It is high time that those suffering from mental illness come out of the closet. Could you imagine if the millions in America who suffer from psychiatric problems could confess their ‘secret’? I think many would be shocked as the grip of this miserable ailment is far deeper than one can imagine. That is why whenever I visit my psychiatrist the office is overflowing. Let’s face it we live in a troublesome world and we all have troubled minds, unfortunately some have chemical imbalances that magnify the day by day trepidation
I never tried to hide my mental illness, so to say, but I certainly wasn’t vocal about it. What was I supposed to do walk up to somebody and say “Hi my name is John Kaniecki and I suffer from bipolar”? The notion is absurd and ridiculous, but I say this only because mental illness as a whole is misunderstood. For far too many people the image of the mentally ill are ‘crazy’ serial killers.
Sometimes it is hard to hide the truth. Long story short, after I graduated college my medicine was changed with disastrous results. I avoided a hospitalization but I definitely had a relapse. I wasn’t ready to go get a career; instead I wound up getting a job as a stock clerk in a department store. When the salespeople found out that I had a college degree while making minimum wage, I know they knew something was wrong.
I met a man who owned an engineering company at, of all places, a mental health support group. The man was there in support of his daughter. We started talking and he was impressed by the fact that I had two years of engineering school completed. I was hired on the spot. But while my medical condition was never revealed to my boss, it would soon be discovered.
An engineering company is full of demands and quite honestly at that time of my life I couldn’t meet them. I objected to certain work and because I had the owner’s full backing I got away with my refusals. As time went on the owner sold the company so all my circumstances changed. However I had gotten more than acclimated and had developed a little niche where my services could be utilized.
In the two years before the change in ownership, I developed good relationships with the majority of the people in the small company. Word got out, as gossip was present and so my medical condition was known to everybody. Two obnoxious engineers called me “Crazy John” thinking they were funny. Still in my struggles and rising to the challenges I was, whether I liked it or not, an advocate for the mentally ill.
I believe when Dreaming Big Publications published my memoirs More Than The Madness, I crossed a clear line in the sand. My memoirs talk about my struggles in life from childhood until the point I became stabilized on a medicine called Clozaril. The book not only shows my experiences dealing with manic depression, but also it opens up my life, showing that I too, despite my mental illness am a human being. Thus there is “More Than The Madness.”
I am a full time caregiver for my wife. However, unless my writing meets my financial needs, I will soon be forced to take a job. I know for certain that a prospective employer will take time to do a background check, especially if the position is a high paying one. Without a doubt they will discover my book and perhaps articles such as these. Sometimes the truth hurts. I imagine that the majority of employers do not consider mental illness as an asset.
Then why write the book? I wanted my story to be told. I wanted to give hope to others that you can overcome and live a ‘normal’ life. I wanted to fight the stigma associated with mental illness that I and millions of others deal with on a day to day basis. There is nothing about mental illness that one needs to be ashamed about. As far as I understand it most people who suffer from psychiatric conditions are victims. I am saying this with thirty years experience and nine hospitalizations. I say that having intimately known others.
It is a sad thing when simply telling the truth is a negative. By declaring that one is mentally ill a door might be slammed in their face for no other reason than one’s condition. Still we as the mentally ill community must press the issue and in the process strive for full acceptance. It will take bravery and perhaps put you at some risk. But all you have to do is be completely honest, that’s all you need to be an advocate.