Seven months ago, I had no idea what the consequences would be of telling people I have schizophrenia. The information that I had kept secret even from most family members, I made public by writing about it in a book, on blogs, and in online magazines and forums.
Today I learned what some of the consequences are for exposing my illness in such a public manner.
I bought some pants from an online shop. Several days passed and I received an envelope in the mail, the envelope seemed too small for the pants, but I wasn’t expecting anything else from a private seller, so I tore into it.
What I found inside was a purple blouse, a grey and green plaid long-sleeved shirt with collar, a red t-shirt, and a small baggie with two silver toned necklaces, a copper colored necklace (so small it must be for a child) with a cross on it, and one gold colored earring. I never would have bought the items. I immediately contacted the seller and she told me she had sent me the pants and had no idea what I was talking about. That was the first indication I had that she was trying to make me look and feel “crazy” (like I didn’t know for sure what I had just pulled out of an envelope and was staring at).
She then tried to make me out as even more “crazy”, confused, or whatever by suggesting that what I was describing was like the “Twilight Zone.” She tried to further degrade me by saying that the items I described sounded like “Pirate’s Booty.” None of her responses to me validated what I knew to be true which was that she had either intentionally or unintentionally sent me the wrong package.
It is not difficult to find out who I am and what my diagnosis is. Anyone with a computer and access to Google can plug in my name, search it and the first thing that comes up is a book titled, “Pills, Poetry & Prose: Life with Schizophrenia.” Of course there are many articles that I have written about living with schizophrenia that also come up.
I believe I was the victim of fraud, because I am vulnerable, and the misconceptions about what schizophrenia is and what people who have it go through are so wildly inaccurate. For instance if you believe that someone with schizophrenia can’t tell the difference between a pair of pants and three t-shirts and some costume jewelry, you have some really outdated stereotypes that you are judging people by.
I have been shopping from this online site since 2009 and I have never returned an item and never made a complaint. I believe this seller targeted me because I have a mental illness. The reason I believe the odds are in the seller’s favor is because of the process I have to go through to get my money back – it is the seller’s word against mine. If she happens to tell them I have schizophrenia, then who do you think they will believe? A woman with one of the most misunderstood of the mental illnesses (me)or a woman whose mental health status they don’t know and can’t discover (the seller).
If you are a betting person, don’t put your money on me. I am the long shot here, because of stereotypes, discrimination, vulnerability and a perception that my reality is unreliable.
I can’t tell you today how this situation will end up. I can’t tell you if I will be out $76 -$78 . I will update this blog when the results of the company’s internal investigation are in.
The statistics show that the mentally ill are more likely to be victims of crimes than to commit a crime. I think I am about to become one of those statistics.
There are risks to going public with your diagnosis and advocacy. I could never have imagined what those risks would be, but unfortunately I think I stumbled on one of them by shopping online with private sellers who may just be looking for an unsuspecting customer whose words people are far less likely to believe.
Package photo available from Shutterstock