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What’s your kryptonite?

No one likes feeling vulnerable, I think. I certainly don’t. I go to lengths to hide my soft underbelly from the world. I pretend that I’m covered in impenetrable armor. I project the image of perfect confidence so well that everyone around me seems to believe that I’m not a fundamentally insecure approval-seeker. I try not to show my emotions, which is kind of a joke when you’re rocking the bipolar diagnosis. Vulnerability is about trust, openness, and being willing to be hurt when you know the potential benefits are worth it.

I just never perceive those benefits. My husband is a notable exception. He was the first person I really let myself feel vulnerable to, because I trust him utterly and completely. I know he will never intentionally hurt me and that he accepts me as I am. The rest of the world? Not so much. It’s not a friendly and accepting place, for the most part, even though I’m enough of an optimist to think that most people are fundamentally good.

Being vulnerable enough to be open about emotions is tough for me. It’s hard in therapy and it’s hard here, despite being all anonymous and everything. Even though you don’t know my secret identity, your words could be my kryptonite. It could hurt.

So I just don’t say much about how I’m really feeling. A little self-righteous anger is one thing – that’s hardly vulnerability. But admitting that I’m scared any time my mood changes enough to notice, or that I’m terrified of being hospitalized, or that I still cry if I think about my mom for more than two minutes? That’s being vulnerable. That’s what I haven’t been doing here. That’s what I’ve seen other bloggers doing regularly – talking about their feelings. I’m jealous of their openness.

It’s easy for me to write about the facts, and I’m good at it. It’s my job: synthesize the facts and write something better, more comprehensive, more intelligible. I know how to deal with criticism and negative responses to that kind of writing. But salt on an open wound is not something I handle well. Being misunderstood is nearly as bad. No response at all is potentially the worst. It says, you bared your heart, but no one heard you. You’re screaming into a void. Still.

This is not to say that I want to be handled with kid gloves. Au contraire. I wish I felt competent to withstand whatever the world might throw at me. A ridiculous expectation, perhaps. Anyone who has experienced hypo/mania might remember that sense of invincibility, which seems so natural, and yet my self-esteem and self-confidence suffer tremendously when I’m depressed. The opposite of feeling like a pathetic slug is feeling like Superwoman. When you don’t spend much time in between those extremes, it’s hard to figure out how much vulnerability to display.

I pretend that I’m not vulnerable. It’s a lie. Just so you know.

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