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.