Finding Melissa is no longer a secret. With my identity revealed on the About page, it was never a very good one; but the level of ownership that I’ve taken has gradually increased. I have, in the main, been okay with this, after all, it’s been my decision; but, recently, I’ve been wondering if I’m really as okay with it as I think. I have caught myself, on several occasions, catastrophising that if my site is “found” or my “real-life” identity connected, the consequences will automatically be bad.
No one will want to share a flat with me. I’ll spoil my professional reputation. I’ll become a source of gossip. There will be whispering and pointing and people will give me a wide berth on the street.
That kind of thing.
I nearly associated my response with stigma, then I realised that it is more akin to shame. I don’t necessarily need anyone else to point their finger or assign me with a name; I am already doing that myself.
I am already doing that myself – and yet the things that I am most ashamed of have also informed my greatest achievement: they come together hand in hand. The same experiences that nearly destroyed me have also made me who I am –
And in the act of exposing the illness, I have also exposed myself.
It is this bit that I am struggling with at the moment. It has got me in a bit of a stranglehold. I do not regret what I have written, nor feel the need to resurrect the wall between Melissa and Finding Melissa – I’m just a little afraid of what people might think.
I am also a little confused: “They don’t need to find out” makes everything a secret again; “Just don’t tell anyone” reaffirms the shame. And round we go again.
There is probably not an easy answer, nor one that applies to every situation I find myself in, or every person that I meet. I don’t know whether googling potential flatmates is common practice and my fears are grounded; or whether, actually, the judgments mostly belong to me. I have no idea whether careers fall on personal revelations, or whether there is a sign hovering over my head that will alert people to my messy past. I suspect not, and I have no evidence to support the former –
Just a little voice, echoing a few prickly memories from when I first became ill, that is proving hard to evict.