Last weekend I attended a National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) conference in Northern California. One of the workshops I attended was on suicide prevention. Thankfully, I’ve never been down that dark road but heard the speaker was fantastic so decided to attend. She opened by asking questions from the audience and depending on the answer would hand out a Starbucks gift card. One of the questions was about being single at a certain age.
“Has anyone in this room end up not getting married? You somehow found yourself single when everyone else around you seemed to pair up with someone?”
I raised my hand.
“Come on up here and get yourself a gift card.” I wasn’t expecting to be the only person that raised their hand and all eyes were suddenly on me. So, I stood up and proudly walked up to the stage to get my card and glanced around the audience and said, “Yes, I am 39 and I am still single.”
I was totally alone. Has the thought crossed my mind that I seem to be the only one from my high school class, or college friends, that didn’t end up getting married? Yes. But I didn’t think I would be standing there alone and have my age play a factor.
Later in the seminar the speaker said she was 43 years old when she got married and this women a few rows up turned around and looked at me like, “It’s ok, see it’s not too late, there’s hope.” I started to laugh. Here I was at a suicide prevention seminar, and singled out for being single as an example that you don’t have to commit suicide if you didn’t end up like the rest of us, and could not stop laughing. The irony. I had to step out.
I walked back to my room and thought about it. It was weird to be singled out for being single and even weirder that someone in the crowd felt bad for me. I don’t. I have the life that I have cause I created it for myself. However, at times I wonder if having a mental illness has resulted in me being single. Or, if being bipolar has made me deviate from the crowd. Yet, there I was, sitting in a mental health seminar, and still being singled out.
Or maybe it’s not about being bipolar, maybe I just a stand out regardless of my mental illness. Thank God for that.