Voting Issues - The Bipolar Question of the Week

John McManamy Health Guide
  • You may have noticed that a Presidential election campaign is underway in the US. Thank heaven they only take place once every four years. Our fragile psyches weren’t exactly built for this.


    Because our politics tend to be a reflection of our core personal values, it is way too easy to get over-involved emotionally. Politicians and the media have exploited this tendency since way before the wheel was invented. Lies and misstatements become the rule, and opinion polarizes. We find ourselves shouting at each other rather than talking and listening.


    For my own protection, I work to tune out the madness. I don’t have a radio or TV and I no longer hang out with people who identify as voting for the “other” party. Call me what you want - I am doing what I need to be doing to stay within reasonable proximity of sane.

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    Back in 2004, I arrived home thinking I had fired the President, only to find out that my optimism had been horribly misplaced. I immediately sunk into a situational depression, and only pulled out of it by changing my situation - a complete news black-out. Part of my depression-management was putting my normal work to one side and focusing on a certain book manuscript I had been neglecting. After a week or two, the book manuscript started to gel. Thus encouraged, I forged ahead, and two months or so later I had a finished draft. Not long after, I found a publisher,


    As I like to joke, I owe “Living Well With Depression and Bipolar Disorder” to George W Bush.


    One way of adapting (or maladapting) to situations we don’t like is to adopt an avoidant mindset. We put things off, we tune things out, we numb ourselves. It’s a natural tendency, but the result is hardly ever good. We fail to meet our obligations, we miss out on a lot of opportunities.


    Andrew Solomon in his award-winning “The Noonday Demon,” noted that those of us with mental illness are not very good at voting. He attributed this to depression, but I also think avoidance has a lot to do with it, as well. We are doing what we have to do to survive.


    But there is a major catch. If we don’t vote, why should anyone pay attention to us? Mr Solomon noted that this is exactly what happens. Unlike other constituencies, we are totally invisible to politicians, which makes it very convenient for them to ignore us. Plus we are misunderstood by the media, who only want to know about mental illness when there has been a mass shooting.


    Sobering fact: For every dollar spent per person on AIDS/HIV research by the NIH, one penny is spent on depression and bipolar. Here are the numbers: In 2009, the NIH allocated $3.19 billion for HIV/AIDS research. By contrast, research for depression (including bipolar) was a mere $402 million. Approximately 1.5 million individuals in the US are affected by HIV or AIDS. About 19 million in the US in any given year deal with depression or bipolar.


    One penny. That's the value the government places on our lives. That is the price of staying in bed on Election Day.


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    Yes, we have reasons for staying away from politics, but - let’s face facts - do any of those reasons actually constitute a valid excuse?


    Question: Do you plan to vote on Election Day? Have you registered to vote? Are you familiarizing yourself with the issues?


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Published On: October 06, 2012