Under Your Feet – Coming Out of the Closet (Part 1)

You stand at the doorway and you feel the quickening of your heartbeat as it thuds against your ribcage.  The blood is pounding in your ears and your breathing grows short and rapid.  Your mouth is suddenly dry and your hands are clammy. You look into the room, full of laughter and mild conversation but your feet remained rooted to the floor as a monologue of what if’s begin to play in your head.  You stare into the room but you cannot will yourself to enter.

Bootblack Bella is International Ms. Bootblack 2013. She enjoys serving as a mentor and educator. She lives in Louisville, Ky., and her column runs monthly.

Bootblack Bella is International Ms. Bootblack 2013. She enjoys serving as a mentor and educator. She lives in Louisville, Ky., and her column runs monthly.

The above scene is likely all too familiar to a growing number of people within all walks of life, including the Leather lifestyle that we enjoy. The symptoms vary from person to person but the feeling of being on the outside looking in or trapped within the prison of your own mind is felt across the board.  For those of you whom have not met me, I am bella, International Ms. Bootblack 2013 and I live daily with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).  This article will cover my own experience living within the Leather community and adjusting to daily life as a person who receives mental health treatment.  In later installments, we will have additional stories from other members of the community with their own diagnosis and coping mechanisms.

In my experience, I have previously found it difficult to be open about my diagnosis.  There are a variety of reasons people don’t disclose their diagnosis.  The primary reasons I hold back are people don’t think I faced anything horrific enough to warrant my diagnosis or that people immediately lump me in the “crazy” category and no longer wish to socialize.  Others will see it as an excuse for bad behavior or will make hurtful comments about treatment or medication.  Each of these reactions from people whom I respect have pushed me back into the corner of my closet for much longer than I should have allowed.  We have all come out of one closet or another (or several for the overachievers) and we should be respectful of the difficulty of overcoming our fears.

I received my official diagnosis in April 2009.  During the diagnosis process, I had to be admitted to an inpatient treatment facility due to suicide risk. Before beginning treatment, I had night terrors, triggers, emotional detachment, and irrational anger problems. I was released to outpatient care in May of 2009 and we have worked through a variety of treatment options to the point that I am now largely self controlled with medication only during times of extreme stress.  I am not perfect and I do still have bad days. That’s everyone, right?  Except, when I have a bad day, people make comments about my medication needing to be adjusted.  Or they tell me that everything is in my head.  That should make me feel better, right?

It’s these reactions to the bad days and the struggles that are the most terrifying part of being open about seeking mental health treatment. We are often reminded of our lack of strength because we sought help.  And today, I want to remind each person who faces the same struggle, openly or quietly, that you are incredibly strong because you recognized you need help and you are working to become a person who is whole and complete.  For those who do not personally walk the path, please remember just how painful the thorns and stones you throw on the path can be.  And I challenge every one to work to understand each other’s journey rather than judging that which we do not walk.