"Firstly, can I assure you all that I am completely normal and totally sane. It's just that, like twenty-five percent of us, I have a Mental Health condition."
That was the way I began my talk tonight. For the first time, I was talking about my bi-polar officially and in public. And it was scary.
It wasn't the public speaking that was scary: a lot of my job involves giving presentations around the county to various groups. Very few speaking engagements worry me now (apart from speaking to children: nine year olds are the hardest audience ever!) I'm happy speaking to twenty people or two hundred people and I honestly think twenty thousand would be a piece of cake – just as long as I was speaking with my Image Consultant hat on.
Because I'm pretty darn good at my job. And I know I'm pretty darn good at speaking about it too. I'm educational, engaging, informative and entertaining: when I'm talking about Clothes and Personal Style.
Speaking from the heart, with raw honesty, about the bi-polar I have lived with since I was seven years old; now this was something new.
I was so glad that the group of women I was talking to tonight had previously booked me (several times) to talk to them in my professional capacity. They know me as reliable, prepared, competent, consistent and – yes – professional. Tonight I was showing them the other Mary: the side they will never see normally, because only my family and closest friends see me when I'm going through the bad times. Oh – and you guys, of course!
And they were lovely! They were warm, accepting, understanding, compassionate….
They also asked some very challenging questions. They asked about what professional healthcare is available (very little beyond GPs and private therapists charging £100 plus an hour). They wanted to know how my condition affects my family (it still bothers me that my (now) twelve year old has been my intermittent caregiver since she was two and that my husband has had rather more than his share of the "in sickness" part of the marriage vows). They wanted to know if I watch my children for signs of mental health problems (like a hawk, my dears: like a hawk wearing infra-red goggles and through telescopic sights)!
So I've come home and immediately poured myself a very large glass of Chardonnay. And yes – I know I should be doing my EFT/tapping/mediation – but you know what: that glass of wine is both immediate and delicious. The second glass is even better.
Part of me wants to develop this talk; to polish it and to put myself on the speaker circuit with it – so that I can educate more people about depression, bipolar and to let them know about Moodscope, which has been a lifeline and more over the last three years and which would benefit so many more people if only they knew about it.
The other part is relieved that my husband and mother (who would infinitely prefer that this whole business is kept discreetly quiet and never mentioned) give me an excuse to wimp out of taking myself public.
I'd value your opinions and comments. Let me know what you think.
A Moodscope member.