It finally happened. Just as I knew it would. On Friday, I was rudely confronted about my absence from work.
Sitting alone outside at the smoking table, a work colleague I’m vaguely friendly with joined me. We joked, laughed a bit and then, slapping her hand down on the table, she said…..
SOOOOOoooooo, where have YOOooooo been the whole of December?
Surprise, followed by shock. Incredulous and angry. The ability to formulate and follow my strategy of indirect answers, out of reach. Taken aback, literally. I recoiled at the impact of her crassness.
I know people know what has happened to me, because five years ago when I had a breakdown, they asked the direct questions and I gave them direct answers – I was in hospial because I have bipolar. I know people know, because for an entire week no one has been inappropriate with intrusive questions. Yes, some have given me a wide berth, not made eye contact, looked a little frightened, smiled uncertainly. But no one has asked the big question. So I knew.she.knew the answer. She didn’t care about me. She was frothing at the mouth for the juicy, titillating details straight from the horse’s mouth.
So I answered as only I know how to answer – with brutal honesty. Ask me a question, I’ll tell you no lies, so I replied……
I was in a psychiatric hospital
Now it was her turn for the big surprised eyes and awkward silence.
“Ooooh! Um, well, aaahhhh, at least you’re better now though,” she said.
“I will never be better,” I replied, “I have a mental illness and there’s no cure”
“Ooooh, aaah, ummmm *nervous giggle*…. my sister says I’m bipolar, but I just haven’t been diagnosed,” she said. I was walking away. “But at least you must be feeling better,” she repeated.
“No, I will never feel better, maybe ‘feel more capable right now’ would be a better way to put things”. And I closed the door behind me.