"Dear Prudence" by Amanda Grieme

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dear Jesse...

3/11 - Frightened
Dear Jesse -

I still haven’t heard from my landlord yet. I gave him a letter 11 days ago with my March rent check. I just couldn’t muster up the courage to sidle downstairs to his doctor’s office to tell him that I had to end my lease early because I had to leave my job because of mental illness; no rent money income. I’ve become a fucking charity case. The social stigma that is attached to mental illness is pretty harsh: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Catcher in the Rye, etc.. Then again, who attaches the stigma to the illness? Could it be a group of inflexible pawns who belong to “moral” groups that feel that those novels shouldn’t be included in the high school curriculum, because they are inappropriate? Why, because of expletives? I doubt it. It’s because those selections of literature are not “safe” according to the pawns; the worker bees; the ants marching. All I know is that the only way that I could turn on my 10th grade literature students was to “be” Holden Caulfield, and read the book to them aloud. They appreciated it. They watched his mental demise. They could relate to his angst. If anything, they became more understanding, or perhaps aware of mental strife; they overcame their fear of it.

I believe this, but I still cannot push aside my own shame. I hate shame. It has a strangle hold on me. While I write this, I am panicking about the fact that I have to go over to my apartment to feed my fish and my cats. I am neglecting them because I am afraid to run into my landlord, which would probably be the best thing for me. Confrontation is key, yet I fear it. What a bizarre affliction! Here is the letter that I wrote to my landlord:

Dear Dr. Haus,
Because of the social stigma placed on mental illness, it is very embarrassing for me to address a person who I admire such as yourself initially in person about my extenuating circumstances; please accept this letter in place of a knock on your door. This year, hidden behind the guise of the flu, or a cold, etc., I have been battling Bipolar Disorder. With the help of modern meds., I had been able to keep afloat and function as a school teacher, until recently.

I had a serious episode about two weeks ago that unfortunately did not leave me unscathed, and I have gone headlong into both cognitive and drug therapy as a result. I was circumstantially granted an unpaid medical leave of absence from school for 12 weeks, to get back on my feet emotionally, although that will leave me in financial straits for a while. Sadly, I must ask you if I may end my apartment lease with you early, for I haven’t a monetary choice in the matter.

Dr. Haus, I have so enjoyed living here, and I thank you for such a warm welcome into such a colorful town; I have acquired a real respect for small town economy and mentality. Milltown’s self-contained success is justification for “buy local.” I welcome the opportunity to sit down and talk about the lease at your convenience. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

I’ll tell you Jesse, I have been praying that by the grace of something, he would be so kind as to grant me my security deposit.

Wishful thinking,

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