Ex-patients’ major debate: “Out”? or “in the closet”? What about us writers and spoken word artists?

I am debating this right now. It’s been 12 years since I self-published Breakdown Lane, Traveled.  I was still working on my undergraduate studies.  I enjoyed a tiny amount of publicity.  It was all short-lived.  My undergraduate school, Emerson College, as an institutional whole, refused to acknowledge the book, saying that on-demand publishing “didn’t count.”  Actually, think “mental illness” factored into their decision.  The instructors I knew well had told me in private that I had been one of the hardest working students they’d ever had, stating that I was intelligent, a wonderful writer, had loads of talent, and that they felt honored to know me.  There was an article in the local paper, the Watertown Tab, at the time of BLT’s publication, but I guess everyone forgot about all that rather quickly.

In 2005 someone suggested that I start a blog to publicize BLT online.  I did. I’d say I had about three visitors each month. But it all grew.  I finished grad school in 2009. This Hunger Is Secret, which in fact is my graduate thesis, a memoir, was published in electronic form in 2010 and in paperback in 2012 by a traditional publisher.  My publisher is in the UK, however, the book is available worldwide.  I used my real name and continue to do so.

Names are a funny thing.  Mine is so common that I can easily hide and I am quickly mistaken for all the other Julies and all the other Greens and Greenes that live nearby.  The USPS and UPS delivery is often problematic.  I’ve even had pharmacy mix-ups and I regularly get phone calls for the wrong person, friendly post card reminders, bills, and requests for donations.  I’m waiting for my coffin to arrive for the wrong me.  So long as no one forcefully shoves me into it, I can sell it under the table and make a small fortune, eh?

So meanwhile, I remained underground here locally over a bunch of years until the past year or two.  The 2002 article in the local paper was disregarded and forgotten about.  Emerson College, which is located in the large city here, Boston, had pushed me aside except for the once or twice calls to ask for money.  My grad school isn’t local, in fact, it’s very much far away and my fellow students don’t live nearby.

I was abused in a hospital here in mid-2011.  This was extremely serious abuse.  I’m not talking about someone just saying distasteful things.  This was nothing trivial.  I’m told that I’ve got grounds for a malpractice suit.  Problem is, we’re talking about Massachusetts General Hospital, not some tiny place with no budget.

I was rather shaken by what happened. I didn’t know what to do.  I would grasp onto anything.  I would find any Golden Calf that would listen to my story and then I’d worship that Calf.

At that point, that is, after I got out of Mass  General and later that fall, I truly believe I took a wrong fork in the road. I’ve spoken of these forks before, if you’ve been reading my blog. These forks that change the course of your life.

The day, much later, I realized the Calf was fake I was crushed.  Actually, this realization happened slowly, not in a day.  I’d say this belief, this Calf-worship, eroded over time.

I guess you can’t assume someone, or some organization, is trustworthy. Nor can you assume they aren’t.  You have to wait it out.  It was a learning experience for me.  I revealed within a local organization that I assumed was well-intentioned that I had a mental history.  This, friends, was not a good idea.  Now, some very incorrect rumors have spread.  I nearly died of starvation (which doesn’t mean I’m going to commit violent crime) last summer because I have anorexia nervosa, and again abused in a hospital.  Now the hostility in this town has increased ten-fold.  I guess false rumors spread very fast.

To the local folks now, I’m a dangerous mental patient. A useless Welfare case.  Waste of a life.  Better off dead.  Certainly unwanted here, likely to set off a bomb or do mass murder. Good thing we have no movie theaters!

As for my online presence, that’s entirely separate.  Who reads my blog?  Not local folks. People all over the world, scattered here and there, but not folks who live around the block and around town.

I’m not sure how to deal with this once I relocate. I will surely want to be the writer I am.  I can safely continue my online presence and keep my name, perhaps not identifying my location anymore.

I’m wondering about open mics.  I love reading aloud.  These open mics are usually attended by renegade types, that is, poets and artists, people who live on the fringe, neglected veterans, occasionally homeless people, folks that have been shoved aside by society or ill-served, unless the cover charge is overpriced. There’s nothing I love more than reading aloud to an audience.  I do a damn good reading.

No, I don’t stand up there in curves or a bathing suit or wow them with a pretty face.  I don’t talk about joy or euphemisms or “recovery” or promise great things if only you pay me money and I’m no guru.

I’m a writer.  I read what I write. That’s it.

Okay, you can pet my dog, too.

Maybe, if I do find an open mic, I should read, but be rather vague about my past as “mental patient.”  Surely, there’s a larger global issue going on here and bigotry against “mental patients” is only one form of bigotry.  So perhaps I can be more general without glossing over it.

Sure, I’ve been to talks where the specifics have been ironed out far too much, that is, the details are all edited out to the point that it’s all generic and frankly, boring.  You folks know what I mean.

Heck, I am a writer and when I write, I do specifics such as blood guts and gore.  I don’t want to hear “eating disorder.”  That clinical and it bores me and it’s everyone’s story.  I want to hear exactly how you felt when you saw which dip between your bones, specifically, when you first saw it in the mirror, when you touched it with your fingertips, in secret.  This is real life.  I relate to your story.  When you tell me, I will cry and hold onto you, and you can pet my dog.

See ya later.

2 thoughts on “Ex-patients’ major debate: “Out”? or “in the closet”? What about us writers and spoken word artists?”

  1. Julie, I hope your relocation is a great success. Be happy and meet new people. Don’t tell them about yourself straight away. Let them get to know what a lovely gentle person you are.

    You don’t have to tell everyone about your past,when you are trying to make a break, I’m not saying that you should tell lies. Just keep your counsel until you are established.

    Love M.

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