And then just about the time I get to thinking the world is my oyster, along comes something that reminds me of how marginalized people like me really are in our culture.
Yesterday, it was a quote from some gun-rights nutcase named Larry Pratt, whose idea of gun control in the wake of tragedies such as the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut is to make sure the “bad guys” don’t have access to guns. And who are the “bad guys”? You guessed it: the mentally ill. And Pratt’s solution to the mere possibility of mentally ill people getting their hands on firearms is to put them all in jail.
Now, I’m as pro-gun rights as they come, but when this kind of crap comes from someone in my own camp, I am appalled. Not only is this sort of thinking ignorant, it’s downright dangerous, as it demonizes all mentally ill people as potential killers, and gins up hysteria based on nothing more than personal opinion. I think we have enough shit to deal with as it is; is it really necessary to talk of depriving a fairly large segment of the population of its Constitutional rights? And if so……will I at least be able to decorate my cell?
Then today I was personally put in my place by someone who I’m sure meant absolutely no disrespect. Thanks to one of Dr. Awesomesauce’s inspirations, I was at the hospital lab to have blood drawn for a full series of thyroid tests; my last general thyroid level was normal, but he was interested in the fact that the numbers were higher than they’d been on previous tests, so he ordered the full-meal deal “whenever you feel like getting it done—there’s no rush”.
Well, now I was curious too because thyroid problems can cause such things as hair loss, cold intolerance, and depression as well as difficulties with weight. I have all of those things. Who wouldn’t want to know if such a simple thing was causing even some of those symptoms? Besides—and I know he knows this, dammit—I wanted to get it done because he ASKED me to.
So when I went in today to have the blood drawn, I had to go to the hospital registration desk first. The woman seated behind it greeted me warmly and was very friendly at first, even chatty…..until she looked at my paperwork, which clearly stated “bipolar disorder” as the reason for the tests.
I wished Dr. A had put something like “suspicion of hypothyroidism” or at least something medical, because no sooner did the woman see that 296.x diagnosis code than her whole demeanor changed. Suddenly she got an odd expression on her face and stopped engaging me in conversation, only asking me very short, clipped questions and avoiding even looking at me. Then we sat there in uncomfortable silence for a good 2-3 minutes as she put all the order information into the computer.
Of course, I had a pretty good idea of what the problem was and I could only imagine what she might have been thinking, even though she certainly wasn’t being rude and no one roaming past the desk would have been aware of the chill in the air. It was simply another reminder that I have a disease that a lot of people fear, and no matter where I go in life or to what heights I may climb, I’ll always be just another mentally ill person to some.
Needless to say, it was a reminder I could have done without. Thank God I’m in a really good place right now, because a month ago I’d probably have reacted badly……or at the very least, been totally butt-hurt for the rest of the week.
Yeah, stigma sucks. But I refused to let it ruin my day, and in fact went on to have an enjoyable afternoon with Will, who continues to do well and whose doctors continue to be optimistic. Besides, it’s Christmastime, my husband is alive and well enough to celebrate with me, and I start a new job in less than three weeks. It’s all good. 🙂