This is a follow up to my post, “I Can’t Believe She Said That To Me!”
The client that told me that “Bipolar disorder is God’s punishment for the sins of Man,” showed up at the shop the other day, just like I knew she would!
To recap, she told me she was worried about her four year old son, who has autism, and the stigma that comes with it. I sympathized with her fears, and confided that I had bipolar disorder, so I was familiar with stigmas. Her reaction to my comment was, “OH…bipolar!” Her eyes got wide, both brows lifted high, her head shook back and forth slightly. Then she dropped the “sins of Man” bomb. I was speechless.
When it was time for her next appointment, she called every day for two weeks. She left message after message on our shop voicemail. I kept hoping that she would get the hint, or at least get mad because I didn’t call her back, and give up. I had no desire to talk to her, and I knew it would be difficult to have a conversation over the phone. I’m not good at that. I dealt with it by not dealing.
One afternoon, I was shampooing a client’s hair in the back of the salon, and I look up, and there she is, coming through the door. She heads towards me, and with a cock of her curly head, she fusses, “I have been calling for two weeks, and no one has called me back.” Then, hands go on hips,” I need to make an appointment to get a cut a highlight.” Now she smiles sweetly.
I motion for her to follow me into the break room and sit down. We sit across from each other in the small room. I told her that we had a conversation at her last visit, and she made a comment that upset me very much. I said, “I don’t even know if you know what I’m talking about. Do you know?”
She was sitting with her back straight up, like the good little Christian that she was. Her big, protruding eyes widened, she nodded slightly, and she said, “I do!’
I was surprised at her answer, which was followed by silence. I continued,”Well, what you said about mental illness was extremely offensive to me, and I have decided that I don’t want to work with you anymore.” I choked up halfway through that sentence. I got very emotional, but kept it together.
She proceeded to apologize for offending me, saying I took what she said the wrong way. She tried to defend herself, “I feel sorry for you people….”
I say, “…..” , because what she said afterwards I didn’t hear. All I heard was “you people”. My chest got hot, my bruised heart seemed to suddenly turn to stone. I interrupted her, pointed my finger at her, and said, “Let me plant a little seed for you, Brittany. Your son has autism…he has a mental illness. Autism is a mental illness!”
Again, her eyes got big, and she said, “I know!” Then she rattled on about how she didn’t believe God picked on certain people to punish. I reminded her that that’s exactly what she said that day! That God was punishing certain people with the burden of mental illness!
The more I heard her talk, the more I was convinced that she was a confused and ignorant, young woman. I told her I appreciated her apology, but yes, she would have to find someone else to do her hair. I rose to escort her out.
I was too busy after she left to think about our conversation. However, that evening I cried a river. I was so mad at myself for letting this stupid person upset me to such a degree. Even the next day I had to struggle to keep my tears in check when I thought about it.
I never talk about having bipolar to anyone but my closest friends and family. One of the reasons why is because of the stigma. The one time I chose to do it, to put it out there and be vulnerable, I felt humiliated, hurt, and even betrayed. I thought we had somewhat of a common struggle, so I revealed a piece of my private self to her, even though I didn’t know her very well. It had barely left my lips when she brought God and his wrath into the picture. That was a new one! I never heard of anyone believing such a thing! I was horrified! Not MY God! What?! What is she talking about?
Hopefully, the next time someone says something so mean, and utterly stupid to me, I will be more prepared. I don’t think I should hide my disorder like some dirty secret. I admire those brave advocates that march for our cause, to stop the stigma, and raise awareness of mental illness. I wonder how they got to be so brave? I feel like Chicken Little hiding in the corner with my thumb in my beak!