I’ve talked about some of the issues I had while working for a couple of people in my times working for Presidential Classroom and AED (soon-to-be defunct Academy for Educational Development), specifically around the sense of bigotry and arrogance I managed to put up with (see my June ’09 post “What We’ll Do for $$$”). Of all of the posts I’ve done about Mount Vernon, New York, the Humanities Program, Pittsburgh, Joe Trotter, my idiot ex-stepfather, and Hebrew-Israelites, few sparked as much negative response as the one I did about two of my former supervisors, especially the one I worked for at AED.
I lost a Facebook friend over the June ’09 post because she didn’t like that I had identified the man in question as suffering from bipolar disorder. Mind you, this person had made his condition public knowledge in February ’04, and the stories I’ve discussed regarding this man were of issues that had arisen at a time in which I suspected — but didn’t know with one hundred percent certainty — that he was afflicted with some sort of mental illness.
Having a mental illness, by the way, doesn’t fully exonerate anyone from their actions, especially when they are well aware of that illness and yet refuse treatment for such. I should know. I worked for Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health in Mount Vernon and White Plains, New York and Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic in Pittsburgh between 1989 and 1992. While I usually didn’t work directly with patients, I did enough work with some to recognize symptoms and witnessed patients who refused to take their medication. Plus, there are levels of severity with all mental illnesses, as people can function fairly well in society without many noticing their symptoms. My anecdotal experience is that this is definitely — but not usually — true of those suffering from bipolar disorder.
For those whom I worked with in one way or another during my days with the New Voices Fellowship Program, please know that this blog and tomorrow’s post serves a much larger role than me simply telling a story that shows another side to a man who many of you may simply see as nice. Really, this post is for so many other people who may work with a person, boss or mentor whom may well be mismanaging them, running them into the ground, even attempting to ruin their career, mental illness or not. But if I lose your friendship or respect as a result, then so be it.