Unorthodox and Unhinged

Tales of a Manic Christian

Naked in Public – or – Coming Out Crazy




Buck naked.

Locker room naked.

Blame the nuns. Blame eleven years of parochial school. I have never been comfortable naked in the company of strangers. I can count on one hand the number of people in my entire lifetime who have seen me in my altogether. This includes my dear departed mother who changed my diapers:)

Catholic school can mess with your mind and create a crazy kind of modesty. The good sisters told us to put talcum powder in the bath water so we would not see our own naked selves. The water literally had to cover us up to our necks! I guess we were supposed to get undressed with our eyes closed.


High school gym class, I never took a shower. Two years of softball practice, I never took a shower. Three years on the Immaculata basketball team, I never took a shower. Personal hygiene be damned, I never took a shower.


Not because I was modest — because I was TERRIFIED. I was terrified of being exposed. Terrified of baring my bare self to the world. Terrified the world would know everything about me. Terrified of being naked in public.

I am still terrified. I am in the pool twice a week at my local rec center. The locker room is awash with naked ladies of every shape and size. A room full of naked ladies — totally comfortable and free as a breeze. Not me. I go into the “closet” and change my clothes. God forbid a neighbor sees me! God forbid a parishioner sees me! God forbid anybody — but me — sees me.

Totally exposed. Totally vulnerable. Totally out of control. Bare naked for all the world to see.

It is not easy for this bipolar soul to step out of the locker room closet. Those of us who are bipolar have to be very careful where we bare our souls. We have to be very, very careful coming out this particular closet.

Coming out — crazy.

Be careful how you come out. You risk being labeled, categorized, stigmatized, and marginalized. You risk condescension and discrimination. You risk being stereotyped and stuck in a box. You risk being hurt.

A friend– who should know better — told me not to risk it. No one will hire you. No church will call you. You will never be a rector. Maybe never even an associate again. Maybe not even a supply priest. Stay in the closet. Don’t come out. It’s way too risky.

So I didn’t. Instead I tried to educate, elucidate, and illuminate the IGNORANT and the INDIFFERENT with FACTS and FIGURES. Do you know 20% of the world walks around with a mental health issue? Do you know 50% of us will have a mental health issue in our lifetimes? Facts and figures are all well and good. But facts and figures alone make very little difference. Very little difference indeed.

So I took a risk.

I decided that I had to come out of this particular closet. Five years ago I came out to my boss. Three years ago on campus, I came out in the pulpit. Twice I have come out in public forums. I have come out – crazy — in four different parishes.

And in April of this year, I came out on Unorthodox & Unhinged. And with this post – in words — I have now come out 32 times.

Naked at work.

Naked at church.

Naked on the internet. FaceBooked. Tweeted.

And with this 32nd post, November 6, 2014, I come out in living color — totally exposed. Kristin Adair, a good friend and mental health advocate, is also a budding photo-journalist. Kristin asked if she could shadow me at work, at home, at church – to profile in pictures — a bipolar life.

Walking the dog, eating breakfast, watching TV, taking meds, hiking Huntley Meadows, blogging on my couch, celebrating the Eucharist.

In my pajamas. In my sweats. In my kitchen. In my bedroom.

Out of this crazy closet — naked for all the world to see.

(Just click the “play arrow” and you can see too!)

And the truth be told — naked — we all look pretty much look alike. Naked — we all have just have about everything in common. Exposed. Vulnerable. Shaking like a leaf — naked as the day we were born – we all look pretty much alike.

Now Adam and Eve tried to cover up with fig leaves. Naked and ashamed and cast out east of Eden. But biblically speaking — Adam and Eve got this naked thing all wrong. And biblically speaking, the flawed and famous King David — got it so, so right.

David paraded the Ark of the Covenant into the city he named for himself…. all the citizens “making merry before the Lord with all their might, with songs, and lyres and harps, and tambourines, and castanets, and cymbals…. David danced before the Lord with all his might… leaping and shouting”…naked as the day he was born….(2 Samuel 6,7)

Michal, his wife, was mortified. David, however, was glorified. Glorified by the God who chose him. Glorified by the God who loved him. Glorified by the God who created him – flaws and all – warts and all. Unashamedly, unabashedly loved him.

So friends, are you ready to get naked with me? Are you ready to get naked in public?


Author: celticjlp

Episcopal priest, balanced and bipolar. "Associate for Liturgy & Hilarity" @EEC. Bibliomaniac desk jockey and docent at Library of Congress. Washington DC born and bred. Half marathoner and avid pedestrian. Blogger, Storyteller & Mental Health Evangelist.

18 thoughts on “Naked in Public – or – Coming Out Crazy

  1. Beautifully illustrated life of my friend! You are giving the gift of courage to people who are in need of a shot and it is working. Interesting thought about what Jennifer brought up. The first thing I thought of is the use of the “n” word amongst African-Americans. They who use it say it because it gives them ownership of a word with a very negative history. This way, they take it as their own and use it how others might address people as “brother, or sister”. It still has a history and makes many uneasy knowing that African-Americans don’t take kindly to others using it. Very interesting subject, semantics. Same with crazy. Does the use of it in a humorous way give ownership to the user if they have mental health issues? Hmmm…

    • Meredith, indeed you are right on target. By owning the word crazy for myself – I am turning it upside down and inside out! It is my badge of honor and no longer a negative label others apply to me. Blessed are the crazy – also the name of a book!

  2. “Coming out” has always been an issue in my family. Especially when it comes to our mental health. The recurring comment by my mother and my sister “it will be on your permanent record”. This has let alcoholism run rampant and let mental issues be passed down. I have been so trying to “come out” to my family. I am happy to say that it is working with few people. So, onward I go.

  3. Oh you beautiful girl!

  4. You are so beautiful! And you are doing beautiful work like the bold woman who annointed Jesus’ head. We are all more beautiful in our altogethers. (I say this as one who was advised by so many not to come out of my closet.) Out is where we are called to come over and over.

    • Even in my pajamas!? Yes, out is where all God’s children should be. And I so admire you coming out in spite of the the naysayers. People tell me I am being courageous, I tell them, no, I am just being me. Thank you, Pam. It is so good to be in touch after all these years.

  5. Awesome job, you two !!!

  6. Joan, what a journey. As someone who also has struggled with depression and various other mental/psycho/social afflictions, I feel with you. It’s a journey for each of us. God/HP helps me so much, too. I pray that you truly know God’s abundant, everlasting love! God bless your work, friend. @chaplaineliza

  7. Joani, I enjoy your writing and learn something new every time. Can you help me understand your use of the word “crazy”? I’ve been living with the notion, shared by mental health professionals and friends and loved ones with bipolar, depression, anxiety and other health concerns, that “crazy” is a word we want to use less, as a way to de-stigmatized mental illness. I value your learning, opinion and experience.

    • Thank you, Jennifer. I use crazy affectionately. It is better used by the people who are crazy than the people who aren’t. I am more concerned with being honest than politically correct:) I wrote about it somewhat humorously in a previous post: “My name is Legion or the Bipolar Dictionary” you can search on my site to find it. Humor is one of God’s greatest gifts!

  8. Joani, I am moved to tears! Thank you for your honesty, your vulnerability and your quest to show the world that people living with mental illness are people first! As a person who at times struggles with depression as well a mother and a spouse of men who live with depression and anxiety and a NAMI Family-to-Family instructor, I have come to believe that stigma is sometimes worse than the actual illness!

    • Thank you, Shelia. I want to normalize what goes wrong with our brains. The more of us that come out the more we can make a difference. Bless you for your work with NAMI!

  9. Lovely photos and great courage in your story. As usual, you continue to help us all see the world anew.


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