I took a ridesharing service to the airport the other day, and after my driver said he was a Psychology student who had worked with autistic children, I opened up to him about my illness about 5 minutes out from the airport. It was a “what the hell, he probably only knows my first name and I’ll never see him again moment.”
We spoke about Psychologists at one time blaming autism on ‘refrigerator mothers’ and how parents of autistic children had fought insurance companies and the government for recognition and service. He asked a bit about my life, career and treatment. I told him I had considered becoming a practicing Psychologist after recovery, but the length of training was a huge obstacle. He said he hoped that the company he’d worked for might pay his way through school. I told him of my quiet advocacy for talk therapies for the SMI and for caregivers. I quipped that he could tell his classmates and professors he had indeed seen a unicorn. He wished me a good flight, and I wished him a good life and career.
Thinking over it on the plane, I realized far more strangers and acquaintances of first name only status know of my diagnosis than friends and family. Like the polyglot Austrian Psychologist who did telephone and online analysis who sat next to me on a plane in Europe. He was having a “English day” thankfully, so we talked about my increased paranoia in countries where I didn’t know the language well. (He alternated languages day by day to keep in practice). His advice was on-the-house and he didn’t bat an eye about my diagnosis.
Has anyone had similar experiences? I suppose this forum counts as one, but I’m talking about IRL. What triggers you to open up to people?