Last night, the madness group (or ‘mental health’ group if you prefer) staged an Open Mic Night where several people including four very talented teenagers, shared their personal stories. This was part of an overall effort to allow these voices to be heard and to fight stigma. I read my own piece and another excellent poem submitted by a local Pittsburgh poet.
And now here we are on the day following and, for me, there is a little letdown. Not from the show which was awesome, but by my performance piece, which I loved but cannot really live.
The force behind the show, Allyson Cypher of the group that put on the show ‘Inside our Minds’ read a piece that slammed (and rightfully so) her former employer, a mental health non-profit. She described an office environment not unlike mine (although things are better, for the moment). Although she did not, and I will not, mention the name of the non-profit, she hoped at some point the word would get back to them.
I, on the other hand, only felt free to say what I wanted to say from that stage. I didn’t call out my employer either. The piece was not specifically directed at them but was mainly about my experiences in their employ. I said things from the stage that I could not say to the people I work for.
My piece starts out with scenes from my youth where my innocent enough behavior was punished in several ways, which caused me to believe that there was something wrong with me – but I could never quite understand what it was.
The part where I make my proclamation is here:
So what is wrong with me?
Do they want to hear about Borderline Personality Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Secondary Bipolar Disorder, PTSD or anything else 31 therapists have diagnosed me with?
Would they care about the long term effects of taking Abilify, Topamax, Zoloft, Paxil, Lamotrigene, Ativan and the list goes on and on.
Nah, at work they just hope I can act ‘normal.’
Well fuck you. This is my normal. This is my human experience. This is all I know. And I am tired of apologizing for who I am, what I do, how I act and how I cope.
Yes there is something ‘wrong’ with me.
I am not ‘normal.’
But I have seen enough of ‘normal people’ to know
I’d rather be me.
There is nothing wrong with me.
And I can’t help feeling sad that I can only say this on a stage miles from where I work, to people who are not employees and don’t understand what has happened to me here.
Because if I said this at work, they would find a way to fire me or make my life as miserable as Alyssa’s employers made hers.
But at least for a scant minute I could speak from the heart and say what I feel.
I wish everyone could.