We all know the origins of the phrase “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”. The story goes, a wolf decides to dress up as a sheep to get closer to its prey without being noticed by the herder. Every time the sheep herder leaves, the wolf eats the sheep. The wolf’s plan backfires when there are no more sheep left and the herder discovers the wolf and kills it for dinner. In today’s society, the phrase is commonly related to deceitful individuals who mimic their target in order to get in close proximity and attack at the first available opportunity. This can not only be applied to physical people, but to mental illnesses as well.

People with mental illnesses are especially susceptible to the misdeeds and machinations of the predators on-line. Even though I am careful and have so called protection with a software company but really have no faith in it any longer for obvious reasons. I recently fell prey to an on-line scam which caused me to close many accounts including my bank account. It is going to take some time to get things straightened out. I feel like an idiot and I am sure so do thousands of others who also fall prey.

Mental illnesses come in many forms and they hide behind the faces of several. They take on the shape of a relative, mother, father, loved one, close friend, neighbor, or public figure. They try to blend in with the crowds to avoid detection. They disguise themselves with a fake smile and forced laughs among friends and family. They deflect inquisitive minds with the phrase “I’m fine” to avoid giving away their true identities. As symptoms become more frequent and severe, it becomes harder and harder to mask themselves beneath the human surface. Mental illnesses can only hold up their ruse for so long before their actions reveal their true nature. Hyperactivity, impulsive, overwhelming anxiety, social deficiencies, unstable and dramatic mood swings, poor self-image, and irrational or suicidal thoughts are all signs of mental illness. When made aware of these signs, it becomes easier to seek out the illness before it can attack and cause harm to others. Soon, the mental illness is exposed and subdued like the wolf in the story.

The predators sometimes gain your trust, intimidate, and persuade you to let them help you fix your computer issues when really all they are doing is gathering more information under the guise of helping you and assuring they are there to help. My first call when my computer was hacked was to call Microsoft and that’s what I did. It all went to hell after that. They are trained scammers and know exactly what to say. Calm down, get a drink of water and so on. Taking over my computer for over 2 hours and demanding $500 before they will continue to “fix” the problem.

Fortunately my instincts kicked in and I contacted my bank and other credit card companies to protect what I could. Although I had to close my bank account and other accounts, they didn’t get a cent. I don’t know what other damage has been done. They accused me of seeking out porn sites and saying that was the problem. Well I have never been to a porn site so I don’t know how that information was revealed. What a mess it has been for the last two days and several more to come.

Unlike the wolf, who used fake wool to disguise itself as a sheep; mental illnesses reside underneath the layers of the human skin. Living with a mental illness is exhausting, stressful, and traumatizing. You feel like you’re always sharing your brain with someone else and you never have full control over your thoughts and actions. It’s like having a roommate in an one bedroom apartment and everyday, y’all fight over who gets to sleep in the bedroom tonight. Someone you’re always fighting with to regain control. You think you look great in that dress, but your mind thinks you should go throw up your lunch before trying it on. You know the door is closed, but your mind thinks it needs to be closed 7 more times just to be sure. You got a lot of congratulations on your project, but your mind thinks they are lying to your face and you actually bombed it. Like the flick of a switch, your thoughts go from rational to irrational and it’s such a struggle to turn that switch back on. I know it’s a switch because I feel like I’m blacking out when I’m about to have a depressive episode. My vision starts to get darker, followed by my mood decreasing. All plans I had for the day suddenly change to wanting to lay in bed, stuck between not having enough interest in doing anything and not being tired enough to go to sleep. The durations vary in time and sometimes I’m able to catch and redirect them before they get settled. Many are not so lucky and feel helpless and trapped as the darkness floods over them.

In the end, the wolf’s plan backfired and the wolf paid the fatal penalty. Just like the wolf’s demise, many mental illnesses are treatable, preventing them from causing further pain and suffering to those affected. It’s very important to be aware of those around you and to look for warning signs. They may be nonverbal and may not bring attention to themselves, but you never know what someone could be going through on the inside. You could possibly save a life if you detect the “wolf” before it’s too late.

I was assured by my bank that this happens all the time, unfortunately. I provided all the information I could about the people I spoke with (that weren’t actually with Microsoft.) Protect yourself as best you can because those scammers are there 24/7 just waiting to attack again.

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