Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bigotry comes to visit my workplace. Enough with the stigma already.

So, today I'm at work doing my usual phone-answering duties, and some student calls (I work at a community college), to report that there is a strange "girl" (she's probably a woman if she's in college, but whatever), in his class who is bothering him. Hmmm...okay. So I ask him what the problem is and what kind of assistance he is seeking from the college. He proceeds to go on a 10 minute (yeah, I counted) tirade against people who have mental illnesses. He says this woman argued with him *(wow! imagine a woman thinking she had the right to argue with you) about something he said in class, and then on another day she interrupted him while he was talking to his professor to tell him that he was incorrect about something.

Wow. Scary stuff. The guy says this "girl" is "unstable" and "obviously probably mentally ill, Bipolar or something", and he is afraid, yes, afraid that, "she could kill me or something, I mean, the way she LOOKED at me!". Okay, now here I am, a person with Schizoaffective Disorder who has a sibling and a parent with Bipolar Disorder, and I have to be polite to this jerk because I am at work.

He goes on to state that when she argued with him he almost told her, "Why don't you go home and take your meds!", but he refrained himself. I didn't refrain myself here. I said, "Well that would have certainly been a rude thing for you to say." He is expecting me to be more sympathetic to his obviously dangerous plight. I'm not. He says, "WELL SHE WAS RUDE TO ME!! AND THAT'S NOT RIGHT!!" He rambles on about how, "You know how people like this are, they're not right, they're off balance, they could do anything." And he tells me this: he reported the student to security on campus.

What? Why? Well, you see, his professor had announced to the class that two students in the class needed accommodations for a disability. Probably, they needed a notetaker, which is the only reason such an announcement would ever be made to the class. The students names would never be divulged in such an announcement. But this guy has assumed that the "unstable girl" is one of the disabled students. You mean, I ask, she has a disability? I am trying to put this back into reality-realm here. A mental illness IS a disability, and if in fact she has a mental illness, she has every right, not only to attend college, but to have all the reasonable accommodations to which she is entitled under the Americans with Disabilities Act. I didn't go into all this with this guy, but I did tell him, "The fact that someone was rude to you does not mean that she is mentally ill or that she takes any medication."

I then sought to get him off the phone, informing him that I couldn't help him, and neither could anybody in my department, as far as getting into a new class, because it's too late for that now, unless you go through the office of the program director and they somehow allow you to do this. He says he's sure they will allow him, because, "they have to!" since he shouldn't have to be in a class with this supposedly dangerous young woman. I give him the program director's phone number, and get him off the phone before I lose my cool. He is a total jackass.

Two minutes later, jackass calls back. He says, "I just called the program director and she didn't answer. It's after 5 PM, I say. She is probably gone for the day. He then goes on to say, "I don't think you really understand where I'm coming from and how serious this issue is, and I mean, I shouldn't have to be MISTREATED in my class!"

This class, incidentally, is an ETHICS class. And I wonder what the ethical implications are of someone trying to remove himself from a class just because he doesn't want to be around an outspoken female who he is assuming has a mental illness. Last time I checked, those of us with mental illnesses are still allowed to be in your class, thanks. Last time I checked, I don't need to be reported to security if you find out that I'm on medication, thanks. Last time I checked, there were not a lot of people with Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia or any other mental illnesses shooting people in their classrooms in college. Yes, I know about the incidents that have occurred, but generally, those people are sociopaths, not Bipolar and often not Schizophrenic, and generally, they don't occur very often considering the number of college campuses in this country.

The guy wasn't just sexist though. He was a real bigot against people with mental illnesses. He proceeded, during the original conversation, to try to convince me to agree with him by telling me about a student who "got kicked off campus", and how there were "signs up with his face on them all over campus saying that he should be reported to security if you see him on campus." I saw those signs myself. I assumed, and I'm pretty sure I'm correct, that somebody - most likely a female somebody - had a restraining order against that guy for domestic violence and that was why he wasn't wanted on campus. But this guy assumed, "He must have been Schizophrenic!" He said, "I SAW that guy on campus and HE LOOKED WEIRD! IT WAS OBVIOUS THERE WAS SOMETHING WRONG WITH HIM!"

And I'm thinking, "It is quite obvious to me that there is something very, very WRONG with you and your bigoted, hating brain, and that you are the most disturbed person I have talked to recently." But I am at work, and I cannot say things like that if I don't want to lose my job.

So I come here, to my trusty old blog, to tell a few friends who might understand how aggravating this was. The worst part is, the guy had my name, so I couldn't even tell him off and hope of nobody hearing me, since he could simply report me for it, and the way things go in my workplace, I would have gotten into some definite trouble for that. If I was an African American person, perhaps, and somebody called and talked to me about all the black people they hate in their class, maybe I could have just hung up on them and not gotten into trouble or lost my job over it. But I'm just a person with a mental illness, and the world has yet to truly understand the stigma that enshrouds our lives.

If only there were classes that were mandatory at this college which taught people about bigotry. I happen to think such classes should be mandatory at every college. I took a class called American Pluralism years ago at a different school, in Maryland, and I loved it. It was a wonderful class about racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism. Disability rights should have been in there too, though. And a class with all those issues is needed at every campus because, if we are truly going to educate people, we have to start with educating them that the person who is sitting at the desk to their right or left is an actual human being, worthy of breathing, and worthy of being in their classroom.

I should also mention that, because I get paranoid, I was thinking that perhaps this was a prank call by someone at school or at work who knew me or knew of me and the fact that I have a mental illness or I get disability accomodations, and they were trying to get under my skin. If it was, then, it didn't work, because they might have gotten under my skin but that's only because they are ignorant idiots. I will soon be doing a volunteer internship at a mental health treatment center, for one of my classes, and I am looking forward to that as well as looking forward to continuing volunteering, when I have time (which is rare these days) with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, to combat such stigma wherever and whenever it occurs.


  1. What a horrible, bigoted man. It makes me incredibly sad that people like that with those opinions still exist. You're so right, there should be mandatory education on pluralism. Sounds like you handled it impeccably, Jen. Props to you xx

  2. Jen,

    What an ignorant, irrational, intolerant, nasty, pathetic, tiny minded person this guy is. The fact that he can afford to go to college is something that he should be grateful for! And this is EXACTLY the reason we NEVER tell people that we have bipolar or schizoaffective disorder. Because of pea brains like this college kid you were forced to be polite to.

    I think there should be someone you can complain to about having to take that call in the name of fighting bigotry everywhere. What a total ass.

    You can come here and complain as much as you want and we are right there with you, hon!


  3. Hi Jen, I admire your composure under such a difficult situation. I would like permission to share your blog post with my class that I teach at a mental health center. I believe it would be a wonderful topic for discussion. I understand if you do not wish to do so.

  4. THAT B*TCH!!!! (u can control urself good 4 u ,i cnt srry) he is just another unhappy jerk! the only people who have real issues in this country r people like THAT! no the anorexics or bipolars or anything ,just the pregidous jack*sses!!!!
    it should b manditory and ur probably right about the black person thing , i admire ur restraint and i love ur blog ur fabulous hunny <3

  5. Thanks everyone, I appreciate your support and understanding this issue with this horrible person.

    Dflores1123, you have my permission to share anything you like from this blog with your mental health class.

  6. He's a total bigot! Don't you think that he is just so self-serving that he wants all things to go his way? I pity that girl on being so inappropriately judged.

    If you don't mind, I would like to ask a favor from you. Can you evaluate this counseling site? I need other people's opinions whether their services could deliver well for our mental needs. This could also be a good resource in your future posts. Thank you so much. Have a nice day.

  7. Jen

    It's great to hear how you are coping with schizophrenia. Blog therapy, as opposed to typical call for therapy is certainly one great way to surpass the hardships. This is truly inspiring.

  8. Hi Jen, I just read your blog and I wanted to let you know that I've added a link to your website on my blog. I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder in 2002, and started my own blog a couple of weeks ago. My blog site is called www.sundancekidonline.com if you'd like to take a look. Thanks!



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