Behind The Curtain

RubyI really debated about this post for a while.  Not the writing of it, I have come to a place in my life where that was just a given.  But I wasn’t sure if I should post it here or to my personal blog, because, while I do post pieces of myself on here, I try very much to keep things aimed more at an audience, and write pieces that many people can relate to.

Two things tipped the balance in favor of Canvas.  One, my blog is not strictly a mental health blog, and this is really more a mental health issue.  Two, I realized that while it is an incredibly personal thing to write, ultimately most people dealing with mental health issues will face it at one time or another.

So, I have decided to pull back the curtain on me and my life.

I am the reverse of so many mental health bloggers.  Everyone in my life, from my family to the Beauty Ambassadors at my local Bare Escentuals, knows of my mental health struggles.  Since I came to terms with the fact that this was something I could not tackle on my own more than half a decade ago, I have been an open book about it.  To me, there was never any stigma attached.  I have brown hair and blue eyes and great taste in music and bipolar disorder, and I deal with a host of other mental illnesses.

I’ve had reactions of mild surprise, reactions of curiosity, reactions of understanding and empathy, and reactions of support.  Never did anyone back away from me, or shield their child’s eyes like they used to do with witches.

But I have kept my identity very much a secret online.  Part of this is just good common sense, but another part was an intense case of paranoia.  As the paranoia has been brought into check for the most part, here goes.

My real name is Stephanie.  I prefer not to disclose my last name (that’s just common sense), and I would prefer if you would still address me as Ruby.  I have found that moniker a comfortable and freeing one to write under.  I am 31 years old, and I live approximately in Denver, CO, USA.  I could give you a more precise location, but with the urban sprawl there are so many cities that fit into the designation of “the metro area”, so it really wouldn’t mean much to most of you.

I don’t really know what I’m supposed to put in this post that I haven’t already said before.  I have a very loving and supportive family, I have good friends, I currently do not have a job and am on disability.

I have three girls whom I like to refer to as the “daughters of my heart”; two of them I used to nanny for and the youngest is one of their sisters.

As I said, I’m not sure what I should be disclosing here.  Feel free to ask questions in the comments, and I will feel free to answer them or not (but never fear, you won’t make me upset).  The point of this post is mostly just to show everyone who reads it that I really and truly am willing to say, “This is me, this is all of me, take it or leave it.”  I won’t say f*ck you to ignorance and stigma, because I want to educate people.  I want to do what I can to reduce and eliminate misconceptions and misunderstandings.  I don’t want my children, or anyone else’s, growing up seeing mental illness as something that must be hidden, or discussed only in hushed voices with certain people.

I want change, and that doesn’t come easily.  It may seem like extreme comparisons to some, but look at the civil rights movement, look at women’s lib.  Neither of those issues got to where they are without making a whole lot of noise (and neither of those battles are even near to over).  A lot of people with mental illnesses can’t take the stones they will be hit with by “coming out” about their struggles and diagnoses, which I get.  But I can.  And as someone who is strong enough to deal, I am happy to be a lightning rod.  I’m not sure yet what my role is meant to be, but I can guarantee you that it’s going to be a loud one.

So here I am.  If you ever recognize me on the street, please don’t hesitate to come and say hello to me.

© Ruby Tuesday and A Canvas Of The Minds 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ruby Tuesday and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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49 thoughts on “Behind The Curtain

  1. Ruby,
    It really is freeing to let people into your life further. We, that have blogs I’ve found, are so much more accepting it seems. I appreciate the openness and honesty that I read. I do understand, however, those that choose not to reveal more about themselves…it IS scary.

    I am not shy about letting people know who I am. I decided from the first to show my picture yet keeping the identities of my family sacred. Some of them read my blog and it wouldn’t be fair to them to list their names.

    I got to ‘know’ you a bit more when you ‘outed’ yourself on facebook. You are a beautiful person inside and out and it would be a pleasure to get to know you in person. You have had a great influence on me and my approach to living with bipolar. You acknowledge you have bipolar and share your struggles but like you say, it’s part of who you are. It doesn’t define you. It took me about almost two years to get to that point. I spent many months denying I had a mental illness until I was convinced it has biological components. It only makes sense. The brain can get sick as much any other part of the body. It is nothing to be ashamed about. So thank you for helping me to see that.

    • Don’t sweat it, it only took me 31 years to get here myself. ;)

      In all seriousness, you should be proud of yourself. The only way we will reduce, and one day eliminate stigma is to be vocal and honest and to show people that yes, we are mentally ill. But we are also so much more, and we are good people, contributing to society, and not some strange new breed of leper that needs shunning.

      As for any influence I may have had on you, while I thank you very much for your words, I would point out that influence is all that it has been. You had all of the positive ways to deal with this part of your life inside of you already. If I helped you find them and integrate them into your life, then I am grateful, but they are 100% you, dear heart.

      • When I am a therapist, if that is my true calling, my task will be to help clients discover the truths, strengths, capabilities, power,and wisdom within. Even I need reminding and that’s why I myself go to a therapist! Good online friends like you help in that discovery as well.
        It’s rewarding and humbling to know that I have influence (mostly positive, I hope) on others. Of course, the only influence one really has is if the other is open to it!

        • I can’t ever imagine you as a negative influence, Shelly. I think we all have it within ourselves to help steer others and help them find their path, and I hope that, for my own part, I only ever steer others in a direction that strengthens and benefits them.

  2. Ruby, thank you for sharing so much. You are beautiful! And I don’t think it’s far-fetched comparing the plight of those with mental illness to the civil rights movement. Keep up your great work!

    • Janet, thank you (as always) for your kind words and encouragement. People’s beliefs aren’t just going to change themselves, they never have. We have to speak up and show the world at large how ignorant and misinformed they are to judge, especially to judge a population that is most affected by and least equipped to deal with their prejudices.

  3. Ruby, I think this is an excellent post and I appreciate being able to put a face to a name. Like you I am completely out there with my mental illness and history (although because of some events in my past I can’t do the picture thing), as I firmly believe that if it is something you can cope with then it is an excellent way to knock a few holes in stigma. Every little hole makes a difference, although like you I completely accept that for some people this is not possible.

  4. The good news is that WE – you and I and all of us that blog openly about our struggles with mental illness, are indeed shaping the change. It may take a while but it will happen.

    And the more we blog about it, the more we tweet about it, the more we facebook about it, the faster it will be. That’s one of the good things about social media

  5. I wonder if people’s reactions to you have to do with where you live. Maybe in the South, people are more judgmental about the mental health thing. I’ve had people distance themselves from me once they found out about my mental health issues. Part of that (i.e., my perception) probably has to do with my parents, too, though. I grew up thinking that “mental health issues” was just an excuse to be lazy, among other things. I won’t go into the whole story here; it’s too personal. I just know that throughout my life I kept telling my family that I had a mental health problem and they kept telling me I was exaggerating, that there’s no way I could’ve done so well in school, for example, if that were so. I don’t know what people would think in the workplace, as I haven’t told anyone, but I’m afraid people will think it means I’m not dependable, that I’m too unstable.

    Sorry, I got off track there. I think I’m saying either I haven’t gotten to the part yet where I can feel confident that others will accept my issues–they may do so, or they may not, but I haven’t reached the part where I can risk it by telling people. I don’t know if that means that one day I will or that in my life it will never be so.

    This post is thought-provoking for me. And you’re beautiful, inside and out. :)

    • Aw, Angel, you are so sweet to me.

      I don’t expect everyone to suddenly have these monumental life shifts and run around telling everyone they meet, “Hey, guess what? I have a mental illness!” It doesn’t work like that. Just the fact that this post is thought-provoking, well that’s more the point. That’s what I want. That is a seed planted in so many minds (though quite honestly, it really wasn’t what I was thinking when I wrote it, it was more about living my beliefs completely).

      Stigma is everywhere, north, south, east, west, in families, and across the globe. I was lucky to grow up in an extremely supportive and loving environment. But even further, I have always had a “this is me, take me or leave me” attitude. Not in an angry way, but in a self-assured, I am damned awesome, and any problem you have with me as I am is your problem, not mine. My mother has said that even since I was very little, she knew that whatever life threw my way, I would land on my feet. And she’s right. I may have spent some time tumbling through the air, but I stuck the landing eventually. ;)

      And I also think the acceptance I have found has a lot to do with how I present my mental health situation. I’m open about it and I’m clearly not ashamed. And I don’t make it a big deal.

      But that’s unusual. That isn’t most people. And there is so much ignorance and hate out there. As I said, I know that everyone can’t take the rocks that stigma brings. But I can. I’m not saying it’s not going to get ugly and painful, but I’ll deal. You shouldn’t have to be afraid. Parents shouldn’t tell their children that mental illness is “an excuse to be lazy”. And you shouldn’t have to hide it in the workplace. I’m not saying make it your identity, but you should not live in fear. No one should.

      Back up on my soapbox. Only difference is, this time I’m not getting down.

      • Hmm. Not to make it my identity . . . I just had a thought there. I think that by being so focused on hiding it, I have made it my identity. That’s a notion that requires more thought before I can crystallize what I mean.

        • I think I know what you mean, because while it’s different for everyone, I’ve been in that place, too. Once you figure it out, run from it. Ruby knows, believe you me. (Because, you know, it’s that simple.)

  6. A great way to “come out” there Ruby! I nearly really laughed (guffawed) out loud with your last sentence. I imagined myself coming up to you in the street and shouting ” I know you! You’re Stephanie! I’ve seen your pictures!” you would probably spray mace in my eyes and run screaming for someone to get the police! Nevertheless, I think it would be worth it just to actually say “hi!” to you :)

    • No, Ken, I don’t carry mace. You would more likely take a back roundhouse kick to the head. ;)

      Yes, that last sentence was a bit of a whim. . . But the point is that I am not ashamed of who I am or what I write about, and I would love for anyone to come up to me who wants to speak about it. And I’d love to say “Hi” to you as well. Just don’t startle me, because I don’t want to be jailed for assault over it. :)

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