Stigma: A Family Tradition

I think this “SAD light” is helping.  Whereas before I had it, all I could think of was classier and more refined ways of offing myself, now I find myself thinking about ways to get back on the ol’ horse and ride.

Sadly, a return to medical practice is not an option.  Too much time has elapsed since I did my last official doctoring (I say “official” because I take care of the odd mild emergency here and there, without charge).  The face of medicine has completely changed, and to tell you the truth, I want no truck with it.  Doctors now are nothing but machines.  I’m an old-fashioned country doc, and I know it’s a waste but I’m stuck with what I’ve been dealt.

But wait: I have other talents yet to be tapped!  I have a Master’s Degree in Medical Anthropology.  I have spent the past eight years studying Hebrew cosmology, in Jerusalem!  I think that gives me a set of credentials unique enough to shop myself as a visiting professor in some humanities department at some university.  I love to teach.  And what fun!

Good heavens, there’s a university practically next door to me, University of North Carolina at Asheville.  And another one in Johnson City, Tennessee, only an hour away.  It’s worth a try, anyway.  Hell’s bells, they’re still teaching the Bhagavad Gita over there, and the Epic of Gilgamesh, and no doubt Beowulf, and certainly Plato’s Republic, Sophocles, and the rest of the cast of thousands representing contrasting world views.

But I have never, ever seen Hebrew cosmology taught in any curriculum save programs in Jewish Studies, and even there, it’s not presented from an Anthropological point of view, but as pure theology.

And people, the Cosmology I’m talking about is not your Jewish Grandma’s matzo ball soup.  It’s Hebrew physics: a sophisticated body of theoretical systems that explain how the world was created as “some-thing” out of “no-thing,” and continues in its trajectory of creation even now.  In essence, it runs exactly parallel to modern wave/particle theory, and other theories in modern physics and astronomy.

So I had this chiddush (“ch” as in “Bach”), which means “brand new light-bulb-type idea,” while sipping Turkish coffee flavored with cardamom this morning.  I got addicted to the stuff in Israel, and it is one of the things I stuff a suitcase with whenever I come back to America.

So yes, I had this chiddush.  Why don’t I make an appointment with someone important in the Humanities department in Asheville, and pitch my idea to them?  I could even wear my normal everyday Israeli clothes, which do look a bit odd compared to American clothes, but they are authentic and might add a flavor of genuineness to my demeanor.

Since I always call my mother at 11 am to check on how their night was, I did so this morning.  And since I was rather hyped up by my chiddush, I told her about it (minus the Israeli clothes, since she thinks they are bizarre and wants nothing to do with them).

She oohed and aahed over the whole idea, since the fact that I have been on disability is awkward for her; when people ask what I am doing and she has to make up some lie because she doesn’t want to tell the truth.  She is embarrassed by the reason for my disability: mental illness.  She wouldn’t mind so much if it were cancer or MS, but mental illness–disgraceful.

And so it was that right in the midst of her ecstasy at the thought of my doing something “productive” again, she stopped dead and hissed, “Don’t you tell them why you haven’t been working.  You’ll shoot yourself in the foot.”

“What!  Are you telling me that you think an educated person would not hire me because I’m bipolar?” I fairly screamed.

“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m talking about!” Quoth she.

“Let’s look at this thing,” I said more calmly.  “Twenty years ago a gay person wouldn’t dare come out and say they were gay.  That’s because they were IN THE CLOSET, afraid to come out because they were afraid of losing their jobs, among other things. And now being gay is just part of who someone is.  You’re telling me now that you think that I should stay in the closet because I’m bipolar?  Bipolar is a part of who I am.  It’s me, and I’m not going to deny who I am.  Of course I’m not going to shake hands with the program director and say “Hi, I’m Laura and I’m bipolar, anymore than I would say “Hi, I’m Laura and I’m bisexual (only my mother chooses to “forget” that I’m bisexual, so she doesn’t get that part).”

But, if the interview goes well and we get down to nuts and bolts, and the director wants me to teach an 8 o’clock class, then I’ll certainly come out and tell her that I have a health issue that limits the times that I can work; and if the vibes are appropriate, I’ll tell her what it is.

If the truth be known, there’s a huge LGBT population, both in the student body and in the faculty, at UNCA, and I’m sure that like anywhere else there must be a significant percentage of people at the University with various mental illnesses.  I’m hoping that since sexual preference diversity is so much out in the open, that neurodiversity might be well accepted too.  I’m hoping.

Oh, look!  I’ve already made the assumption that they’re going to get all excited about my syllabus and hire me straight away!

“Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!”–Admiral David Farragut

Leave a comment


  1. I hope this works for you and I hope your students and the college embrace you with acceptance and compassion. Best wishes my dear.

  2. so wonderful about the light being so effective, and that your motivation has returned! hope your plans work out with the University. and as far as mothers go, well, they never really change from how they have always been. ( which is why i haven’t spoken to mine in 6 yrs. ) altho i am sorry for how outrageous her perspective is regarding mental health.

    • Thank you!!! Sorry about your having to be NC with your mom–but you have to do what you have to do. I didn’t speak to mine for, oh, maybe 15 years. You know what’s even more outrageous, is she’s a social worker!!! It boggles the mind. But I did buy her a SAD light for the Winter Holidays–maybe it’ll brighten up her outlook a little 😛

  3. Love love love this upbeat post. You go girl! Any university would be lucky to have you! And as an aside, I have heard of so many people having success with SAD lights. Glad you are one of them!

  4. Midwestern Plant Girl

     /  November 24, 2013

    Glad to hear you’ve got a plan and it sounds like a good one! 🙂 Glad to hear the light box is working, I’m going to look into getting one myself. I think you may be a poster child for it’s good work. Break a leg on your pitch!!

  5. Good luck! And on a side note, I’d be interested in hearing more about the correlation between the Hebrew cosmology & wave particle theory, since I’ve noticed a few parallels based on some articles I’ve read. But I only have a rudimentary view of either topic.

  6. I love this idea. Did it work out?

  7. I think that Mental health advocates should study the strategies used by the gay liberation movement, especially when it was a ‘liberation’ movement. We don’t need ‘rights’…we have plenty of ‘rights’ that we can’t use because because most of us can’t afford the kind of lawyer we need.

    We are everywhere. That’s our strength too.

    • I’m glad to hear you say that. I’ve thought of that myself. There is the Mad Pride Movement in Canada, and I did get invited to write something for them, but it turns out that there is a strong anti-medication sentiment there, so I felt a bit attacked. If not for meds I would feel even worse than I already do….which is intolerable. I’ve gone without meds for various reasons, mostly having to do with having to work ridiculous hours and fear of being discovered, which is a very real fear for a doctor. Now that I am officially disabled, I still have to soft-peddle it when I run into former colleagues…have ended up in some very uncomfortable situations. Oh, to be able to be OUT and accepted, or to just not care, or to have the strength to get up in people’s stuff…But any more, I’m just so tired, I need to have my dog just to get me out of my funk long enough to go outside and walk up and down a bit. I put everything I had into that profession. So interesting that they managed to figure out how to keep HIV positive surgeons in the OR, but docs with mental illness are treated like lepers…

  8. I understand your reaction. I blame many of our problems on the ‘Mental Health Rights’ movement of the 60’s and 70’s which was largely focused on the concerns of middle class people who had problems, but not the kind of problems that afflict those who are too ill to house themselves. This group became the tools of Reagan and the eugenics agenda of his political party. So-called conservatives were all too happy to take away long term in patient care in exchange for a bunch of unenforced rights. Am I the only person with a mental illness who sees what a freaking joke the ADA is? What good is the right to work if you don’t have a right to treatment and vocational training? They depend on shame to silence us, just as it once silenced gays.


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