Today I celebrate seven days without alcohol. OK, not entirely without alcohol: I drank an Italian soda that Kayleen made with a shot of Chambord. My abstinence is due not to any recognizable drinking problem, nor to a flare-up of gastritis, but to alcohol's incompatibility with my new medication regimen.
The Next Thing
Last fall, I indicated in an entry here (sorry, can't find it) that my mental state was not suitable for a political candidacy in 2018. I may have even hinted that my particular issue is depression, sometimes accompanied by anxiety. Mine is not the sort of debilitating depression that I've seen friends and family members suffer; I still get through my day with all its obligations. But there I times when I'd rather just curl up in a ball and die than face The Next Thing.
The Next Thing can be any task of any size: e.g., making and eating breakfast, filing a tax return, shopping for gifts, getting my shit together for a weekend camping trip, or even posting on this blog.
Or getting myself to a doctor.
She gave me that referral, along with some prescriptions. I haven't earnestly sought out a psychiatrist yet: I did call Legacy Clinic last week to connect with the practitioner who helped me four years ago, but as the time spent on hold approached infinity, I gave up.
In the meantime, I have been fairly disciplined about taking my Wellbutrin, which I refer to as my "lavender supplements," each morning and evening. That was the particular medication that I agreed to try, after disappointing experiences I've had with others. (Celexa, for example, gave me the runs.) It may be a few weeks before we know whether the desired effects or the side-effects will win.
Reflections on 2014
True, I was also depressed in the early part of 2014, just before and after securing the Green nomination for Harris County Judge. I was quite open about it, just as I was quite candid about not wanting to campaign actively, just wanting to give non-duopolist voters another option. (See the very first blog post on dbcgreentx.net. See the second one too—what the hell?) Securing a salaried position after a year of un- and underemployment provided some relief, but it did not fix the underlying problem.
By the time Democratic County Judge nominee Ahmad Hassan quit the race, I was feeling much more robust, ready to walk around handing out campaign literature, acquainting complete strangers with myself and my party, as I had in 2012. This was a mere few months after my bizarre accident at Burning Flipside in May, the resulting five broken ribs, the Hydrocodone that I took for pain and spasms, and reaching a point where I, possessing a freshly filled prescription, wondered how many Hydrocodone tablets I needed to swallow for a fatal overdose.
In my 2012 and 2014 campaigns, I placed mental health prominently in the platform. I believed then, and I still do, that this nation needs a Marshall Plan level of commitment toward improving mental health: cultivating mental health workers of all kinds, making it easier to get necessary treatment—including the ability to take some time off work (preferably paid), as I did last week.
In 2014, hearing County Judge Ed Emmett talk about the county's obligation to provide adequate mental health services was particularly gratifying. To a small extent, during my year of unemployment, I benefited from the county's services. Emmett also noted that the County Jail was, by a wide margin, the number one mental health provider around these parts. I haven't seen any bold initiatives on that front in the intervening four years. His Democratic opponent Lina Hidalgo mentions mental health on the Issues page of her site, but does not propose any major programs herself.
Mental Health among Progressives
This is the part where the personal matters become political.
Ann Coulter once published a whole book (not gonna link to it, can't say whether she actually wrote it) describing liberalism as a mental illness. When she was flogging it on TV, my first thought was to object to the insult. My fourth of fifth thought was that her diagnosis was probably correct, but not for the reasons she asserted.
From my perspective, what we call "liberalism" is a kinder, gentler form of psychopathy that views capitalism as a rising tide that lifts all boats, the "never been a war between two countries with a McDonald's" and "we need more black and female CEO's and generals" school of thought. Progressives would rather live in a world without McD's, CEO's, and generals. We want to save the world from the inevitable excesses of capitalism, and the frustration of fighting uphill with our hands tied together makes us a little crazy.
It's certainly not a phenomenon unique to the political left, but progressive circles certainly showcase a certain, shall we say, neurodiversity. We like to think that we have seen through the never-ending barrage of bullshit that emanates from mainstream politicians and media. Our truth is different from The Official Story, which makes us seem mentally off-center to people who swim in the mainstream.
After decades of involvement with the Greens and Progressives in general, I can attest that a great percentage of us don't just seem that way. We may have started with various mental conditions that have allowed us to see through the bullshit in the first place. Then, spending too much time thinking about injustice and violence, constantly having to defend our truth against the arguments of less woke folks, aggravates those conditions. The recent upheavals in the Harris County Green Party are essentially one set of mental issues subverting another.
(UPDATE/CORRECTION: In retrospect, it was awfully presumptuous of me to diagnose my progressive comrades in this way. It would be more appropriate to say that I have witnessed what I understand to be symptoms of various mental illnesses among people attracted to progressive organizations. Some of these comrades have official diagnoses from health care professionals and have spoken publicly about them, while most have not.)
Certainly I have met some sane—i.e., neurotypical—Progressives. For the most part, these are people with a high tolerance for cognitive dissonances: e.g., hearing all your life that we live in the land of freedom and democracy but discovering that it's all a myth. (I'm not sure whether Debbie Lusignan, aka Sane Progressive, is one of them.) Neurotypicality is not typical in left-leaning groups, and I find it quite refreshing when the leaders or facilitators of such a group are relatively healthy.
However, even those of us with some flavor of mood disorder, borderline personality disorder, or a spot on the autistic spectrum can reason.
We can see—and many of us (like Debbie) can articulate—chains of cause and effect.
We can remember key bits of news and information that the MSNBC talking heads have consigned to the memory hole as they chase the next big story and hyperventilate about RussiaRussiaRussia.
We can use the Internet and other resources to find politicans' and pundits' own words and actions to use against them.
To paraphrase Kat Pedraza in A Small Town for Its Size, we may be crazy, but we're not stupid. If we say something stupid, or just plain wrong, we should be smart enough to admit it and apologize if necessary. Some people I respect have written off Caitlin Johnstone because of her past pseudo-scientific writings and because, as a novice political blogger, she fell for the Seth Rich and Pizzagate story lines. As a result, her dismiss theory on controlling the narrative because they perceive her as crazy. Even if she is, can these people at least engage with the theory, or with the evidence and reasoning that supports it?
Back to Personal
In recent years, spending a lot of time in countercultural H-Town, I have amassed a large number of friends and acquaintances with an impressive variety of mental health issues. The great majority of these folks are highly creative: artists, writers, musicians, visionaries who design and build other-worldly installations.
Among the Millennials I know, mental illness carries little or no stigma—as long as your illness is not harming anyone else, like that gaslighting narcissist your housemate used to date. A younger friend who lives with a disorder, who previously insisted on using the latest politically correct terminology when referring to mental health matters, now embraces the adjective "crazy" the way some LGBT folk are OK with "queer." This young crowd is adept at identifying mental health problems, spotting the behaviors associated with them, and listing the treatment options available. I hope they will become leaders in bringing about that Marshall Plan for mental health, so that everyone can get counseling, therapy, and medicine—not just one-percenters and bourgeois suburbanites.