Since I was diagnosed in 1994, I don’t think I’ve ever hidden the fact that I have a mental illness. At first, my parents wanted to deny it, but not me. I wanted to own it. Most of my friends and family, at least those on Facebook, know that I’m bipolar and have anxiety. One of my aunts even reads my blog and occasionally leaves supportive comments. Most people who know me outside of Facebook also know, at least if the topic has come up.
When I meet new people, I don’t come right out and say, “By the way, I’m bipolar.” But should the topic of mental illness come up, and occasionally it does, I “out” myself. I’ve had good reactions so far. Maybe those who had bad reactions remain silent. Either way, most people continue conversing with me.
Most of you know that I don’t leave my house much, so you may be wondering where I meet new people: at bed-and-breakfasts (B&Bs). My husband and I like to travel to towns or cities we’ve never been to, within driving distance (2-3 hours) from Chicago. We always stay in B&Bs.
If you’ve never been to a B&B, it’s like a hotel with fewer rooms, about 6 total! They’re usually housed in a historic mansion with fancy interior designs from a previous century (original wood, or at least restored to what it used to look like, etc.), and furnished with antiques galore. Obviously, I’m not as interested in the architecture; I’m more about what our room is like and the service, which in all but one of the places we’ve stayed, were awesome. We’re even repeat customers at a few. Some are kid-friendly, but the guests are mostly couples.
B&Bs don’t offer room service, but they provide a full breakfast. Sometimes it’s a buffet, but most of the time it’s like going out to a restaurant, because the innkeeper places a plate of food in front of you at the table! Some places have a specific time that they serve breakfast, while at others, you can choose the time you wish to eat. They always accommodate our vegetarian diet. Some B&Bs have separate tables where guests can eat alone, but most of them have a big, fancy dining table where all of the guests eat together.
I know it was a long story, but this is how I meet new people lol! I’m always a little anxious when we enter the dining room, particularly if it’s a community table. In my imagination, I feel that I’m going to be the only person of color at the table, and most of the time I’m right. However, strange though it may be, I’m comfortable talking to these new people — probably because I know I’ll never see them again! Except maybe at breakfast the next day haha!
If the topic of mental health comes up, I “out” myself. But one of the things that almost always comes up is what I do for a living. I hem and haw, and finally say that I’m a fiction writer. I would feel awkward telling them that I’m on disability, because my illness is invisible. Recently, my therapist and I came up with how I can answer this question in the future: “I’m a fiction writer, and I blog about bipolar disorder.” It isn’t exactly “outing” myself, but should anyone ask why I chose that topic, then I would tell them, and best case scenario, hope it starts a positive dialogue about mental illness.
I have yet to use this answer, but we’ll be traveling again in about a month, and we don’t know what the eating arrangements will be. I kind of hope that someone asks me what I do for a living lol!
Have you ever stayed at a B&B? What was your breakfast experience like?