Hi. I’m Deena. I’m mentally ill. Please hire me. I want to be clear, I’m not asking you to take pity on me and hire me because I’m mentally ill. I have plenty of people who will take pity on me, I don’t need anymore. No, I am saying I am mentally ill. I am open about it and don’t feel the need to hide behind shame (ridiculous, I know,) and you should hire me because I will be one of the best employees you’ve ever had.
But you’re mentally ill, you’re thinking, that sounds scary, you could go crazy at work, or always call in sick or be less productive because of your illness, or you could be sad all the time and be a total drag.
I hear you and I’ll answer these concerns one at a time.
What if you go crazy and scream or just lose it?
I’m not the employee you need to worry about, in fact I’m the exact opposite because I’m actually getting the help I need. I’m someone who has identified my illness, sought treatment, and is aware of how I am doing. The people who fly off the handle and make your life difficult, they are the ones not seeking treatment, and they’re probably not because they’re afraid of the stigma.
I bet you call in sick a lot or are less productive cause you’re depressed.
Have I missed work because of depression? Yes, but very rarely, and not to lay on the couch or because “I just wasn’t up to it.” The person who calls in “sick” to binge watch all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls so they’re caught up for the reunion show in November has already been hired by your company, that’s not me. I am like someone who has diabetes or Crohn’s, I come in every single day unless I require medical attention and even if that happens I’ve still worked from a hospital or home. The unnecessary guilt I have about living with this disease and also the feeling of not wanting to let people down work to your advantage because I want to be your best employee to get rid of any doubts or misconceptions you may have.
Yeah, but if you’re depressed you’re probably a total buzzkill and sad all the time.
Your office already has a sad person, every office does. But that’s not me. I’m a delight. Really. Depression gets a bad rap. People think you’re an Eeyore always walking around bemoaning life, but that person is a pessimist, not someone with mental illness. Me? I’m a Tigger, a Tigger who might think about death a little more than I should (hey, I’m going for honesty here) but who leaves those thoughts for the professionals I see and the friends I message post-work. At the office I’m the hard worker, doing what you ask, making jokes when appropriate, and texting you on the way in to ask if you want a Starbucks.
So as I said, I’m Deena. I’m mentally ill. Please hire me.
(References available upon request.)
Deena is a freelance writer and has also worked as an on-staff humor writer for American Greetings and has professionally tweeted about vacuums. She is a founding member of Crooked River Comedy and is also the creator of This Improvised Life, a part improvised, part written story-telling hour, performing regularly for over 5 years. In addition, She co-wrote and stars in Funnel Cakes Not Included, a one-woman show about ending stigma associated with mental illness. She is also the co-creator of a kind, funny, awesome, nine year old boy who would like you to know he has a huge Star Wars collection, over 35 hats, and constantly crushes her in foosball.
It seems to be a trend right now for women to write letters to their younger selves. Here’s my contribution:
It’s me, AKA you. I know we’re feeling super shitty right now so I wanted to write to you. I wanted you to hear from the part of yourself that says nice things to others as opposed to the jackass self who you usually let talk to you, cause frankly, it’s time we break up with that douche, the one who says “You’re a whiny piece of useless shit for struggling for so long.” That dude, like Puck from Real World San Francisco, needs to be booted. (I know you like a good dated reference so I threw that in there for you.)
Bottom line, stop giving yourself such a hard time, because the more you do that the less you can hear my voice, the voice that is saying this:
Treating yourself like shit will never ever serve you. It has no purpose. Right now, you just need to do the work. Go to therapy, talk stuff out, survive the struggle, learn what you need to learn, and most of all, trust yourself that you’re doing what you need to do.
It’s hard to admit to yourself that you’re brave and a fighter but you have to tell yourself that stuff cause that’s the only way to keep beating this. So just keep making it through each second, recognize your worth and your beauty, that’s your job to do, no one else’s.
And lastly, I love you and am here with you always but for both our sake, you should probably ease up on the Milk Duds, I know they’re tasty but there is line, and you’re way past it. Or in the words of Joey Tribbiani, “You’re so far past the line that you can’t even see the line! The line is a dot to you!”
Okay, you know what you need to do, so “Do it Rockapella!” (We’re crushing these 90s references.)
The boy has been sick all week. We’ve watched Sand Lot and Little Giants (One has the actor who played Darth Vader and the other has Darth Helmet.) We watch a great Lego documentary, and today we’ve watched the 2005 Fantastic Four and now the 1989 Batman.
I remember seeing this Batman in theaters at age 12 and enjoying Joker so much I dressed up as him for Halloween. It was an awkward choice as a 12 year old girl, to wear green sweats and a mask that you had to glue on to your face, which even so, kept falling off. It became more akward as the friends I went with were all dressed in cool black dresses as Palmer girls, which I honestly thought had something to do with golfer Arnold Palmer.
I have been having a rough go this week, figuring out diagnoses and meds. It’s not really depression, what I have, and I get sick of naming it, but then in the movie today the Joker helped me out as he uttered the phrase “I have given a name to my pain, and it’s Batman.”
So from now on, I will just be referring to whatever is going on with me as Batman, it seems especially appropriate as things are at their worst when it’s dark night.
I look forward to informing my doctor of this change and finding out if it’s billable.
Every day I am more and more aware of just how much electroconvulsive therapy took from me.
Beyond remembering my own personal endeavors, It took the memory of every birthday my child had, his first days of schools, our vacations, our lazy Sundays, it took all of it.
All parents forget things that happen as their children grow, in fact I imagine they forget more than they remember, but then they are reminded and often say “Oh yeah, I forgot that.”
But my memory, much like my body, is completely resistant to jogging. The memories are simply not there anymore.
And, you know what, it was still worth it and that’s even counting the fact that the relief ECT gave me is long gone, and that ECT stopped being an effective treatment for me, and that I am currently still struggling with this disease.
Parenting involves lots of trade-offs, sometimes parents work more hours than they would like to so they can afford things for their children, or (gasp) because they enjoy what they do and want their children to see that their parents have a fulfilling life.
My trade-off has been losing most of my memories I’ve made with my son in order to remain alive to make more. Deal.