FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN
Fear is an emotion that I have danced with many times in my life. It rises from my core and creeps throughout my body and mind, trying to hold me back from my dreams. I remember one of these times when fear gripped me tight; when the outcome of something was uncertain, and potentially doomed in my mind.
Jon and I had been dating for a few months, and things between us were developing quickly. I knew that I wanted to continue into a serious relationship with him. Still, I had some well-hidden secrets that I was terrified to expose. Certain things were bound to change the way he felt about me. Our relationship was great, and I thought I could trust him, but those secrets were looming in a dark closet. I somehow needed to summon the courage to tell him that, 1. I had bipolar disorder, and 2. I had been an underage sex worker in my teens. You can imagine what was going through my mind as I contemplated how our conversation would go.
I was very fearful of rejection. I know having bipolar disorder is more common, highly treatable, and mental health awareness is great, but there is still a stigma. Would Jon want someone with mental health struggles to mother his children? The anxiety and stress that come along with bipolar can be very intense and taxing on a relationship. I didn’t hit him with both in one shot. From what I remember, I thought that the sex work would go with me to the grave.
Firstly I told him about the bipolar disorder. We were lying in bed, my heart was quickening, my palms sweaty, and I still had the courage to say, “I have something to tell you.” Nobody wants to hear those words! They never mean anything good, at the time I couldn’t come up with anything more. I could see the panic flash in his eyes as he immediately became alert and hyper-focused. “I have bipolar disorder. It’s considered mild on the spectrum, but I will have to take medication for the rest of my life to keep it stable,” I said, trying to convince him that it’s not as bad as it sounds. I looked into his eyes, expecting to see the panic turned into dismay; instead, I saw relief. He followed up with, “I have something to tell you as well.”
Holy shit! I’m thinking he’s going to tell me that he has mental health issues. “I have been in AA for the past five years. I’m an alcoholic.” He says. I immediately understood his relief; I felt the same way. He wasn’t perfect. He came off as having everything together, the same way I’m sure that I did, yet we both had clearly struggled in life. The relief was in being understood. The honesty that we both brought to the conversation that evening determined our communication; raw, vulnerable, and real. Ok, bipolar disorder gets a pass, what about sex work?
I remember we were sitting in a parking lot, I believe of a park. Jon always loved having deep conversations and digging around to get as much information as he could. I think we were discussing my wild teenage years and my reckless behaviour with drugs and alcohol. He was digging in with his questions, and he could tell he had hit a spot that I didn’t want to discuss. This made his curiosity peak, and he wouldn’t let it go. Knowing him very well at this point in our relationship, I knew I had to level up. I disclosed the biggest secret of my life. I worked as an escort from the time I was almost seventeen until shortly after my eighteenth birthday. He didn’t recoil in disgust or get angry. He was genuinely curious about how I ended up in such a predicament. I explored that part of my life with him openly, and he never once held it against me. He has always accepted me for exactly who I am. My fear of abandonment was unfounded. I’ve learned that people make terrible mistakes and feel they need to hide. But its the hiding that holds them back from truly loving and accepting themselves and even other people.
Fear of the unknown can leave us in the dark. When fear arises, know that love can conquer all. Everyone has a story, and the more you are willing to share, the more connected you will become.