Today I want to talk about bravery.

Lately, I've had a lot of people tell me that I'm brave for speaking so candidly about my experiences and disorders. It always strikes me and I never really know what to say.

BRAVE - adjective

  1. ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.

  2. to endure or face (unpleasant conditions or behavior) without showing fear.

I've always been open about my mental health status, so far as I knew what it was, for as long as I can remember. But it wasn't some altruistic, life-altering decision. I was open because it never occurred to me not to be. I didn't really realize that people would look down on me or even mistreat me because of it.

When I was in my mid-20s, and temporarily misdiagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, I wore it proudly on my MySpace page; I waxed poetic about my mental health in my blog posts.

I was sad a lot then, so I let it become part of my identity. The fun, sad girl. That was me.

Work History

I've disclosed to every job I've ever had since I was 19 years old; been open with bosses about doctors appointments or new medications and the side effects I might experience. For better or for worse, I always told them.

Sometimes, they were more understanding than I could possibly have dreamed. My first major depression happened when I was 19. I had my very first office job and my very first apartment. Also my first deep dive into the black hole of depression.

I missed a lot of work. Now, as an adult, I don't know how my boss at the time was able to not fire me, especially before I disclosed it. It was obscene. I'd miss 3 or 4 days in a row, unable to leave my apartment, let alone my bed. Unable to face a day of pretending that I was okay.

She was surprised to hear that I was depressed; I seemed so happy. But, I explained my absences and told her there would probably be more, I couldn't be sure. I told her that I was seeing a doctor and trying to find help. She was kind and she covered for me way more than she had to.

I heard she passed away, not too long ago. I wish she was still around. She was very motherly to me and I think she would be proud of the strides that I've made.

I've also had people that I suspect fired me because I disclosed. I have no proof, just a gut feeling.

An Open Book

But it's really never crossed my mind not to speak about it. To anyone. New friends, on a date, in my MySpace, "About Me." It is very much a part of who I am and people are going to figure that out sooner or later. It feels weird to hide such a big part of me.

It's like politics and religion; maybe don't bring it up at the family dinner table, but let someone know by the second date because they can be deal-breakers. I don't want people in my life who can't be supportive and understanding, so it's pretty important to me to know if my brain is going to be a deal-breaker for you.

I digress.

I'm still aware that there is danger out there. People who would hurt, harm, or shun me because I'm open about my diagnosis. I'm on mental health leave right now and I have a job who is a big fan of revenge firings.

She's been very supportive of me up until now, but I'm also very sensitive to the fact that it's a real possibility that she might "come after me," when I go back. I hope I'm wrong. I've been wrong about her before.

Just a couple of days ago, someone retweeted a response that I made on an ADHD medication thread and literally compared me to a meth head.

But I expect those kinds of things, I guess. I knew they would be par for the course. In both cases, I've been there and done that. I've had bosses come after me because of my mental health, even firing me. That wasn't the reason they gave, but...

People have said mean things to me before because of my disorders. People that I love have said mean things about my disorders.

I don't have particularly thick skin. In fact, I'm downright sensitive. But it just comes with the territory. It shouldn't. But it does and that is why I speak out now.

Wrap Up

The thing is, my disorders are something that happened to me. When I'm in midst of an episode of any of my disorders or illnesses, that is something that is happening to me. I didn't ask for it. I didn't bring it on myself. I can't shake it off or try harder or chase it away. It just is and it's not my fault.

So, I don't feel particularly brave. Though I am flattered by the incredible compliment, I never really know what to say to it. I'm fighting this fight, yes. I'm speaking out because I deserve a voice and all the people like me deserve a voice. But it doesn't feel like bravery.

I feel driven and determined. Sometimes I feel scared and discouraged. I feel inspired. I feel frustrated with the people who refuse to understand. But I don't feel brave.

Thank you, to all of the kind strangers who have heaped this word on me lately. I hope that what I wrote touched you or helped you or resonated with you in some way. But I am not brave. I am just a normal person, living with a whole bunch of brain disorders, trying to get the word out.

Love and light. Keep fighting the good fight!💜💜