In just over 12 hours, a surgeon is going to slice into my right eye and remove a cataract that I’ve had since I was formed in my mother’s womb.
While most people wouldn’t know it, I am practically blind in that eye. Not that I’m complaining… apart from making me rather uncoordinated at ball sports and being unable to see 3D movies, it hasn’t really affected me too much. I can still drive and unlike older people whose eyesite deteriorates when they get a cataract, I’ve never known what it’s like to be able to see out of both my eyes.
For many years I barely gave my cataract a second thought – aside from going for yearly check-ups with my optometrist. That was until a year or so ago, when my cataract suddenly became bigger and turned an opaque, white colour- covering most of my pupil. A few months later, my husband commented that my right eye was sometimes ‘drifting’… not quite following the other eye like it used to.
All of a sudden, something that I’d been able to hide from others all my life suddenly became noticeable. People starting asking me what was wrong with my eye – and I’d have to explain about my cataract. I became self-conscious of it and for the first time ditched my contact lenses and started wearing my glasses to work – to try and hide my eye.
A visit to an opthamologist confirmed that my cataract was no longer as harmless as it used to be and I was booked in for surgery three weeks later.
Thinking about all of this made me wonder what it would be like if – like my cataract – my bipolar disorder suddenly became noticeable to my friends and work colleagues.
Imagine if people could tell just by looking at me that I had a mental illness? How would that affect my work prospects? Would it change people’s opinions of me?
While I don’t mind explaining about my cataract to people, I wonder if I would I feel as comfortable talking about my diagnosis with bipolar disorder? Probably not. Both are conditions that I just happened to be born with – and yet only one of them carries social stigma.
While I’m now fairly comfortable talking about my bipolar disorder, I still like to pick and choose when, where and with whom I share my story. And I’m still hesitant to bring it up with work colleagues. Unlike my cataract, my bipolar disorder is something that I don’t want to be the topic of office chit-chat.
Are you comfortable with talking about your diagnosis with others? If not, is it because you worry it will change people’s opinions of you?