I have a 4pm doctors appointment today. I leave work at 3:30pm and drive 30 minutes to my doctors office. I sign in and pay my copay. I’m asked to have a seat and they will call me when the doctor is ready.
As I walk through the full waiting room, I notice the other people sitting around. A disheveled woman, an older man, several children. I walk through to use the restroom and my OCD kicks in. It doesn’t smell clean and I really don’t want to use it but I do.
I walk back to the lobby and find a seat next to a boy sitting on his mother’s lap. He covers his ears and begins to whimper and rock. Clearly the little boy is autistic and my appearance has upset him. He calms down and I pull out my phone to check my emails. This seems to upset the little boy too and again he’s rocking and whimpering. When he calms down he begins talking about Netflix and things around him. ‘Netflix, DVD player. Netflix, DVD player. Netflix, tattoo. Netflix, tattoo.’ It appears that he noticed my tattoo but his mother didn’t. She tries to quiet him down. They get called back and the whole way I hear him repeating ‘Netflix, tattoo’.
I hear and see the other people around me talking. A young man walks out in a plain white t-shirt and motions, to what I assume is a family member, to go. As I notice all these people I say to myself, I’m sitting in a room full of crazy people. And I start feeling closed in and scared. I feel outnumbered.
And then I realize, I am one of these people. I’m sitting in the same lobby for psychiatric services as they are. I’ve judged people I didn’t know unfairly. I am just as bad as everyone else who puts a label on those with mental health issues. I made myself uncomfortable because of the stigma that mental health has in this world.
As my doctor calls me back for my appointment to talk about the mental conditions I’m here for and the numerous meds I’m on, I tell myself ‘you’re not crazy, and neither are these people’.