By Jody Valley
Running from your past
Q. This is so embarrassing, so please don’t say anything that might identify me or where I live. If people found out, I think I might lose friends or even my job.
First let me give you a little background. I was diagnosed being bi polar in my early 20s; I have been in hospitals off and on for the last 15 years. Just when I would get my life together, I would hit a low or become manic. When I am depressed, I would get to the place that I couldn’t get out of bed or take care of myself and I usually ended up in the hospital. When I was having a high, I would make a mess of my life because I didn’t think before I did things.
About three years ago, my doctors put me on some new medicine; it has changed my life drastically. I no longer get depressed or really manicy. I haven’t been in the hospital since this new medicine. After getting on the new medicine, I made a big change in my life. I moved. I felt stigmatized where I was living and didn’t feel I would get a fair chance to change my life. So I moved, got a job and made new friends. When people ask me about my past, I lie. I tell them a made up story–the life I would have liked to have lived. Up until now, this has worked out fine. The problem is that when I was at a gay function, not long ago, I saw a person that I used to know. I didn’t know him well, but I did know him. He came over and asked me if he knew me and I said, “No. I must look like someone you know.” Now, I am afraid he will remember me and tell others about me. I am also afraid he will tell people back where I came from that I am here. I just pretty much disappeared without telling anyone where I was going.
For the first time in my life I am happy, have friends, have a steady job, and like my life. I don’t want to run again. What do I do?
A: I’m really impressed and happy for you for getting your life together. It must feel great to you, and I can understand how scary this must feel to you. It is always a gamble when we base our life on a lie. I understand that you wanted to start anew, and in our society there is certainly a stigma about mental illness.
Now you will need to make some decisions. You can always choose to not say anything and hope he will not remember. You could choose to drop out of functions in hopes that you will not encounter him again–but the gay community tends to be small. Or you can start telling those you trust and value, what is going on. This may be the scariest step, but in the long run offers you the most freedom. You may need to work this through by talking to a professional or someone you trust. Let me know, I care.
Talk or walk
Q: I am going with this woman who I like in so many ways. I will call her “Martha.” There is only one problem: she talks too much. Sometimes she is Ok, but when she is anxious she talks non-stop. I’ve noticed that most people including myself just quit listening after awhile and zone out. The problem is when she is like this, it keeps everyone else from talking. It’s amazing, she hardly takes a breath, and I have no idea how anyone can talk like this. I don’t know whether or not she is aware of her incessant talking. I almost think she believes she is being entertaining. I am a pretty quiet person so when she is talking a moderate amount, I enjoy it. It keeps conversations going. But when she starts up and doesn’t stop for a whole evening, I get annoyed because it seems like she doesn’t care about anyone but herself. Do you think I should say anything to her or do you think this is just who she is and I need to accept it if I want to have a relationship with her?
A: It sounds like this is a significant problem. I’m sure you are not the first person who has been annoyed with her about this. I never believe that we should ignore things that bother us in relationshipsÑit tends to kill them. I would talk to her about it. I would first tell her about all the things that I like and value about her. Then, tell her that there is one area that does bother you and explain it, kindly. Let her know how this affects you. Help her to see that this behavior happens mostly when she is nervous, and not all the time. Try not to come off as critical, but as addressing a problem.