Monday, August 2, 2010

Secrets. Monday, August 2, 2010.

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family – in another city.” – George Burns

This weekend I traveled out of town to an annual reunion of my extended family. Aunts, uncles, cousins. They are an unusually happy, loving and tight-knit group – I’ve never met a family quite like them. I’m the black sheep who lives out of town and falls out of touch except for the holidays.

We played a game: match the person with the adjective. We were given a list of family members, and a list of positive adjectives – smart, strong, athletic, pretty, funny – and voted via secret ballot to match each person with an attribute. We were allowed one vote for ourselves.

One of the adjectives was “survivor.” I cast a vote for that on my own behalf. It would be a secret, known only to me. Because as much as I love these people, and I know they love me, I’ve not shared my battle with bipolar with them, nor have I told them of my suicide attempt. They would be mortified – so much so that I don’t know if they would know how to behave around me afterward.

How I wished I could tell them, if only to break the “stigma” that exists around the topic. I also feel horribly isolated – I have my group of Facebook Friends that know my story, but IRL, I can count those who know on one hand. But I’m not prepared to deal with the fallout that might occur if I start telling people, especially people I care about. Will they pity me? Will they be disgusted? Will they look for someone to blame? Will they judge me? I don’t know, and I’m afraid to find out. It’s a lonely feeling.

Claire, one of my cousins, is going through a divorce. Quietly, embarrassed, she confided in me that she had started taking antidepressants. I joked that I don’t know anyone who’s NOT on antidepressants right now, and she felt better. How would she have felt if I told her my whole story?

At the end of the day, it was time for the results of the votes to be tallied. The adjective assigned to me by my relatives was “creative.” That was fine with me. But I happened to look at the ballots, and was surprised to see that I got TWO votes for “survivor.” One was mine. Whose was the other? Someone out there knows that in some way, I’m fortunate to be alive. And I may never know who.

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