Firstly, thank you to all of you wonderful kind-hearted people that have been messaging, emailing and tweeting me. I am so grateful for your support, you guys keep me going!
Friday and Saturday were hell but on Sunday, I woke up feeling mildly better, I had to take Miss 8 to a birthday party so I showered, dressed put on make-up and drank 3 coffees and a can of Mother in quick succession to try and give me enough false confidence to be around a bunch of my kids friends parents that I don’t know that well.
We live on a farm near a tiny village, the kids go to school 45min away in a bigger village that is probably almost big enough to actually be classed as a town. The school there has a stack of children from farms spanning a 50km radius that bus in and out each day – this includes mine. Of course, my kids always seem to become friends with kids that live 40km in the opposite direction, so regular playdates aren’t really practical and I haven’t really had a chance to get to know many of the other parents, we tend to only see each other at birthday parties.
So, coming out of the bipolar closet and having a deep and meaningful about the state of the *local mental health unit was certainly not how I was expecting the day to turn out!
We arrived and the kids ran off and played. I was making general chit chat about something or other to a few of the Mum’s when a Dad turned up to drop off his daughter. He knows one of the Mum’s that I was chatting with quite well and she asked about his Christmas, he commented that he had spent 2 weeks in hospital in the town where the Mental Health unit I was in is located.
I had indirectly picked up from past half-conversations that this man had dealt with depression before and so when he said ‘hospital’ my ears pricked up and then he made a few other comments and I realised that he was talking about the Unit.
Having barely spoken two words to this guy in my life, I found myself really wanting to say something but I wasn’t sure how to approach it and so I asked if Dr C was still there and made a few snarky comments about dodgy food and never wanting to colour in ever again. It was enough for him to realise that I had been there too. Then he asked me directly why I was there, and in front of all the other Mums and Dads I said out loud “I have Bipolar”.
I looked up at him for a reaction and he smiled and said “Me too”.
At that point, I was shaking and starting to disassociate mildly due to my revelation but also trying desperately to hide that fact and just own it, because you know, End the Stigma…
I couldn’t make eye contact with anyone else for ages and just ended up having a huge D&M with this Dad about our incarcerations in the psych ward as though nobody else was even there. I think we were both kind of shocked and relieved to have found a real-life person with a shared experience in this small community.
Also, he told me that you are now allowed to have phones in the unit! When I was there they were banned and it’s one of the (pathetic, I know) reasons I have avoided hospital like the plague even when I probably needed it. Having a phone would mean I could message my family, still blog and have access to the amazing online support that I need to keep going but in a safe environment. That knowledge changes everything.
Eventually he had to go, and I ended up talking about mental health with some of the other Mums for a while, they asked questions, nobody shunned me, nobody told me their kids could no longer play with my kids. I don’t know what the fall out will be long term, I don’t know if down the track my daughter’s birthday invitations will go unanswered or who will say what when I’m not around.
The Dad from the conversation sent me a message on Face Book this morning saying “Hi. Sorry I feel like a talked too much yesterday” I replied “don’t ever apologise for talking from the heart, I can’t tell you what a relief it is to know there are other people out there that ‘get it’!
Opening up in the community you have to live in is a whole different ballgame to anonymous blogging and I have seen first hand that the smaller the town, the bigger the talk, but for now I actually feel cleansed, I hope he’s okay.
*By local, I mean 100km away