Opening The Closet Door, Or Not

My four-footed companion, when she’s had enough of me, heads off to her kennel (which has blankets not just in it, but covering part of it as well) or a dark corner somewhere that acts as her den. It’s her own personal retreat, her way of saying this is my space and you don’t belong here. If I try to remove her while she is in one of these two places, I am guaranteed it won’t be without a fight on her part. A fight which involves not just digging in or trying to suction down to the floor, but also showing me her teeth in all their sharp, pointy glory, just as a reminder of her power regardless of her size.

Respect, as well as previous experience, has taught me to honor her safe retreat and privacy for the most part. Unless it’s time to go to the vet and she has decided to hole up in her little den. Then I manage to get her out so we can go for the trip. It is, after all, for her own good, even if it means some bruising, bumps and the odd scratch endured by me.

After our last experience in what I have come to think of “puppy extraction”, I had my own medical appointment with a specialist. This is a specialist I do not see often, partially because thankfully I don’t have any immediate or on-going issues in his field, it’s more or less a precaution visit. But also because any time I see this specialist, I want to crawl into my own safe den and dig in my heels. You see this specialist keeps asking me if I’ve “come out of the closet of safety” and moved into “the light of openness”.

The closet of safety he is referring to is the fact that I do not share my health news with everyone. It isn’t something I am legally bound to do; it might be wise, if it can help provide insight to my employers and such about things, such as if I missed a lot of time or needed to take a leave. But so far I’ve been able to navigate around all of this without sharing it with the dreaded everyone.

If you’ve ever been through anything from a divorce, to health crisis in a workplace, you may have encountered the dreaded everyone. Suddenly your very private experience has been laid bare, maybe just to your boss and perhaps human resources. But of course it rarely stays there. Soon it’s “your team needs to know this”. Or somehow the information just becomes public knowledge. And people stop by to “check on you” when they never did before. Other people suddenly start talking to you, people you may only know by name. And you, my friend, end up under a microscope of sorts. On top of that scrutiny, you have people offering you well-meaning yet not always helpful advice.

And the answer to the question is I’ve told a few people a bit about my health, I’ve cracked open that closet door and allowed the outside to be visible. And I’ve stepped a foot out of the closet, but I’ve not left it. Because the light of openness does not always show kindness, or acceptance and being chronically ill has a way of making you feel far more vulnerable than you otherwise would.

So I’m slowly allowing myself to leave that closet a bit more, but I may never fully open the door and run out of it. And that’s okay. Just as it’s okay if you want to bust open your own closet door and step fully into that light. The thing is, what each of us do is okay, as long as it works for each of us as individuals. We have to, as does the rest of the world, accept that not everyone will be okay making their entire life public and others will be. And either way it is okay

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