Have you ever had one of those “examination dreams” – the kind where you have to take a final exam in college and you’re woefully unprepared? In my dreams, sometimes I didn’t study at all. Other times it’s the wrong course, or it’s the right course but I hadn’t realized I was enrolled in it, so I’d never come to class or done any of the assignments.
Today feels like one of those dreams. Tomorrow’s the day my blog will be critiqued by the other members of the current Blog Book Tours class. In May, we participated in the Blog-A-Day challenge; hence the B.A.D. moniker. Rationally, I know there’s nothing to fear. We’ve already critiqued other members’ blogs, and the group has been uniformly kind and considerate. No one’s trashed anyone else’s site. No one’s said, “You’re a horrible writer; you might as well give up right now,” or “Yours is the ugliest blog I’ve ever seen.” (Of course, no one’s deserved comments like that, either.) It’s all about constructive critiquing and suggestions to help us improve our blogs.
Yes, I know all that. Even so, I’m planning to spend the day tweaking my site, with time out for a little gardening and a trip to the Y for Nia and weight-lifting. I know what’s good, what needs improvement. I won’t be more specific here, because I don’t want to influence my critics in advance. But this feels like putting the final touches on a term paper – proofreading it one more time, making sure the bibliography and footnotes are all in order. (Aside to folks of a certain age: how did we ever manage all this before the age of computers?)
Then there's the lingering anxiety about yesterday's post, wherein I proclaimed my bipolar diagnosis. So far, I've received a couple of positive comments, but nothing major. In fact, I'm reminded of the scene in Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders where Erika comes out of the closet. Following a memorial service for a member of WellSpring who died mysteriously, Erika is confronted by a TV newswoman:
Ariana’s dance segued into a final chant. As she extinguished the candles to signify the close of the service, I rose and moved quietly through the garden and out the wrought iron gates to confront the camera crews.
Nancy Welcome was waiting front and center, wearing a suit of tangerine wool that showed an extravagant length of leg and looked far too warm for the season. Beads of sweat shone through her makeup, and she was dabbing at her forehead with a tissue. “Ready when you are, Erika,” she said. “But let’s get Stan Washington, the guy I interviewed before. He was great on camera. Maybe some of the other club members too.”
“Unfortunately, that’s not such a good idea. People’s attendance at the club is strictly confidential. Because of the stigma attached to mental illness – ”
“Hold it right there, Erika. That’s a good angle, but I’d like to get it on tape before we talk any more. It’ll sound fresher that way.”
She signaled the cameraman, who aimed his lens at me and began filming. Nancy walked casually into the frame. “I’m speaking with Erika Norgren, Director of the WellSpring Club. The memorial service for Stephen Wright has just ended. Behind us, people are leaving, including many members of WellSpring, the social club for mentally ill adults. Ms. Norgren has requested that we not show these folks on camera. Why is that, Erika?”
“People’s attendance at the club is strictly confidential, Nancy. Some members hold jobs, and they may not have told their employers about their illness, for fear of repercussions. Even if they’re upfront about their own illness, their family and friends may be embarrassed and not want it discussed.”
“So there’s a lot of secrecy involved with WellSpring Club, how it’s run and who comes here,” Nancy stated.
“Unfortunately, some secrecy is necessary,” I replied. “But that’s because in our society there’s still a strong stigma associated with mental illness. For that to change, we need more honesty and open communication about the subject.” I took a deep breath, then a totally unpremeditated leap off the high dive. “For example, I’ve been the Director of WellSpring Club for almost six months, yet no one at the club knows that I’m officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It’s well controlled with medication, and not even my boss knows about it. I guess she’ll find out on the news tonight.”
Her eyes took on a predatory gleam. “That’s very interesting, Erika. I appreciate your sharing it with News Channel 8. Any reason you decided to go public about your illness at this particular time?”
“I’m an honest, upfront person in general, and I’ve been feeling more and more hypocritical about keeping this important part of myself under wraps, especially since I became Director of WellSpring Club and began working alongside a lot of wonderful people who face their illness bravely and openly every day. So I’m hereby making it official – I’m one of the crazies, and proud of it.”
Closing ranks on either side of me, Stan and Gloria began to cheer and clap. Still filming, the cameraman pulled back for a long shot as other members arrived to check out the commotion.
“I never knew coming out of the closet would be so exciting,” I said. Then everything turned soft and swimmy, and my knees went suddenly weak. But the sensation passed in short order. I didn’t fall swooning to the ground in the wake of my revelation. No fireworks exploded, no comets streaked across the sky. The handful of club members who had gathered around gave me a round of applause and a couple of thumbs up, but that was it. At last I had made the public confession I’d dreaded for so long, and nothing had changed at all. Not yet, anyway.
From Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders, Copyright 2006 by Julie Lomoe