Last week, I was late for an appointment and couldn’t find the keys to my car. I realized they were in my pocket all along after searching my house frantically. I can be a bit absent minded sometimes.
We all have closet doors that we believe we can’t open. Behind these doors, we keep our painful, disturbing and shameful things locked away. Our behavior when our doors are close are to drug, to eat, to spend and to sex. We try hard to outrun our inner storm clouds in a misguided attempt to stay safely warm and dry. We try to flee from ourselves but only end up addicted, overweight, poor and compulsively sexed. Running, I have come to see, might be human but it is always a futile effort.
I nailed by closet door shut for many years, ashamed that I had a psychiatric illness, running a marathon to nowhere. I was trapped by my belief that external circumstances stood in the way of my freedom as if some unseen prison warden held the keys to my psychological freedom.
Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I was waiting around to be set free by the Wizard. If my diagnosis became known, real life consequences would occur. Professionally, I worried about collegial disapproval and the loss of my medical license. I believed friends and family would be shattered. Though I was the ringmaster of this circus, I gave others the message that they were to play their part and view me as someone who didn’t need comfort or care. This farce was all my doing.
After far too many years elapsed, I hit rock bottom and finally had no choice but to realize that like Dorothy, I didn’t need the Wizard to bring me home. It was my job to accept that I had bipolar disorder: I didn’t need anyone to parole me for a crime I didn’t commit. It sounds obvious now but it was revelatory back then. If we can shift our view inward and realize that we all hold the keys to the doors we nail shut, we can use them and liberate ourselves from the cells we construct. All we need to do is click our heals three times and we’ll be free. I’ve done it. It works.
If you are living with a mental health condition, do you feel free?