Friday, November 7, 2014

Dear Professor...

                I meant for the first new post of my blog to be a humorous reintroduction, but… this wouldn't leave me alone and I “had” to write it.

     Because I have bipolar disorder and an anxiety disorder along with symptoms of PTSD, ADHD and OCD (I know, it looks like the whole alphabet is banging around in my head), I occasionally have “issues” that make it necessary for me to miss class.  “Issues” is the standard euphemism that everyone who lives with mental illness uses to say, “something is happening that is either too difficult or too embarrassing for me to explain to you.”  So when I have to be absent, I send my teachers an e-mail that usually looks like this:
Hi Professor,
Due to emotional/anxiety issues, I will not be able to attend your class today.
I am sorry if this causes you any inconvenience.  I believe we were going to cover topic XYZ in class today, and I will be sure to study this on my own.
I would appreciate it if you would allow me to make up any missed in-class assignments.
Once again, please forgive me for being absent.
Thanks for all your help,

            The problem that has been bothering me about this is that “issues” can mean pretty much anything, and I am not sure that I want my instructors filling in the blanks themselves.  So here are some of the e-mails that I wish I could have sent:

Dear Professor,
I will not be able to attend your class today because I lost my “everything is normal” costume.
Let me explain, sometimes I wake up naked with no skin.  I am totally vulnerable with every nerve exposed and I’m bleeding all over the place.
I have a costume for days like this.  When I put it on, I look just like “everything is normal.”  It doesn’t protect me from the pain or keep me from bleeding, but it keeps people from being able to see it.
I’ve looked for my “everything is normal” costume, but I can’t find it anywhere.  I can’t come to class without it because everyone will be able to see that I’m damaged and bleeding.
Sorry for any inconvenience, 
Dear Professor,
Due to the fact I am not worthy to interact with other human beings, I will be unable to attend your class today.
As you know, I am fat, ugly, stupid and a repugnant piece of shit.  I ruin everything and I am personally responsible for everything that is wrong in the world.
  Normally, I am so self-centered and deluded that I don’t even recognize this, but today the truth is very obvious to me.
I have prepared for class and I even made it to the bus stop, but every person I passed could see how awful I am and my shame finally overwhelmed me.  In a panic, I have run back to my house to hide which is a good thing because no one should have to be burdened with my presence.
Thank you for putting up with yet another situation in which I have failed,
Dear Professor,
I will be unable to attend your class today because I am pretty sure that I am dying.
Just a few minutes ago, my heart started flopping around in my chest like a bird with a broken wing.  I am sweating, I can’t breathe, my extremities are going numb and I have spiking pains in my head and arms.
I have packed a bag to take with me to the hospital and I have my phone in my hand ready to call the EMTs.  Before I call them though, I will chew up a few of these little yellow pills that my psychiatrist prescribed for me after the first six times I ended up in the emergency room.
The pills will probably keep me from having to call the ambulance, but I will spend the rest of the day weeping in a drug haze while my body recuperates from the shock.
Thank you for your patience,
Dear Professor,
I will be in class today!
I would like to apologize ahead of time, however, for my behavior.  I will be talking continuously and laughing too loud.  My limbs will be bouncing all over the place and I may or may not be able to stay on topic.
My brain seems to have found a hole in the drug cage that I keep it in and it is running wild.  I am able to see an exponential number of patterns and connections between subjects and I desperately want to be able to communicate it because it is amazing!
By the way, have you ever considered that if you relate the wavelengths of light to the wavelengths of sound you could create a system of  imaging that would allow the deaf to experience music in a visual format and if you simplified that system… instead of writing music as symbols on a musical staff, you could write it as lines of color where the depth of the tone is represented by the shade of the individual colors and the length of the line indicates how many beats the note is held… how softly or loudly a note is played could be represented by the thickness of the line… this would allow for more specific communication from the composer… it’s a bit more complex than that, you have to consider the other hundreds of variables that define sound… vibrato…staccatissimo… I should probably write this down, but it is all coming so fast that I am losing pieces of it.
Anyway… I will see you in class!
Dear Professor,
Due to the fact that I can’t maintain, I will not be able to be in class today.
I am vibrating and all my senses are cranked to the max.  I know you won’t quite understand this and I don’t think I can express it very well.
It’s like a low voltage electrical current is running through my blood stream.  My world is filled with floodlights and someone has cranked the volume all the way to 11.  I can feel every fiber in the clothes I am wearing and even the air is irritating my skin.  My tongue is huge and my teeth are slick and my heartbeat is way too loud in my ears.
  The world is slamming into me and I can’t stay still.  Something is desperately wrong and I need to escape, I need to get out but there is nowhere to go that is safe from this.
I need to be in the most protected and private space possible.  I need to be able to pace or curl up in a ball and rock myself.
  I can’t leave because there is too much of everything and I will drown in it all.
Thank you for your patience,
Dear Professor,
I wish I had a “real” illness.
If I had a “real” illness, the kind that everyone knows about and understands, I wouldn’t always be worried about what you think when I have to be absent.
If I had an oxygen tank or skin lesions or anything concrete that you could see, I could relax and not feel guilty whenever I have to take care of myself.
My illness is not “real” enough.  It’s an amorphous mass of enigmatic symptoms that are subject to other people’s impressions and beliefs.  The only concrete and undeniable symptom of my illness… is the one that kills you.
So yeah, I wish I had a “real” illness.
Thanks for your time,
     This is not my life every day.  These are the worst days, and they are few and far between.  I sacrificed a good portion of my intelligence and my creativity to the forces of psychopharmacology in order to keep these days to minimum.  
     I don’t need or want pity, and I am willing to work my ass off to prove it.  What I “do” want is for my instructors to know that when I miss class, they can be damn sure that my “issues” are valid.  I am not missing class because I am “sad” or “upset.”  When I am “sad” or “upset” I am right there in front of them and I am probably smiling, and I am not the only one.

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