“You don’t meet a person. You meet their representative,” proclaimed my mother many years ago. I believe it was in the context of dating but the words came back to me today after reading a Tweet:
I wondered how much of my mother’s words hold true for me. I certainly don’t greet every person I meet with, “Hi, I’m Kara and I have Bipolar Disorder and PTSD.” It’s definitely not a winning ice breaker. In fact, I dare say most people would recoil. Oversharing to that extreme puts people off no matter the information. It’s just too personal.
I’m not ready to meet them in that moment any more than they are prepared to meet me. So I wear my mask and they wear theirs and the world turns on and on. I think it’s a safety mechanism as much as anything else. Laying ourselves bare to people we don’t really know makes us vulnerable. And that goes double for those of us with mental illness.
I’m not the type to throw a pity party for myself but I don’t need any more emotional wounds or scars. I have more than my fair share. This is why the Tweet struck such a cord and prompted the reflective thoughts. If I don’t want to share my diagnosis right off the bat, I sure as heck don’t want to lay my soul bare and show the deepest parts of myself. That comes much later, and only with a select few people.
Perhaps it’s because I’m a pretty private person; strange for someone with a mental health blog, I know. I suppose I’m harder to get to know in real life. I’d rather people think I’m a little bitchy than see my scars. They are my battle wounds. Such a small few understand mental illness at all. How can I expect them to understand the scars and pain that come alongside it?
Perhaps it is understanding that all mentally ill people strive for anyway. Maybe that is why we keep our scars hidden.
I choose such a sinister figure not because I believe I am ugly on the inside rather I think mental illness is ugly. It causes us and those we love pain. Despite those scars and inner turmoil, the ugliness is not the face I want them to see. It is not my face. It’s the face of a chemical imbalance and flaws in the structure of my brain. I don’t have any desire to wear this face because it is not who I am.
I long to extend the same understanding that I seek from others.
This is me. I am not just a Bipolar person.
I am someone seeking understanding. I am a mother. I am a wife. I am a daughter. I am an artist. I am so much more than a mental illness. I am more than my scars.