Problems at the DPS

So, in case you didn’t know, I live in Texas. It’s a great state, a state that people don’t mess with. Get it??? “Don’t mess with Texas!”

Anyhow, I recently moved, to Abilene, a nice town, and so far I like it. I’ve been driving around town to find out where everything is, so that, when I need something, I know how to get there. So, I was out, looking at things, and thought “I need to change my address on my license.” I drove around until I found the DPS. Well, they moved the licensing part to the other side of town. Drive around some more, and finally I find the place. Now, let me tell you, I don’t like waiting with a bunch of people. Crowds like that make me nervous. Anyhow, so I quietly ask the lady at the desk what I need to change my address, and she tells me that I just need my license (it’s been a while since I’ve had to make a trip to get my license, so I couldn’t remember what I needed.) I give the lady my license and she looks at me and simply tells me that my license expires on my birthday next year. Duh, I knew that. What I didn’t realize was that it was so close. She tells me that I can go ahead and renew my license, for $25 of course. She gives me the paper to fill out and I go sit down to start working on it.

Looking at it, no big deal. The questions are simple, just my name and address, basic contact information. No big deal. Then, of course, it asks, do you want to register to vote? Yes. Do you want to donate your organs? Yes. Do you want to donate to this charity? No. Do you want to donate to this other charity? No. Then comes the kicker! Question 11. In the past two years, have you been hospitalized or sought treatment for a psychiatric disorder? Now, in my head, I’m thinking…”Well, that’s odd…But I remember someone saying something about it before when I was in Ft. Worth. No big deal, I’m not ashamed of what I am.” So, I check yes, I have been hospitalized and/or sought treatment for a psychiatric disorder.

Finally, they call my number. I go up to the desk, give them my paper, and the girl starts typing. She asks me what I few things are, because my penmanship can sometimes be hard to read, and I answer her questions. Then, she gets to question 11. She looks at me and asks what I have… A little too personal, I think, but since there’s no shame here, I answer “Bipolar disorder”. No big deal. Then, she turns and grabs another sheet of paper. She hands it to me and tells me to fill it out. And on this special paper, there are in depth questions, that I really don’t think are the state’s business.

This paper asks questions like: When were you hospitalized. What is your disorder? When were you diagnosed? When was your first treatment? When was your last treatment? And there were a few others that I can’t honestly remember. So…I fill the paper out, and hand it back to her. In a whisper, she asks “How long were you hospitalized?” Having looked at the back of the paper when she turned it over, I knew that I was getting into some trouble. Why? Because the form on the back asks something along the lines of people being in voluntarily hospitalized, there were some special instructions. I told her a week, back in 2013, and it was voluntary. She writes down that it was for a week, that it was for a bipolar episode, but she doesn’t put anything about it being voluntary.

Now, I’m getting worried. She’s quietly writing away, flipping the page over and over again. She looks at me, grabs this pink piece of paper and asks me to fill it out. That’s when she informs me that I will need to take a driving test before I can renew. Really? I’ve never taken a driving test. When I took driver’s education, I opted out of the driving test because the thought of driving with a policeman frightened me and I knew that I would fail. So I’ve never taken one. When I questioned her about why I would have to take one, she simply said that the State of Texas requires all drivers that have been hospitalized in the last year to take a driving test before renewal of their license. There was no other explanation or further expansion on the matter, that’s just how it is. She schedules me a driving test for tomorrow, and I’m to be there by 8:15.

By now, I’m infuriated. I don’t understand why the state thinks that just because I’m bipolar that I can’t drive a car. I could understand, maybe, if I had something that had more psychotic episodes, or if I was disassociating at the time or something. But the state is saying that I can’t drive my car without being reviewed. That doesn’t make sense to me. Of course, I don’t yell at the lady, it’s not her fault. I walk out calmly, but when I get to my car, I get mad.

I go to start my car and it doesn’t start. So, on top of being mad that I couldn’t just renew my license and move on, my car won’t start. This is just great. Long story short, the car does finally start and I go home.

I started looking at it online. Texas isn’t the only state that does this. Other states make you disclose your disorders when you apply for a new or renew a license. And, some times, they deny people their license! They have to go before the Texas Medical Advisory Board in Austin before they can get their license, and I’m thinking that they deny some people anyhow.

People have been upset about this, so I’m glad that it’s not just me. The Houston Chronicle¬†reported on it. They did some research ( I think they just stood outside a DPS and talked to people coming out) and people were not happy about it. Some people with disorders hid the fact that they had them. But there can be charges if you lie, because, let’s face it, your application is a legal document that you have to sign stating that everything on that paper is correct. “Texas applications carry a warning that failure to tell the truth could result in criminal charges, jail and a fine of up to $4,000, but officials suspect many people just lie.” – Houston Chronicle.

My thing is, if we are constantly fighting the stigma of mental illness, and we’re fighting ourselves, why do we need the state to come in and say that we can’t drive. My bipolar disorder does NOT hinder my ability to drive. My PTSD does not hinder my ability to drive. My BPD doesn’t hinder my ability to drive. I’m a decent driver, I’ve only had one accident and it wasn’t even my fault.

People can fire back saying that people with psychiatric disorders shouldn’t be allowed to drive because a car can be used as a deadly weapon. Just like gun regulations, you need to be of fit mind to get one, why not with a license to drive. Here’s the thing, I’m not going to be using my car to kill anyone. I don’t need a gun. Don’t step on me just because I’m bipolar. I will never join the military, I will never have a license to carry. But I need my car so I can get to work, and to the store, and so on and so forth. I need my car, and just because I have a psychiatric disorder, and have been hospitalized in the past, doesn’t mean that I’m a menace to society that doesn’t need to drive.

I think that this is going too far. I don’t think it’s the state’s business to know that my head isn’t on quite straight! I think that this is a breach of privacy. But that’s just one girl’s opinion.

So, I have a driving test tomorrow…And I guess we’ll be seeing if I’m allowed to drive after it.

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About Preslee

I am diagnosed with Bipolar 2 Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Panic and Anxiety disorders, and PTSD. I write about my own personal experiences and thoughts.

Posted on November 5, 2014, in Life, Mental Health and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I, too, have been subjected to the fine treatment of the Texas license renewal system for disclosing that I have a bipolar condition.
    Before having my license expire, I was told that I couldn’t renew by mail because this was my first renewal. So I went in, as required, and filled out the appropriate paperwork. One of the questions was if I had ever been treated for a bipolar condition. I truthfully answered yes. I was then told that I would have to retake the written and driving tests before I could get a new license.
    I asked why. I was told that all people with bipolar diagnosis had to retake the tests for their first renewal. I replied that I was a bipolar depressive and the requirement didn’t seem to make much sense.
    Since there are 6 sub-diagnosis for bipolar, that I’m aware of, I could understand the reasoning for some those requiring attention; delusional, psychotic, schizophrenic, … I fail to understand how being depressed means that I am a potential problem on the road. A depressive doesn’t have to be bipolar, after all. We don’t worry about them on the road? I was told that it didn’t matter what kind of bipolar I was, all bipolar people have to retake the tests.
    Doctors already have to consider and determine the well being of all when treating their patients. An employer, a life or medical insurance carrier, voter registrar, credit lenders, etc. would never be able to get by with this level of invasion or restrictive practice bas ed solely on a medical condition.

    Now, according to the information I was given, this will be the only time that I will be subjected to this treatment. Somehow, I have my doubts. Just what will happen when it comes time to renew it the next time?

    • I was told that a lot of people lie, which makes sense now. I had to get clearance from the medical board to prove that I was safe to drive and that was AFTER I passed the driving test. I can understand why disclosing that information can be harmful. If asked again, I won’t be answering honestly.

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