On Jesse Jackson Jr. and Being Bipolar

It's no excuse for what he did, says the author. She should know -- she lives with the disease, too.

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images

(The Root) — It’s important to remember that for Jesse Jackson Jr., it didn’t have to be this way.

There were choices made and choices that would have to be lived with, and there was no chance for continued procrastination. And he’d seen both the right and wrong paths, demonstrated in his passionate, charming but heavily flawed father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.

He had a choice.

But denial is the worst of all false coping mechanisms. It convinces you that the problems aren’t problems. That they’re “What problems?” And you find yourself lying to yourself, saying that Uncle Sam will understand why you spent campaign-finance funds on Bruce Lee memorabilia. Or maybe he won’t. But it doesn’t matter, because it’s not really happening.

I’m totally in control. I’m always in control. And I know exactly what I am doing, and I can always go back and fix it later.

The worst that could happen can’t happen to me. Can it?

I know what it’s like to live on borrowed sanity and to infuse my disasters with bipolar logic.

My name is Danielle Belton. And just like Jesse Jackson Jr., I have bipolar disorder type II.

Keeping Up Appearances

Jackson Sr. had good reasons for hoping his son might succeed where he had failed. Jackson Jr. was viewed as bursting with promise. In 1997, two years after he won a special House election, Newsweek named him one of “100 people for the new century … whose creativity or talent or brains or leadership will make a difference in the years ahead.” But by 2008 he was in counseling with his wife over an extramarital affair. –Jill Lawrence at National Journal

I’m sure at the time it made sense.

A $43,350 Rolex watch here. Some Michael Jackson memorabilia worth thousands there. A $4,000 cruise; $60,000 dropped on restaurants and nightclubs; and more than $7,000 for two taxidermied elk heads.

But someone was bound to notice. A congressman’s annual salary of $174,000 can get you to the upper-middle-class range only if you don’t have bothersome things like “a spouse,” “personal debt” and “kids.” Blowing more than $100,000 on a Rolex and restaurants goes beyond living above your means. Jackson Jr. and his wife were living in someone else’s means, someone for whom money wasn’t an object. Maybe Chicago rapper Kanye West’s means, although Kanye can probably purchase quite a few Rolexes before it becomes financially debilitating.