So this week I’m vacationing to visit with my family and have found myself closer to them than ever. We have hung out, shared stories, and learned so much about one another. One thing I’ve learned from this visit so far is that sometimes you just have to be open and vulnerable. That some things that just cannot be conveyed over a phone, or any other technology for that matter.

During my time here I have been able to share my story and express my truth in ways I never have and found unexpected understanding and compassion in return. As I reached out they responded with love, kindness, and with genuine concern and questions. Bipolar disorder can be hard to comprehend and for years my disease has been almost virtual for them as they don’t see it since we literally live thousands of miles apart. It’s almost like it’s never quite been real for them. More like something that just exists in the ether and didn’t necessarily affect them so it didn’t require a lot of attention, understandably so to a great extent.

Now though, it’s more than real. Now it has permeated the story of our family through my honesty. For years I haven’t shared my narrative with them for fear of rejection and lack of understanding. It’s not like it’s been secret but it’s never been discussed in depth. Like many families we just never really talked about mental illness. It’s not something that just pops up in conversation in general. Now it’s different. This time I decided to be open. Instead of fiercely defending the walls I’ve put up around myself over the years I let them fall down a bit and found my family was waiting on the other side ready to welcome me, even as twisted as I can be at times.

Lesson learned: Just as any other medical condition, mental health issues should be discussed, they should not be shoved under a carpet or hidden behind miles of separation. Every story is important. Including yours. Share openly and often, whenever possible. You never know who you might be helping.

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