Let this be a reminder that you can’t judge a post by its title.
I suspect you think I’m going to talk about being gay, but that wouldn’t be very enlightening would it? If you haven’t yet picked that up, you really haven’t been reading very carefully. There’s no need to belabour my sexual orientation any more than I already have.
In fact, I’ve written before about how tricky self-disclosure can be with clients, and how I need to think of the potential therapeutic value (or harm) to each client before I blab about something personal. I’ve been very careful about what I’ve shared about myself with clients. But I do think it’s time to come clean on a few issues.
If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I’ve already come out as Jewish, as utterly uncoordinated, and as a psychologist (though I try not to share that one at parties because I don’t want to be accused of analyzing you). I’ve come out as anxious and cautious and inappropriately disinhibited, especially for someone in my profession.
I think it’s also important to disclose that I’m a nerd, through and through. While you were out on play dates, or, as a teenager, getting drunk and experimenting with drugs, I was studying. While you were working as a server in a restaurant or as a lifeguard at the local pool, I worked part-time in a library, for years and years and years. I may be gay, but I’m straight as an arrow in many respects.
More recently, since a few new clients have ambled into my office, I’ve been focussed on whether I come out as sick. I often felt I had to tell clients I had seen before because I disappeared without explanation for a while. Still, I share the news cautiously and try to manage clients’ reactions as they arise.
With my new clients, I feel I have more of a choice to disclose my health status. I decide what to broach with each client on a case-by-case basis. Do I say, “I have some health issues,” or do I acknowledge I have leukemia? Do I say nothing at all? I feel I need to share something about my health so clients will understand my restricted work hours.
I shared my leukemia with a client recently because I knew that the client could easily have found out through other sources and I’d rather the client hear it from me. Another client I did not share the specifics with, although I did acknowledge I was dealing with some health challenges. In this second case, I don’t feel the leukemia is relevant to our therapeutic relationship at this point, but if it becomes so at a later date, I will have to reconsider. Whatever I tell clients, I reassure them that my health is stable and that, other than my restricted work hours, our work together should not be affected in any way.
For each new client, I will decide what is best, with thoughts of the client’s needs first. I’m sure I’ll blow it sometimes. Because, in addition to being gay and a klutz and a nerd and all that other stuff, I’m human.