Imagine my surprise when one nice afternoon after I had gotten home from my job as a teacher, a job I might add that I have held for over 30 years,, I heard a knock on my door and looked out to see a policeman on my porch. Of course all kinds of thoughts flooded into my brain. Most people would have called them paranoid unless they had had them on their own. But I’m not most people; I have a mental illness.
Not very often had I ever seen a policeman on my porch. In fact, not at all, so quite puzzled, I opened the door.
“What can I do for you officer,” I said. My wife, equally puzzled, tuned into our conversation. For all we knew, a dangerous madman had broken out of one of the local prisons. (I know, paranoid, right?)
“Is everything okay?” he asked me.
“Well, yes, why?”
“Your doctor’s office called about you.” (He was too polite to say, psychiatrist.)
My brow furrowed, “Why?”
“They said you were upset, and usually, when one of their patients is upset, they give us a call, so I’m checking up on you.”
Maybe it was my imagination, but the policeman seemed very nervous. It surprised me that he didn’t have his hand on his gun.
All kinds of things were running through my head. Mainly, though I was just confused. I had not even been to my doctor for quite a while because I was in what they called the maintenance stage. My doctor had done some trial and error and found a combination of medications that pretty much controlled my bipolar disorder. In fact, I had been pretty much under control for 25 years, ever since I was first diagnosed. My doctor’s visits had diminished to every three months. Usually, those lasted ten minutes and ended with a new prescription and a $35 copay.
The officer went on to say tha the office said I called and that I was really upset. This really freaked me out because I had not called the office. In fact, I never called the office unless I had to cancel an appointment.
“I didn’t call the office,” I said.
Then this police officer said one of the most condescending things I had ever heard. Like a parent talking to an errant child, he said, “Don’t worry. You’re not in trouble or anything.”
“I’m telling you that I didn’t call the office.”
“It’s okay the officer said. You’re not in trouble.”
It occurred to me that this officer did not believe that I had not called the office. I guess he thought I had fallen into some pschogenic fugue and forgotten about it. The fact that he wouldn’t even entertain the notion that the office was incorrect really pissed me off. I didn’t lose my temper. I didn’t even say much. I just let it go.
The world needs to realize that just because someone has a mental illness does not mean that he or she is crazy. I have taught for over 30 years – teenagers, no less. If anything was going to make me crazy, it would have been t hat. I have published plays, fiction, and YA novels. I’ve worked in helping to create high-level educational testing material. I have been married for over 30 years, and I’m not an addict or an alcoholic.
But you know, if I ever did do anything against the law, the headlines would say, “Mentally Ill Man Commits Major Crime.”
I consider my mental illness a challenge, not an obstacle. And I consider those who continue to stigmatize me as ignorant – badge or not.
* * *
I am an educator who has taught for over thirty years. My wife Jean and I also have been married over 30 years. We have one daughter, one son-in-law, two cats, two dogs, and a granddogger. When I’m not teaching, I do some freelance writing. I have published poetry, plays, fiction, and nonfiction, but I’d really like to break into screenwriting. I love to read especially YA literature, and I am a fanatical St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan.
If you enjoyed this post, please take a few moments to leave a comment or use the share buttons below to share with your friends.