Judging, Ah, Me

John McManamy Health Guide
  • “I am ashamed to admit this …”

    Those words just popped out. What I had to say next wasn’t so easy: “This is the first time I’ve ever used my illness as an excuse.”

    No one volunteers to serve as a juror. We all have better things to do. I know I could have gotten a note from my psychiatrist, but I’m not wired that way. If we want to be treated with respect we can’t expect to be pampered. Accommodated, yes. Pampered, no. There’s a huge difference.

    One day, two, three or four – it wouldn’t amount to undue hardship. I could hold it together that long. Then I walked into the courtroom with the rest of my panel and panic set in. At one of the counsel tables sat two defendants and two attorneys. I’d watched enough episodes of Law and Order to know what that meant. Sure enough, the presiding judge confirmed it: A long trial, four to five weeks.
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    Five weeks! Five weeks of adhering to a rigid schedule dictated by others, of sitting in a room with no natural light, not able to stretch, walk, take a breather. Five weeks of sitting, just sitting.

    Just sitting – the easiest task in the world for most of the population. But try doing it with my brain. There in the back of the courtroom, surrounded by other would-be jurors, I wanted to bury my face in my hands and cry. I wasn’t like the others in the room. For them five weeks of fulfilling one’s civic duty was a major inconvenience and perhaps a personal hardship. Nothing more. For me, it was life-threatening. A melt-down was a virtual certainty.

    But I needed to save face. I was proud of the fact that, despite my illness, I’m the proprietor of a home-based business. But five weeks away would spell financial ruin. Surely, the judge would understand that. He would learn about my broken brain only after I handed him my business card. Then the words popped out.

    Fortunately, I didn’t have to say much more. “I’m familiar with bipolar disorder,” he told me. “You’re excused. You’re doing excellent work.”

    Bless him, I thought as a flood of relief overtook me. Bless him.

Published On: April 06, 2006