Self-Disclosure: Boon or Bust?

After reading an autobiography I’ve changed my mind about self-disclosure. Is self-disclosure a boon or bust?

Some food for thought on the pros and cons of telling others about your mental health history:

You must decide in the context of your own life what makes sense. In my view other people can feel burdened when you dump on them the details of your diagnosis as a matter of course. In the workplace it adds a layer between you and the other person.

On the other hand having a mental health challenge might give a person the reliability, consistency, and persistence to carry out their work and life goals on and off the job.

Stereotypes exist about people diagnosed with schizophrenia. This is why I make the case that a peer’s identity should not be defined by our symptoms. It places us in a diagnostic box that is hard to get out of. Unless you have a job in an evolved workplace where people are open-minded.

Seeing beyond diagnosis to the person inside is the goal as I see it. To “smash the stereotype” peers should act true to ourselves as individuals.

Like the leaders in The Queer Advantage it comes down to the fact that those of us who have struggled are often able to persist despite the hardship.

The skills, abilities, and strengths we use in recovery are the traits that give us the ability to succeed on the job.

My LinkedIn Profile refers to my memoir Left of the Dial. My story is out in the open this way on LinkedIn the professional networking site.

The trend going on now is for peers to tell our stories. I ask you though: does everyone in the world need to know every detail of our symptoms and illness? In my memoir I only gave readers what I talked about in the poem on the first page: some of me.

In this regard I was a fan of Brene Brown and her work on vulnerability. You need to trust the person you disclose to.

How will they use this information after you give it to them? My friend Robin was denied a promotion when a coworker he disclosed to tattled the diagnosis to a supervisor.

This is the reality in the often shark-tank world of corporate business.

On the other hand like said there can be an advantage to having a disability. Maybe a book should be titled The Mental Health Advantage.

Mental illness should not remain a taboo subject to talk about. A friend referenced me in giving a talk on a show about Italian culture. Referring to how I have come out about my experience in the way LGBTQ+ individuals are boldly talking about their lives.

The bottom line: our diagnosis does not define us. We need to define ourselves–or someone else will do this for us.

Who is Christina Bruni? I’m a Girl on the Left living her life Left of the Dial. My favorite color is green. I’m gregarious and down-to-earth.

Who are you? The world needs you and your gifts. Be not afraid to act true to yourself.

It’s your choice whether you disclose and what you tell people.

The Italian American writers’ group I belong to has a quote that sums this up well:

Only silence is shame.

Until mental health becomes a front-porch topic talked about over a glass of lemonade the secrecy will continue to breed fear and ignorance about what it’s like to live with a mental illness.

The Power of Identity

The Queer Advantage: Conversations with LGBTQ+ Leaders on the Power of Identity by Andrew Gelwicks is a book that was published in 2020.

Quoting esteemed individuals in different fields the author makes the case that acting true to yourself and being authentic is the only way to succeed on the job and in your life.

No one should feel guilty and ashamed for being who they are. In reality other people should not hate and judge you because of your identity.

From the book:

“Everyone should be able to bring all of themselves to the workplace and feel like they don’t have to hide or cover. You can only be your best when you embrace your authentic self… [It] is my lifelong commitment to achieving equality for all that has always been the driving force in everything I do.” 

     – Billie Jean King, Professional Tennis Player 

The question is: how do your bring all of you into your job when you have a mental health issue?

The choice is yours what to reveal and what to conceal. It’s still dice-y to disclose on a random workday as a matter of course.

The way I see it: the illness does not define me. I choose not to talk about it randomly or indiscriminately with the people I interact with on an ordinary day.

I would like that everyone walking down the street and in the corridors of a corporate office embraces and accepts individuals with mental illnesses.

Only I know we still have a way to go in terms of civil rights for those of us with a diagnosis.

Perhaps the way to chip away at other people’s fear of us is indeed to be open and honest about this facet of who we are.

We can take a tip from the leaders in The Queer Advantage.

It’s your right and preference to decide how open and honest you want to be.

In a future blog entry I will go into detail about the ins and outs of self-disclosure.