U&U is all about coming out. Coming out of my particular closet. I’ve come out in writing. I’ve come out at work. I’ve come out with friends. I’ve even come out “Unhinged” on stage – the Story District stage — three times. I’ve come out of my bipolar closet to make a difference. Come out crazy.
And now I am excited to report that U&U is going on a little holiday!
Amy Saidman, Executive Director of Story District has invited me to do some blogging for Out/Spoken: Queer, Questioning, Bold & Proud, the annual Story District Pride Show. Eight awesome storytellers will take the stage at the 9:30 Club on June 4th. The show then goes out on the road, first to Atlanta in October, and then to Birmingham in November. Supported by the Human Rights Campaign, the tour is being funded by the The National Endowment for the Arts.
I am so psyched to follow this groundbreaking show! Thank you, Story District! Its an honor to sit down with Out/Spoken’s producers, directors and storytellers. I hope the profiles I post along the way will do them all justice, peak your interest, sell more tickets, and help pack the house!
So it seems appropriate to repost my own coming out story — “Naked in Public, or Coming Out Crazy” — first published on U&U in November of 2014.
Here I go.
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 25% of the world walks around with a mental health issue? Do you know 60% 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. Six years ago I came out to my boss. Four years ago, I came out in the pulpit. I have come out in church forums more than a few times. I now have come out – crazy — in five different parishes.
And in April of 2014, I came out on Unorthodox & Unhinged. And with this post – in words — I have now come out 87 times.
Naked at work.
Naked at church.
Naked on the internet. FaceBooked. Tweeted.
And with this 87th post — a repost of #32, 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?
Blame the nuns still at your age? I don’t think so.
I R E N E
Ha!! No, they don’t take all the blame! Just a little! It’s all on me!