I Need Your Help

November 25, 2012

Dear Reader:

After posting my last piece about Jesse Jackson, Jr. I had a really bad case of Bloggers regret.  Not for what I said, not for how I said it.  I regretted posting it here, on this blog because I don’t think Blog Readers visiting my blog expect to see a political opinion piece, much less one with vitriolic language condemning our former congressional representative’s relinquishing of his seat.

So I’m asking your help.  Would you please look at the poll and answer its question?  Your anonymous answer will assist me a great deal and provide you with post-content you expect to see on Becoming not Became.

Thank you in advance.

 

T.M. Mulligan

 

 

(Ex-Representative) Jesse Jackson, Jr.: Denouement

Hoodwinked?  A definite possibility.  Bamboozled?  Most likely.  Hornswoggled?  Should be considered.

Whatever you want to call it, Mr. Jackson Jr. disappeared six months ago; five months ago Mrs. Jackson Jr. read a prepared statement which delicately described Mr. Jackson Jr.’s sudden absence without divulging the root cause.  Mrs. Jackson’s calculated disclosure purposefully neglected any explanation of Mr. Jackson’s bizarre journey from Washington, D.C. to an addiction retreat in Arizona and finally his willful confinement at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.  Someone with considerable influence strongly urged Mr. Jackson to depart Washington, D.C. without a peep and bee-line himself to the addiction retreat in Arizona.  Certain accounts told of Mr. Jackson reaching out to Reverend Jackson who, it was said, immediately went to aid his son.  Upon arrival Rev. Jackson described Mr. Jackson’s condition as serious: weight-loss, insomnia, restlessness, hopelessness, fatigue, and a general feeling of depression.

When I presented very similar symptoms at the pinnacle of my ascension to mania, I was strongly advised to immediately be evaluated by a psychiatrist in order to determine if I was clinically depressed.  Were my self-medicating behaviors indicative of a substance addiction?  Certainly, especially if that’s what you’re looking for.  But a member of Congress with the best health insurance in the country?  Did he seek an evaluation from a psychiatrist in Washington? Is it likely that a psychiatrist prescribed an addiction treatment facility in Arizona while ignoring Walter Reed Army Medical Center or the Psychiatric Institute of Washington?  Doubtful.  Are we to believe that no one in Mr. Jackson’s inner circle was curious as to what other illnesses might Mr. Jackson be suffering when presenting his specific symptoms?

I must admit that a fair percent of public comments insinuate that timing for political gains has been, from the very start, the predominant focus.  His alcohol addiction (reason for in-patient treatment at an Arizona Rehab Center), bipolar diagnosis (reason for his transfer to the Mayo Clinic), and clandestine exodus from Washington (to protect his privacy while en route) is, to his discredit, a shrewd, calculated, and well-executed chain-of-events whose purpose, Mr. Jackson’s representatives said, was to seek the best treatment centers for his addiction and subsequent bipolar diagnosis.  One month passed before Mr. Jackson’s representatives confirmed he was at a HIPAA protected treatment facility.  Then he was transferred to the HIPAA protected Mayo Clinic.  Then he ran for re-election without a campaign: no appearances, no advertising, no lawn signs.  And he won 64% of the vote!  Finally, six months after his twilight departure from Washington, the requested and ultimately expected communiqué was delivered to House Speaker Mr. Boehner in a two-page letter of resignation citing health issues and a federal investigation.

And that’s it.

But. . .if he has an addiction and suffers from bipolar disorder, then his timing couldn’t be worse for his career and the reputation of his family.  But then again. . .if it was all a ruse to buy time and strategize his reaction to the upcoming federal indictments, then his actions were dishonest, cowardly, and ignorantly insensitive and offensive to those of us who struggle with mental illness on a daily basis.  But what if. . .he is an addict and bipolar and anticipating federal indictments?  It’s difficult, even for me who defended him on this very blog, to be sympathetic.  After all, he’s a crooked politician who stole tens of thousands of tax-payers money for personal gain, who then fled under the guise of addiction and mental illness to protected locations for six months, abandoning his job, his constituents, and those who voted for him, in order to clean his own house and strategize his legal response and perhaps a plea bargain.  Oh, and he’s an addict and suffers from bipolar disorder.

Well Mr. Jackson, I suffer from bipolar disorder and face that fact every single day head on. . .I don’t hide behind it. . .and I certainly don’t break the law and then use my mental illness to garner sympathy.

Truth is Mr. Jackson, you’re a coward, a liar, and a thief.  The Illinois politician’s trifecta!

On Compassion

Compassion is not yours to keep but to give away again and again and again.
If you keep compassion to yourself like a precious object, your compassion will rot, turn bitter, inducing guilt followed by resentment expressed by anger.
Everyone should pray that they die with pockets empty of compassion for then they’ll know eternity:
for compassion is but a seed you sow, and the greatest part of yourself now lives with many others.

— Anonymous

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow. . .

“Seize the day, and put the least possible trust in tomorrow.”  – Horace

When the cease-fire had been successfully negotiated between my bombarded sanity and the merciless encroachment by mania across my poorly fortified borders, I had some time to exit the bunker of my psychiatrists office and assess the destruction caused by my determination to stave off lunacy.  The bipolar assault started with quiet discussions between my moral compass and my livelihood; I deplored my employment and the sanctions forced upon me; I despised their leadership; I spoke out against unfair wage practices.  But surrender wasn’t discussed as I was shouldering the burden of lifestyle and there was a tremendous expectation to avoid austerity measures at all costs.

“No one can confidently say that he will be living tomorrow.”  – Euripides

But as negotiations between sanity and lunacy stalled, my need for stability extinguished every extraneous characteristic strategically in order to sustain a devoted and appeased veneer.  My daily performances of a stable and sanguine employee collapsed the moment I closed my office door.  Obviously, I used to say to myself, you built your house on stilts on a steep slope overlooking a rain forest.  It’s already started to happen, the slipping, the subtle shifting of supports witnessed by numerous cracks, and one day the view will swallow your self-inflated invincibility.  I knew it was on the march, my insight gained by a nightly ritual of alcohol, opiates, and barbiturates; stilts if you will; I tried to shore them up by ingesting higher dosages knowing that an overdose was more likely than a possibility.  But then, at least, the conflict would end, not by a victor, but by a dual annihilation.

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”  – Abraham Lincoln

It took less than a month before all negotiations broke down; compromise was impossible; mania demanded that sanity unconditionally surrender immediately.  If sanity stonewalled mania would easily breach the helpless border of sanity and annihilate any vestige of reality.  Mania would speedily dispatch all disenfranchised defiance and finally overthrow sanity’s ruling party.  The occupation by an uncontrolled mania took its toll; defy authority; recent stronghold of relationships humiliated then abandoned in an irreconcilable ruin; mania marched through memory, abducting the defenseless past and drained its meaning as a form of promiscuous entertainment.  Mania’s presence transfigured my identity into a mutation; my anatomy remained intact; it was my mental state which sustained permanent damage.

“The crisis of yesterday is the joke of tomorrow.”  – H.G. Wells

Eventually mania’s corruption, lawlessness, and influential overlords devolved into civil war, fracturing mania’s resistance to the significant bombardment of sanity’s allies.  Continued sorties by way of medications, therapy, and education combined with mania’s faltering infrastructure caused their retreat.  Sanity returned and started the intense clean-up, but some things were destroyed beyond repair; some relationships were so disfigured that it was impossible to identify the missing parties; the financial sector had been sacked, sucked bone dry, leaving sanity buried under a mountain of unsecured debt which was nearly impossible to pay.  But the most significant consequence of mania’s occupation was the destruction of sanity’s history; it’s legends, it’s memories, it’s priceless, irreplaceable moments of time’s memory known as the past.  And tomorrow simply vanished along with hope, their whereabouts unknown, disassociated fragments remain, but I’ve decided that tomorrow and hope were victims of mania’s collateral damage.

“What is not started today is never finished tomorrow.”  – Goethe

It’s been four years since the siege.  I’m hardly the vibrant, entertaining, and social personality I was before the conflict.  I’m anxious at the slightest hint of crowds; I can’t tolerate aggression or hurtful behaviors (from people, dogs, television) and must remove myself immediately; my pharmaceutical therapy is a misnomer and leaves me as focused as a puppy on his first day of obedience training.  And I’ve had to forget that today will become yesterday because for me there is no yesterday; in an abstract sense, yes, I understand that there is yesterday but it and most of what it contained is lost to me.  So I practice forgetting that yesterday holds any value.  And tomorrow?  For me there is no tomorrow.  Again in an abstract sense, yes, I understand, but now I’m driven to finish everything today because I can’t think about tomorrow.

Living in the present is a spiritual lesson and if practiced can lead to enlightenment.  But that only applies to those fortunate enough to enjoy the freedom of choice.

My living in the present is just one more day absent of the bookends of time. Every day is always today.

“Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it.”  – Lucy Maud Montgomery

 

Waking Is A Cruel Reminder

Daybreak brings a lethargic admission of perjury; or one of those dawdling, cursory, and out of earshot suspicions of yesterday: yet today’s yesterday sidesteps its propriety of disappearance; it haunts my waking like the abstract restlessness of a paradoxical child contesting its own afternoon drowsiness; both the scrappy child and the cantankerous yesterday will eventually accede to time’s quiet erosion of callow resistance and release their hold on the buoy of existence and sink heavily into their rightful place like a puzzle piece.

It’s called “Daybreak” for a reason. In my case it should be called “Every-Day-Breaks.”

Romanticizing Madness

I’ve noticed recently a spate of blogs and websites declaring which famous people are bipolar (please visit: (http://pinterest.com/bipolarbandit/famous-people-with-bipolar-disorder/).  This identification of plausible personalities is a definite indication of social change.  To see familiar faces, icons, sport legends, entertainment moguls, and just plain “they’ve-got-it-too” types provides a sense of belonging to a community-at-large which includes not just me, or members of my support groups, but people whose face is undeniably recognizable and never dreamed that they, too, face the same challenges I face.  And there’s a degree of comfort in that.  Secondly, it begins to slowly tear apart the prejudice and educate the ignorant not necessarily about mental illness, but that anyone, their favorite hockey player, their dreamboat actor or actress, their business executive role model, can and do live with mental illness.

This identification is the initial crack in the shell of shame and stigma.  And we (people living with mental illness) didn’t invent the tactic.  For instance, a similar identification of the famous and powerful occurred during the homosexual march toward acceptance and respect.  The exposure of the public’s least likely to be or to have is one step closer to the day when ordinary patients living with a mental illness can disclose their disorder free from the fear of isolation, castigation, or retaliation by pointing to the recently exposed successful, popular, and famous comrades-in-madness.  This identification of recognizable personalities borders on the romanticizing of madness which isn’t that dissimilar to the mid 90’s trend to have a gay friend.

I can testify to the similarities because I’m gay and I’m bipolar and I voluntarily disclose these two details with the same degree of importance as when I confess that I microwave my ice-cream or that I prefer medium starch on my dress shirts.

In the homosexual world your voluntary disclosure is commonly referred to as “coming out (of the closet).” The expression “coming out” was introduced to the gay lexicon first in the 20th century and has permeated the American lexicon during the late 21st century.  “Coming out” was seen as an introduction into the clandestine gay subculture and compared to a débutante’s coming out party.  Today “coming out” is less likely a party and more likely an uncomfortable incident, like soiling your pants in public or getting arrested for peddling questionable pornography.  Their concern is how the homosexual lifestyle will impact them (that is, the collective “them”) and are notorious for their absence of empathy or support.  Some abandon; some think its a phase; some deny; some cover their ears; and some (like my mother) invoked the bigotry of my dead father and wept when she looked at me.  And then there are others — embracing and supportive listeners; honored to have been told; and a few see the courage and witness the honesty and reverse their ill-informed ideas that homosexuality is Satan’s playground.

In 1952 the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a sociopathic personality disorder in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) .  In 1969 a week-long gay uprising in New York City started by a police raid in a Mafia owned bar called The Stonewall Inn started the gay movement toward equality.  In 1973 homosexuality was officially removed from the DSM and was no longer considered a psychiatric disorder.


Remaining quiet, covert, dishonest, and shameful simply reinforced the commonly held belief that there was something wrong with homosexuality.  As early as the mid-19th century German’s were advocating the public admission by men and women of their homosexuality as a form of emancipation.  It took another century and countless victims of bigotry, hatred, and ignorance before homosexuals coalesced into a unified voice demanding that the social stigma of being a homosexual be eliminated.  It’s taken another 40 years before more than fifty percent of all American’s believe that gays and lesbians should have the same right to marry as heterosexuals.

I believe that there are great similarities between the long and painful trailblazing required to achieve acceptance of homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle and the eradication of the social stigma people living with mental illness experience on a daily basis.  Both groups perpetuated their own discrimination by remaining silent as society tortured, oppressed, and determined that it (homosexuality or mental illness) was an abomination which must be isolated, subjected to brutal and inhumane treatments, or permanently removed.  The gay rights movement was sparked by one drag queen who was determined that she would not tolerate brutality at the hands of the police simply because she was homosexual.  Her defiance was her voice and her protest was her high-heeled shoe parried in the face of her tormentors.

Will it be your voice that’s louder than the others?  Will it be your courage that’s Tweeted around the world?  Will you be the one that’s still mentioned fifty years later as the voice which shouted, “this is the last straw!

Which it was.

All thanks to you.

Smack Dab In The Middle Of Nowhere: Ah, Perfect!

Last weekend we packed practically half of our possessions (well, it sure felt that way) and went out-of-town for a two-day furlough from life’s daily grind.  We travelled south from Chicago and around the tail end of Lake Michigan to the eastern shore and small, polka-dot-like towns of Southwest Michigan known as Harbor Country.  These bucolic villages sprung to life during the mid-eighteen hundreds as either orchard or timber towns.  After Chicago (due west across Lake Michigan) was destroyed by fire, it was petitioning timber companies from Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan to deliver as much timber as fast as they could to rebuild Chicago.  A number of towns from this region answered the call.

(On a side note: Much of what is today Chicago’s Grant Park (to the south of our world-class Millennium Park (completed 4 years late (2004) and (hoo-boy) $325 million over-budget)) is built on debris from the fire.  Local officials opted to dump the relatively small amount of rubble into convenient Lake Michigan).

Southwestern Michigan saw Stevensville and Benton Harbor being settled as orchard towns and still retain prominence for their peaches, blueberries, and wine-grapes; Union Pier and Three Oaks hit their stride as major logging centers for Chicago’s restoration.  However, once the forests were dismembered Union Pier relied on a small but consistent tourist industry for Chicago residents while Three Oaks turned to agriculture (mainly fruit orchards).  Other small whistle-stops took hold along miles of unobstructed beaches and sand dunes as summer retreats.  Union Pier was affectionately known as the Catskills of the Midwest and, like many of its nearby towns enjoyed an annual easterly migration of Chicagoans desperately seeking the serenity of rural retreats less than ninety minutes from the city.

That is until the 1950’s when tourism began to wane as Chicagoans discovered their northerly neighbor, Wisconsin was flecked by inland lakes upon which one could raise simple three-season cottages, retirement retreats, even mansions.  And a mere seven-hour drive from Chicago is Wisconsin’s famous peninsula known as Door County.  Comprised of small towns and hamlets dotting both the eastern shore abutting Lake Michigan and the western shore adjoining Green Bay, it compares easily to Delaware’s Rehoboth Beach, Boston’s Martha’s Vineyard, and New York’s Fire Island.

For thirty years visual artists slowly discovered Southwestern Michigan’s slow pace, abundant properties, and speedy access to Chicago.  Over the years the area has become an established center of professional artists and independently owned road-side galleries offering a variegated degree of original art.  But then, in the mid-eighties, gentrification began its blight on these drowsy little towns as over-stressed and over-worked professionals sought a destination closer to home than Wisconsin’s offerings; a location with an aging and troubled economy; a place where you could buy a house, some land, and a night sky chock-full of stars for a fraction of what you’d pay in Illinois or Wisconsin.  And what made these Harbor Country towns so appealing?  Poor economic conditions: They looked and felt pretty much the way they did in the fifties when they’d been abandoned by Chicagoans the first time.

And so they came, prosperous couples with new families gobbled up properties like Romans marching across Europe.  The lakefront corridor was by far most desirable, especially the west (lake) side where modest stone bungalows with beach rights might fetch as much as seven figures.  The march continued both north toward Benton Harbor and west, leap-frogging the Red Arrow Highway, and slowing its pace at the eastern most fringe of Three Oaks.  By 2000 the narrow lanes, over-built lots, and idyllic, provincial, and simple character of these sleepy hometowns were scuttled by the import of urbanized behaviors and expectations.  Rather than fleeing the unyielding stress of city life for a long-weekend of birdsong, hammock-naps, and tall tales around a blazing fire, these transplants smuggled stress, brash voices, and booming stereos across state lines, and piled their city lives one-on-top-the-other, until their retreat disappeared, and their urban maladies doubled because now, not only were they experiencing the exact situations from which they fled, they were stuck in a tiny, Hicksville town, that oh m’god! couldn’t draw a shot of espresso, much less support a Starbuck’s!

Except for Frank’s.  Our longtime friend found a small, modest home built of cinder block overlooking a field of corn and backed-up against a steep ravine hidden by a dense thicket and impassable brambles.  It had been home to a family of four until the kids left and, luckily for Frank, so did the parents.  The small and unassuming house and garage was overcast by Hemlock and Juniper pines which splayed out in all directions like the bloom of a peacock’s tail.  Frank has an uncanny creative quirk: he can look at a common object and by deconstructing it in his mind, he imagines its parts which he then assembles into a completely new object.  In this bashful home which dutifully sheltered a self-effacing and respectable generation Frank saw a discreet refuge, and a distanced and disconnected property a few inland miles due west of the shore communities whose infrastructure narrowly supports the torrent of weekenders and the subsequent bottlenecks (roads, shops, restaurants).  Frank prudently purchased the property and created a master plan which included landscaping: pruning the pines, planting native fruit trees, installing a 2,500 gallon koi pond and waterfall, indigenous gardens, fire pit, and outdoor sculpture; upgrading the utilities in the house; and the most innovative change: repurposing the two-car garage into a modern three-bedroom guest house complete with a full kitchen, fireplace, vaulted ceilings and scores of windows which flood the rooms with sunlight and the achievement of privacy, serenity, and timelessness; the very qualities desperately sought by other Chicagoans who impulsively bought homes in the favored townships on the popular lanes only to discover that their little resort town had overdeveloped into the Lilliputian version of Chicago.

Sans, oh m’god! A half-caf double-foam skinny extra hot latte with three pumps of caramel!  Which, by-the-way, Frank concocts (simply espresso, sugar cube, and twist of lemon) using an original, aluminum-bodied, Bialetti stove-top espresso maker.

That Frank, he’s simply an innovator and an inspiration to everyone who’s ever really gotten out of the city and into the real Harbor Country, his retreat in the middle of nowhere, which is precisely where we urbanites yearn to be. 

Thanks, Frank.