• Calling in mental

    My name is Carolyn Wyler and I have a mental illness.

    You may not notice if you saw me, as I pretty much look like your average 29 year old (well give or take a few years, but I prefer to give). If you saw me at a party I might be sipping on a virgin daiquiri, trying to remain camouflaged in a corner, vehemently hoping you or anyone else do not make eye contact or try to speak with me. You might think I was aloof, perhaps shy, maybe a bit arrogant and too good to speak with you, but you would be wrong.

    On another night, at a different party, I could quite possibly be grabbing the karaoke microphone, singing a poor rendition of “Fools Rush In,” all while dancing on a table top wearing a tutu. I would be making a big enough ruckus that you would have to take notice. I would still be sipping on that same virgin, and no alcohol or drugs would have been harmed.

    I am one of the millions of people in the world that suffer from a mental illness. Having just said that, I probably just scared the shitzu out of some of you. You’re probably thinking, “OMG! I’ve hung out with her before! She could have stabbed me in the back 50 times verbally and eaten all of my gametes! Just the mere mention of the words “mentally ill” might have caused you palpitations, shortness of breath, diaphoresis and anxiety.
    But don’t worry. I am not that kind of mental (but that’s probably what the real crazy ones would tell you as well).

    Recently there has been an influx of mental illnesses awareness. From depression, ADD, ADHD, bipolar, pervasive development disorder, generalized anxiety, schizophrenia, hallucinations and delusions to a whole slew of DSM IV Manual illnesses. The severely mentally ill have been all over the news with their mass shooting sprees and kidnappings. They rape and murder their victims of any sense of a normal life from here on out.

    It’s no wonder mental illness scares people.

    But some mental disabilities are not always so extreme. Unless you are very astute, and have studied psychology and know what to look for, there are some illnesses you might not know people are suffering with. They are however, just as real as heart disease or cancer, can be just as debilitating, and even deadly. Mental illness is not always just in someone’s head, well, except technically it is, but you know what I mean.

    I never want to hurt anyone and mostly my illness only hurts myself. It can exhibit itself simply because I am asked a question in a room full of people. Suddenly it triggers a Pavlovian response — my heart will start pounding, I start breathing rapidly, I break out in a sweat and look for the nearest emergency exit. Questions start racing through my mind. “What if I give the wrong answer? What if someone thinks I’m stupid? What if I stutter? What if five blue men dressed in tights come out dancing in the room singing, ‘I’m too sexy for my bod’…  uhmmmm err… Oh wait — what was the question again?”

    There are some days when I feel so emotionally out of sorts, I feel like crawling back under the covers of the bed, hiding from the world and “calling in mental” (rather than the normal sick call). That, however, is impossible for me to do. People have expectations of me and my symptoms get worse if I know I’m letting them down. Employers don’t always understand or acknowledge mental illness either and it almost appears they would be more comfortable if you said you had cancer.

    For the most part, I can manage my issues, but when attacks occur, it seems my whole world is spinning out of control and all I can do is hang on. I feel frozen and any “-ings” (action verbs i.e. singing, dancing, writing, drawing, painting, running) that I use to keep me sane, take an incredible effort to perform.

    Dealing with a chronic mental illness can be tough, but inevitably I find my panacea and for now at least, I’m back on track.



    • Wonderfully written and glad you spoke up. Glad you are also back on track.


        • Carolyn Wyler

        • May 20, 2013 at 8:28 pm
        • Reply

        Thanks Madge!


      • Maya North

      • May 20, 2013 at 11:01 am
      • Reply

      So many of us have our own alphabet soup — I sure do (PTSD, ADHD, a little OCD and who knows what else). I look great, cope great (although my stage fright is a giveaway) and go home and have a meltdown because it took all my strength just to have an ordinary day. There are far fewer neurotypical than people think and a lot of people who think they are — aren’t. Hang in there. You have more comrades in arms than you might know. Hugs!


        • Carolyn Wyler

        • May 20, 2013 at 8:29 pm
        • Reply

        Absolutely right Maya. Thanks for the hugs.


      • davidlacy

      • May 20, 2013 at 11:24 am
      • Reply

      Generalized Anxiety Disorder.



    • Really hard to believe this story coming from such a vibrant and exciting 29 year old as you are.


        • Carolyn Wyler

        • May 20, 2013 at 8:29 pm
        • Reply

        hahaha, yeah just try to find my birth certificate.


      • Mary M. Davis

      • May 20, 2013 at 9:34 pm
      • Reply

      Thank you for adding your voice to the hundreds of thousands of us trying to break the stigma.

      It’s truly sad that people hear the word “Mental Illness” and always assume the worst. Once I was talking to a man, really enjoying our conversation and PTSD came up, I had assumed he had been in the service, and I found out later he was a Marine. I had said I had known for quite some time I had PTSD, from a car wreck in 1975 and other events. But had found out about a year ago it now had a fancy title of Chronic PTSD Trauma related. Partly because I have other Mental Health Issues but I wouldn’t specify what (it wasn’t his business and I KNEW the reaction I would get from the list). He sat and stared at me for a few minutes, then kinda leaned back like he was getting ready to run, and said “You’re not gonna kill me, are you?” in a very serious tone. I just stared back quite a few seconds, and said “Have you done anything to deserve it?” then I cracked up laughing. It took him quite a few seconds to catch on and start laughing too. I just used it as a segue way, explaining that was why there is so much mental illness stigma, and why most of us are afraid to admit to ANY perceived faults. But most of us are well functioning, and not willing to “come out” until we are no longer able to work, usually because of a physical illness. But there are SO MANY that cannot or will not get help, due to lack of insurance, no support (family, friends, etc.), raised where it is a taboo not only for the person suffering but the entire family becomes “tainted” in the eyes of the community, and often because they go to one counselor/therapist who “blows them off” because they don’t tell them the “whole” story, then vow to NEVER go back. You can throw all the money in the world at these situations and you still won’t be able to help them, so we have to educate the public one person at a time.

      Thanks Carolyn, I’m Mary Davis and I have a Mental Illness.


        • Carolyn Wyler

        • May 21, 2013 at 7:24 am
        • Reply

        I loved your response to the guy who asked if you were going to kill him? Awesome! Totally agree with everything you said.



    • My name is Matthew Joseph Najmowicz and I have mental illness. I have Dysthymia and ADD. Despite all that, I am still fun at parties.


        • Carolyn Wyler

        • May 21, 2013 at 7:22 am
        • Reply

        Party on!!!!


      • Norbie Kumagai

      • May 21, 2013 at 12:07 am
      • Reply

      Carolyn, I am deeply touched by your column. There is a great deal of “brutal honesty” in The iPinion Syndicate of writers, Tom McMasters-Stone immediately comes to mind. I am humbled, thanks to your son David, to have made the connection. (((HUGS))) Norbie


        • Carolyn Wyler

        • May 21, 2013 at 7:22 am
        • Reply

        Thanks Norb!



    • OMG! I hung out with you at your house! I could have been stabbed 50 times! I just thought you were drunk! Ha Ha. Oh, I have every mental illness known to man and some that are only known to animals or fish.
      Donald


        • Carolyn Wyler

        • May 22, 2013 at 4:11 am
        • Reply

        And that is why I like you Donald. Oh and I did stab you in the back verbally 50 times, you just didn’t know it. I didn’t know animals and fish had any mental illnesses, well you need to quit hoarding them all then.



    • Are you sure your mental illness isn’t contagious? I swear I have the same thing! And yes, I thought you were just shy, or maybe even stuck up! (Now I’m sorry I didn’t get to know you better. But since I had my own issues, I didn’t try very hard to do so.) It would be great if employers, as well as friends and family, understood that it’s no different than having a physical malady and deserves the same consideration. It’s not just something you can merely “snap out of”, as easy as changing the channel on the radio. I just “faked” it until I couldn’t anymore, and it became a physical illness that led to losing my job. If “being mental” was better accepted and understood by others, maybe people could be more honest about their “issues”, and receive the help and support they need before it becomes a crisis. Thank you for your honest writing–I thoroughly enjoy reading your insights and perspectives, always with that quirky touch of humor. I sincerely hope you can climb and claw your way out of the abyss and find some peace.


        • Carolyn Wyler

        • May 26, 2013 at 12:49 pm
        • Reply

        Lol, yes Carri, maybe it is contagious. I totally agree that people don’t understand mental illness very well and I have had people say to just “snap out of it” which does not work at all. Thanks for reading and for your comment.



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