresh air. I flapped my wings.
I faced a major test several years ago when I decided to dip my foot into the wider world of dating. Would the non-bubble world accept me? It wasn’t as if I could hide my identity. I put my profile up on a dating website with no reference to my diagnosis, took a deep breath, and clicked.
The next day a woman contacted me. We exchanged a series of emails. She wanted to know what I wrote about. Disclosure time. Another deep breath. I responded with a link to my website.
Four days went by. No word from her.
To be expected, I thought. C’est la vie and all that. On a hunch, I sent her a message. It turned out her return message had got lost in the mail. Next thing, we were setting up our coffee date.
Fast forward to the present. My bubble no longer exists. But those Google search results - I may as well just tattoo a scarlet "B" to my forehead. I cast my mind back to 1999. What - I wonder - if I had made a different career choice? What if I had kept my diagnosis secret?
What’s done is done. The toothpaste is out of the tube "
*** ** What about you? What are your thoughts on disclosure?**
Comments below "
John is an author and advocate for Mental Health. He wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Depression and Bipolar Disorder.