I very recently called a colleague from work to tell said colleague of an illness related absence (I am currently being shifted from one psychotropic drug to another, and quite frankly, I feel absolutely foggy, as if my brain were filled with cotton, most of the time – I cannot hardly write, or read, much less drive a car or do anything functional).What I received from this call was utter and hostile shock.
The answering machine message – without going into much detail, to protect those in a most unbelievable “professional capacity” – proceeded to make fun of people with psychiatric problems in a very sarcastic, cynical way. Sounds insane – but true. I don’t know if this message was intended for me – we don’t see eye to eye sometimes, to put it lightly – and this person is well-aware of my psychiatric history. I hung up with a chill going down my spine and just sat there, incandescent with rage. I had to lie down on my bed, and regroup. The urge to punch a wall was incredibly strong.
This incident underscored an educational professional’s disposition towards people who happen to suffer from quite real, debilitating illnesses in a very offensive, most ignorant, boorish manner. Worse yet, this person also happens to work very closely with people who have various psychiatric illnesses (i.e. bipolar disorder, ADHD/ADD, you name it, it exists professionally). At any rate, it also emphasized the remaining stigma that people with disabling mental illnesses are a) faking them for dramatic effect, b) are lazy and unmotivated, and c) are “drama junkies” who just “need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and magically become healthy. From someone who has endured a long, sometimes completely debilitating mental illness, I found this exchange of stinging words – especially delivered at a particularly bad time for me – to be completely unprofessional and downright hurtful.
Let me summarize what it feels like – physically and emotionally – to be victimized by a mental illness. There is an extensive background of it in both sides of my family; so far it has only skipped one person, who is my rock. It instead struck me like hitting a wall at 100 miles per hour with no seatbelt and no airbag. I have Bipolar Disorder, Type I, Rapid Cycling, with Mixed Episodes. This is also known as being a “raging manic depressive” among mental health professionals. It is the very worst type of bipolar disorder one can get. At my most manic, I have made very poor decisions which still have a bearing each day upon my life. I would be stupid if I didn’t mention that I am always filled with regret about my behavior towards people who I love and respect very much. But enough about that…let’s talk about the other side of bipolar disorder…depression.
Depression is like having a train coming at you at full speed, while you are completely paralyzed with pain and indecision on the tracks, totally unable to move, knowing full well that the train is going to hit you regardless of what you do. My version is quite medication resistant and I am currently maxed out on all of my antidepressants. If I don’t improve soon, I will most likely be hospitalized to stabilize my condition – the possibility of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is pretty real at this time. My husband, at my psychiatrist’s request, has locked up all of my medications and doles them out to me like he is a hospice caretaker. My medical team is worried that I will purposefully overdose. My severe depression has also had a massive toll on him. He worries about me doing something stupid and irreversible while he is at work.
The thing is that this depression just came on suddenly, for no particular reason. I certainly wasn’t being a “drama queen” just inventing things to get out of work (I do love my job), or to be “moody” about. It just is part of being manic-depressive. My medication has been upped to the point where I am feeling lobotomized most of the time. It is taking me great effort to even write this – but I felt a need to vent all of this down on paper.
…But I digress. I find it extremely offensive that an educated person would resort to such immaturity and lack of sheer professionalism with a colleague. If I were a more vengeful person, I’d remix my answering machine message with something to this effect: “Hi, you’ve reached (insert my name here), I can’t come to the phone right now, if you have a problem with me or would like to vent about me, please dial my other hotline at 1-800-GO-FUCK-YOURSELF. Otherwise please leave a message. Thanks assholes!”
However, elegance is restraint…I am too proud to stoop to others’ lowness. At any rate, it is never – NEVER – acceptable to poke fun at people with disabilities, regardless of what the disability may be. I am sick to death of people – EDUCATED people – adhering to stereotypes from circa 1950, when most people who happened to have more pervasive physical and mental disabilities were shunned, freaking INSTIUTIONALIZED, and isolated only because they made the general populace “uncomfortable.”
One can still recall The Third Reich’s approach to eugenics, when people with disabilities were viewed as “useless in society,” and were tortured and killed for no reason whatsoever. Ignorance can only lead to those types of extreme sentiments, even in modern times. This entire incident reminded me that we still have to go back to square one and redefine that being “differently-abled” does not mean you are “un-able.”
Oh yes, and I don’t intend on talking to this person – other than on a professional level – as long as I live.