There are 2 parts to my professional life, my day job and my night job. Up until recently, only my daytime colleagues knew about my condition – it is an aspect of my life that I have never felt the need to conceal, despite numerous rejections and significant stigma that I have faced over the years.
My evening job is my business, it is so far removed from my day job that people are often surprised by the duality of the ways I make my income. In the evening I am a fitness instructor for a very well known fitness brand, however, I kept my illness and diagnosis completely separate from my participants for a long time. I think the reason being that I was so reliant upon them to accept me, in order to make my living, the thought of being rejected by them would have a significant impact on my income. It was a risk I couldn’t afford to take.
I knew that this fitness regime was part of the reason that I was more stable than I had been in years and decided that it was finally time for me to come clean. However, ‘coming out’ to your entire clientele was not something that I was sure how to approach and wasn’t sure when was the right time. In the late summer the fitness company that I represent ran an online article about my condition and how I used fitness to manage many of my symptoms. The article received thousands of likes via Facebook and the fitness company’s social networking page – I received messages of support from all over the world.
And so I came clean on my business Facebook page. I posted the link and told my participants to read the article in order to learn the truth about their instructor. I received mostly overwhelming support. However, certain participants contacted me asking me to remove them from the class register as they would not be attending again. What did I expect? There’s still significant stigma surrounding mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder when you think of all the bad attention it gets in the media.
As a result of the article, I was also asked to become a media volunteer for a British organisation that is aimed at changing attitudes and stigma regarding mental illness. The idea being that the organisers have a file about me stating that I am a 30-something woman who suffers from bipolar disorder. As a media volunteer, my role is to advise people on the reality of what my experiences are like of living with this condition. It may be for the purpose of articles, script writers, television interviews, whatever is needed. Obviously wanting to do all that I could, I accepted.
This all occurred in August. There were a few crazy weeks where I was inundated with a buzz of support and then inevitably the excitement died down and life returned to normal.
Until Thursday evening…
I noticed I had a missed call from a number that was not a contact registered in my phone. Being absolutely terrified of having actual phone conversations, I took the wimp’s way out and sent them a text message telling them that I was sorry that I had missed their call.
I did not expect the response I got.
“Hey ******** is ***** ********** from ***** fitness Home Office. I would really like to speak to you please. When is good to talk?”
I glanced at the clock and replied that I would be able to talk at 5pm and gave him my home number, still not quite believing that anyone would ever actually call me.
Being the paranoid cynic that I am, I automatically assumed that it was a hoax and that someone was fucking with me. So what did I do? I took to Google obviously. The name and location checked out. I still didn’t believe it. I did the next best thing to Google. I messaged my buddy who is significantly higher up the ***** fitness hierarchy and asked if he was aware of this person. Again, everything checked out.
At 5pm precisely my phone rang and I was greeted with a warm American accent. He got straight to the point. The company are doing a huge marketing campaign over the holidays to promote the latest ***** fitness DVD release that is being made in conjunction with Universal. ‘Hot American’ informed me that angle the marketing campaign were taking was how this fitness brand had changed people’s lives.
Apparently, they were so touched by my story that they had published that they wanted my permission to use my story and get involved with the marketing campaign.
When I managed to pick my jaw up from the floor, I quickly agreed and was promptly told that my number would be passed on to the person from the marketing company that would be handling the promotional campaign.
Again, Say whaaaaaaat?!?!?!
I am simultaneously about to spontaneously combust with excitement whilst also being all-out terrified. The thought of my face and my story being well and truly out-there is somewhat overwhelming. The article that was written was niche in the fact that you could find it on the company’s Facebook page and website but otherwise you could quite easily have no idea of its’ existence.
I’ve been told this will be a significant campaign between now and the New Year.