If you have ever told anyone you have a mental illness, you probably know "the look."
It happened to me where I volunteered in Arizona. My coworker was a lady who was a sweet and kind soul and probably had no clue it was even on her face. But it was. A stare in a way that made me understand that she would never look at me in the same way.
I'm not a quiet person. Lies and secrets complicate life, so I try to avoid them. Unfortunately, that usually means I tend to tell many people things they couldn't care to know. For some reason, stuff just falls out of my face (and off of my fingertips).
On that particular day, a sensitive subject came up in the office. I wasn't feeling very steady, so rather than allow myself to be triggered, I took a short walk. I had the opportunity to look at portraits of Christ hanging on the walls. I composed myself and returned after just a couple of short minutes. By the time I had done so, the sensitive conversation was over.
I did take the opportunity to explain myself and my actions to the person who worked as my supervisor in the office and who was engaging in the conversation. Unfortunately for me, I also disclosed my own abuse background as well as the fact I have been diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).
The moment the words came out of my mouth, I wanted to pull them back in. I don't know what made me say it, but I wanted to unsay it immediately. "The look" was all I could see. It was on her face. I wanted to unsee it. I wanted to unsay it, but I couldn't.
She overwhelmed me with apologies that were neither needed or wanted. I just wanted the topic to be over, but also for it never to have happened. Since we had a week between seeing each other, I then had several days to contemplate the questions she might be considering.
I wished I wasn't so open. The more genteel parts of my brain cringe when someone looks at me with the combination of pity/entrancement that can come with people learning about my history of abuse and my brain.
It's not that I don't welcome questions, I do. I am even writing a blog about it (HERE!), but it's the pity/entrancement look that feels past uncomfortable, but disturbing. Like all of a sudden, you've been transported back into a carnival side-show of the 1800s, and YOU are on the stage with everyone staring.
These are the times I want to retreat. But I can't. I have a life that demands that I keep to a schedule. So, no "mental health days" here. But I really wanted to take one that day. "The system," My MEs, needs a day "off" after something as simple as disclosing our condition. I need a cell away from everyone and everything where I can just take a day away and process all of it.
Perhaps someday. Not today. Last week I/we went public with our diagnosis. There is no time to hide now.
(This article was edited from a previously published post on MyMEsBlog.com by the author)