"We're aware of your history of mental illness," said the policewoman when I asked what they were planning to do about what happened to me. The policeman with her said nothing, and I said nothing because I was in shock.
What about my mental illness? I thought. But I already knew what about it: in that one sentence, I'd been reduced to Crazy. Which is to say, the police perhaps thought of me as someone not worthy of justice.
It was a similar story with the detective whom I called afterward: he suggested I make an official complaint but added that it would be better for me to have legal counsel, considering. Considering? "There have been some mental-health issues brought to my attention," he said, sounding as if he had a piece of toffee stuck in his teeth.
I sat with the phone against my ear, frozen, trying to decide if I really, truly was insane. Maybe I imagined what had happened to me, like someone with untreated schizophrenia. I was not credible; the police — normal people — implied so. For a moment, I became completely unsure of my reality. I became Gregor Samsa from Metamorphosis, a man who turned into a cockroach and who for a short while believed he was human until it was proven otherwise.
"What's an official complaint?" I asked and started drawing furiously, the way I tend to when I'm very stressed. I was drawing a monster face on the inside cover of my son's comic book, going over the lines a dozen times till the face became a crater of knitted black ink.
I could make a video statement about the incident, Toffee-teeth said. The way he said it sounded like a warning instead of encouragement. The black mass of my nervous drawing grew larger; beside it some numbers and names — numbers to call if I decide to go ahead, names to ask for if I do.
A video statement.
We hung up.
I never made the complaint. Better to hide under the bed like a cockroach. And it was no secret that I had a history of mental-health issues, because I've been writing about it, publicly, for years. I kept thinking how I should've just kept my Crazy to myself and act like everybody else, like the normal policewoman or the normal detective. Then maybe I'd get some normal help instead of a swat on my abnormal cockroach rump.
Why treat crazy people seriously? Crazy people make up stories and cause trouble. However many times I've been praised for being outspoken about mental illness, it took that one police incident to see how much better it would be to take it all back.
At the same time, Crazy is excused, too, from behaviors that might not be excusable in non-crazy.My ex-husband, who very much wanted to believe that I was a good person despite the fact that I behaved irrationally — for example, I drank to excess after I gave birth to my son — used to obsess over my medication. He wanted to believe that manipulating milligrams of Prozac could "cure" me; that talking to a social worker could fix my crying in my soup.
I so wanted to prove him right; I so wanted to be the real, normal me who I hoped lived underneath the chaos of thoughts and anxieties. I was a good person, but I was desperate to find the magic pill, the magic therapist. I was desperate to be normal for him. Alas, normal kept not happening, but I ended up making a career out of my Crazy, and for years now I've been cheerfully taking on certain labels that can be discriminated against: bipolar II (doubtful), addiction (for sure), and depression (yes), and writing about it. Most recently, I had a health column for the Canadian newspaper the Toronto Star where I talked about mental-health issues, often introducing the topic via my personal experience with them.