Bob and I married in June, and I moved to Brandon with him working at the Mississippi Tax Commission and me not having a job at that moment—a situation I quickly rectified by finding a mall job ten days after we married. I worked there until Thanksgiving, when I found out I’d been hired for a state job working with the disabled that a friend from church had helped me find.
By this point I had been taking Elavil for what I called premenstrual syndrome over the course of three years. I had also been on birth control that long to help control my periods, which were long and brutal without them. My symptoms included distractibility, mood swings, and anxiety. I would run red lights, be unable to type coherently, and was weepy as well. But with the meds, the symptoms had disappeared, and I went on to have a successful life with my new job, my marriage, and new friends I was developing at church and work. I hated the job, though—my emotions stayed on a rollercoaster in dealing with all the illness and death that surrounded the people I served. I knew all the symptoms of every disease that would kill you graveyard dead, from exotic cancers to bizarre AIDS manifestations.
This job was my first exposure to mentally ill people. With the same kind of protective shell developed by doctors and cops, people in my agency traded stories of wacky symptoms and dysfunctional lives among our clients with each other. I discovered that almost all the teen thugs in the metro area had histories with our agency; I would look up their names in our database after they came out in the paper. I had one early client close all our conversations with “I love you, Mrs. Whitehead.” I had clients arrested for murder, prostitution, and drug dealing while their cases were active. We had people deluded enough to think the CIA was after them. I dealt with some psychopathic kids. And I discovered that clients with more than three marriages typically were diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
I read up on mental illnesses, especially mood disorders. I knew by now I was prone to depression and wanted to find out more about it. The more I read, the more some of the cases sounded like me. But I was on an even keel at this point in my life, and I didn’t worry too much about my abilities to do my job and to keep up with my busy life.