Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Lies, Lies, Lies

I always knew that a person had to be without disabilities to work (I’m self-employed) or have health-insurance coverage (I’m on Eric’s company plan). But I was reminded today–while renewing my driver’s license–that you also need to be perfect in order to drive.

“Do you have any physical or mental disabilities that could interfere with your operation of a vehicle?” asked the nice bureaucrat at the MVA station.

I immediately flashed back to the morning I smashed into my neighbor’s Land Cruiser on my way to the outpatient program, that afternoon I drove over the sidewalk because my shaking hands (a panic attack) couldn’t hold the wheel, and that night I was crying so hard (with the kids in the backseat) that I didn’t see the car in front of me slam on its brakes.


“Nope,” I replied to my MVA friend, as confident as ever.

I lie so often regarding my mental illness that I sometimes forget the real story.

I recently fibbed on a job application. Would my prospective employer really let a crazy lady tutor the impressionable young? And I took it a step further. I pleaded with all of my references to lie, too–to “forget about” that recent trip of mine to the psych ward.

“For all you know,” I instructed them, “I’m a perfectly normal, capable person with no mental baggage.” (Ha!)

Regarding my half-truth today, I don’t know how the cops ensure that no panic attack happens on the road. I suppose they could randomly pull over cars for psychiatric evaluations (“Who is the president of the United States?”) like the alcohol testing stations set up on New Year’s Eve. If I start to cry or shake at a red light, a policeman might handcuff me and send me back to the OT (occupational therapy–but having nothing to do with employment) room, where I painted a birdhouse with my fellow inmates as our meds kicked in.

But come on. If I were completely candid, I’d never be allowed out of my house.

Until the government and health-care insurance companies and bureaucracies of every kind swap their discrimination against the mentally ill for a well-informed and nuanced understanding of mental health, I am stuck with no option but to lie, lie, lie.

  • http://HASH(0xce415cc) Philo

    Here is the problem: You have a history which demonstrates that your illness places the general public at risk when you are behind the wheel. Not only that, but you could have had a very serious collision with your kids in the car. Surely you must see that your decision places others at unnecessary risk just as surely as Driving Under the Influence (DUI). I sincerely hope that you think about this vary carefully before getting behind the wheel. You may also find that if you are ever in a collision which results in serious personal injuries that your insurance company in the course of discoveries may have grounds to not cover your liability to the injured parties. Yes, you are placing yourself, your family and others at risk. Please consider this very carefully before hopping behind the wheel.

  • http://HASH(0xce51d54) Jennifer

    When I encountered the mental disability question at the DMV I was fortunate to have a person working there who “got” my abstract questioning about whether this referred to things like depression. She very quickly and confidently said that, unless I had problems with loss of consciousness, I was a-okay. The “other stuff” as she put it, was something I could react to with due discression and was not grounds to not have a license at all. In other words, she (and the state) trusts me to use my own judgment and stop driving when I feel too jittery or down, just like the state trusts diabetics not to drive if they are having severe blood sugar fluctuations and otherwise healthy folks to stay off the roads when they have a fever. Thank God, because the stigma of diagnosis can occasionally tempt us to forget our own capacities for judgement and self-efficacy. Also, I don’t think it is lying to want your medical history kept confidential from your employer. In fact, I think that’s your right, and it would be inappropriate for a person giving a reference to mention it. What type of question did you have to lie about in your app?! I work with abused children, and no one ever asked me about my mental health. I would have told them to stuff it if they had asked. I am much better at what I do because of the experiences I have had. Therese, without minimizing the suffering you have experienced (and indeed sharing some similar experiences of my own) I want to tell you, you /are/ a perfectly normal, capable person, and we /all/ have mental baggage. You seem to feel somehow freakish or marked as different and deficient — but millions of people in this country alone experience mood disorders. Somehow we have managed not to sow chaos and destruction on the fabric of our society. I am guessing that you are more capable than you make yourself sound in this blog.

  • http://HASH(0xce51e68) Jennifer

    I just re-read my above comment and feel bad that I made conclusions about you as a person. I apologize. I can be a tad judgemental and blunt, and it’s not fair for me to assume I understand exactly where you are coming from just because I read your blog. And I did not intend to make personal comments, that’s not fair to you. You expose yourself quite courageously on this blog as it is without me being all nosy in your comments section. Though I still suspect that you are quite a capable individual. :)

  • http://HASH(0xce43ca4) Rebecca

    I have been in the same situation when applying for a new job. They’ll ask about any medical reasons why you wouldn’t be able to come into work. How can I tell someone who is judging me for the first time that there may be days that I can’t come in because my anxiety is so overwhelming that I can’t leave the house? Or that I was up all night crying when hitting the deepest depths of my depression? I just save my sick days for mental health rather than physical health. I don’t exceed my allotted sick time and no one needs to know what kind of sickness kept me home that day. So I also find myself omitting this information from potential employers. Until the stigma is no longer there I feel that I have to do what I need to to protect myself. I am thankful that I do not have depression and anxiety that is as severe and debilitating as some. I am thankful that I am able to work and only have to take a few days a year for the worst of times. This may not always be the case, but for now, being functional is a blessing. I don’t believe that I should not be considered for a job because of my illness. I have a lot of experience and a very good work ethic which should not be in the shadow of my depression. Being able to safely say that you have a mental illness is nice on the rare occasions that it happens, but I usually only trust close friends and family with this. I give credit to anyone who is brave enough to speak openly about it and braces themselves for the consequences.

  • http://HASH(0xce443a8) Myr

    “where I painted a birdhouse with my fellow inmates as our meds kicked in…” Been there and done that! Your irreverent humour and insight is much appreciated. Reading your blog has allowed me to chuckle as well as take note of some of the little things that can help me in my own journey. Thank you.

  • http://HASH(0xce454a4) Laurie

    To the brave lady who owns this blog,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, Well done girl,,,well done! from(:been there felt that!)

  • http://HASH(0xce45678) bobbie

    Most people who discriminate against the mentally ill are truly uneducated on the subject. I have alot of empathy for these people, because they usually are afraid of their own diagnosis . Therefore, they continue on in life doing what they do best. Not much.

  • http://HASH(0xce5dbb4) Barnowl46

    Appreciate and enjoy your comments in regards to mental illness. You and some others are truly blessed to be able to work and still carry on with your condition. When I was younger, people seemed to understand and accept me even if I was melancholy from time to time. Now that I am in my forties, it seems that employers or co-workers can be very discriminatory when it comes to finding out someone has stress or depression issues. To me, it is good to read and/or hear of success stories in regards to mental health issues. I’ve been trying for years to get someone to help me overcome certain aspects of my depression which affects my personality; but I keep running into naysayers or professionals who act like I am lazy, faking issues or what have you as an excuse. Believe me, I would give anything to be able to go through life, keep a job for many years and maintain health relationships with others. My counselor and psychiatrist seem to think now that I am in my forties that there is no reason to seek improvement therapies; but I disagree. I’m tired of being “painted” as defective even around my therapist/psychiatrist. It seems so confusing when I am trying to help myself be a better person. Thanks for your insightfulness and hope.

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