When I suggested Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. resign his elected seat in the House, I meant no disparagement of the congressman's ability to perform his public duties. I was simply sticking my nose into his very personal private recovery. I think the man should be allowed to regain his footing without the added attention one gets when churning out press r
eleases is part of the job.
It must be especially galling for his recently defeated primary opponent, and his political party, that due to his well-publicized treatment, his seat may be unjustly reassigned the old-fashioned way this November. But getting voted out of office could be the best recourse for his sanity.
To be clear, I have little doubt he can more than adequately do his job for the people in his district. I believe Jackson, despite his illness, is quite qualified to continue.
The office of one disabled and frankly mentally declining Democratic senator who continued to get re-elected by his state when I worked on another senator’s staff in the early 1990’s was run so ably by his administrative assistant that all he had to do to represent his constituency was be wheeled onto the floor to vote. He sometimes asked my boss whether to yay or nay.
Nor do I have any quarrel with employing the mentally unhealthy. I count myself among them. I think most of us succumb to some emotionally destabilizing periods now and then, particularly when we have a lot of pressure or trauma in our work or personal life. Without Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, Lexapro and Valium a lot of high functioning stress cases in the Capitol’s well-represented professions of reporters, politicians, lawyers would be off the street.
To fully disclose, I take several medications daily to manage my symptoms – and occasionally “self medicate” as well. Among my various DSM approved symptoms (fueled by “chemical imbalance”) are guilt over selfishness and inauthenticity, leading to anxiety and depression. (My son recently pointed out the difference this way “depression is regret for your past, and anxiety is dread of your future.”)
I am in substantial company. Annual sales for mood enhancing SSRI and SNRI prescriptions in the U.S. total $12 billion to
treat 30 million Americans.
We all have indications of some kind of disorder or another from time to time – and many of us struggle with them our entire lives.
I’ll leave it to sociologists to figure out how we have gotten so messed up as a civilization. But I know I’ll work on my personal pathology until I die -- mostly in private and with a psychotherapist when I can swing it.
Which brings me back to Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. To serve the public, he must live in public. We all give up a lot of privacy these days but with marriage missteps and weight fluctuations, not to mention the namesake issues, Jackson has given up more than most.
He has for now temporarily taken himself out of the public eye, but Nosy Parkers like me, and the always enthusiastic Chicago press corps, cannot politely look away from his health problems when he is also a news item. In the meantime, I wish him and his family only the best.
Bonnie Goldstein is on Twitter @KickedByAnAngel