Shortly before my hospitalization for a mixed state came the 2004 election. I crashed and crashed hard after the results. Politics is a fascination of mine but obsessing about it is not my friend. When my expectations are high as they were in 2004 and the hope I feel is unrealized, I take it very hard. The mix of anger and disappointment plus certain medications I was taking for depression at the time pumped me up into a mixed state. One day, when I had enough of it and of other life issues, I texted my last will and testament to my wife and sat down on a log to study my veins for the right place to cut. A timely phone call from my psychiatrist saved me.
The 2004 election was cordial compared to what has happened since 2008. Elements on both side but especially the right have been whipped into a frenzy by their respective leaders. We hear stories of blatant racism and sexism, two faults that have been hidden until the recent elections. We see them not only in the political arena but also in the news media and on the streets of our cities. Some such as Fox News are instigating their viewers to greater and greater heights of denial and fear while others just give the demagogues air time by covering them without comment. We see black men strangled or shot dead with no justice leveled against their killers. And respect for the police — even the good cops — sinks lower and lower.
These same haters have declared a culture war, but some have also declared war on psychiatry. Alex Jones, for example, tells his followers not to go to psychiatrists or take their children to one. This suggests that he knows all too well that his variety of agitation depends on keeping at least some of his followers sick. And do not forget that lack of insight is a common symptom of bipolar mania. I have witnessed people Right and Left who I suspect need to be on medication but remain in denial. I know that I tweeted constantly during the 2014 election and either lost or was muted by several Facebook friends who grew tired of my relentless political diatribes. The irony is that I foreswore such activity. It consumed me anyway.
At the same time, we see funding for treating mental illness cut. There are fewer beds in hospitals. The community clinics that were promised in the 60s, 70s, and 80s never materialized in many places. Many of my fellow sufferers do not vote because they see all candidates as being alike in their heartlessness or simply apathetic on these issues. Others rage and rage.
What does one do in such an America, an America of violence, alienation, and stigma? I have chosen to cut my consumption of the news, focusing on science and psychology instead. My photos of peaceful landscapes offer me another escape. But is this isolation from issues which affect my life as a bipolar good for me? It’s a razor’s edge on which I find myself sitting. I remember too well how I spiraled out of control in 2005. And I do not want to go back there. But the things I describe cannot be allowed to persist because they trigger and they numb us with despair.
To the sane I ask that you consider the effects of what is happening in your country today and speak to silence it. Ask for moderate voices and no platforms for the misanthropes who have seized control of politics and the media. End the polarization that cleaves us from our neighbors and even family members. Seek an end to unregulated police violence and support justice and safety for the police officer who try every day they set out on the beat to do the right thing. Reclaim America from the racists, the sexists, and the extremists of all natures.
You will save people like me from crushing triggers.