Wednesday, March 2, 2011
“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.” – Earnest Benn
I’ve been away from my blog for a few weeks. A number of things have taken my time and attention. I’ve been traveling out of state; I’ve been working on special projects; and oh yes, the political shit hit the fan. It seems the whole world has been protesting something. And so have I.
IRL (“In my Real Life”), I happen to be a very politically active person. It’s impossible not to be, given my profession as a journalist. I don’t want this blog to become my political bullhorn, and for the most part, I’ve avoided making political statements. I don’t want to debate here; I have other outlets for that. My topics here are mental health and suicide. That’s what “Death to Life” is about.
But sometimes worlds collide. And that’s happening right now.
IRL, most of my family and friends feel politically as I do. A few do not. I enjoy debating the topic on Internet forums, but I do not enjoy debating with loved ones, so I don’t do it. In fact, I really try not to argue with anyone at all, about anything (the subject of several of my past blog entries). After all, I’m a peace activist. I go to the anti-war marches. I want everyone to get along. That’s who I am.
But things are heating up right now in a way that I fear will devastate the mental health community. All around the nation, budget cuts are being proposed that will cause hundreds of thousands – eventually millions – to lose health care coverage they depend upon for medications and/or therapy. Health facilities are being closed. Social workers, nurses and therapists are being laid off.
At the same time, America’s economy continues its decline. I have my opinions as to why this is happening, but this blog is not the place to share them. But I can say, with certainty, that the more unemployment increases, the more foreclosures occur, the more bankruptcies declared … the more suicides will happen. These very fears were the trigger for my own attempt.
A few days ago, I was reading an online forum when I happened upon a post written by a relative of mine. In her post, she was complaining about me. She didn’t use my name, but she didn’t have to; she was very specific about certain details. And in the post, she mocked my political views and my concern for the lower- and middle-classes.
I have not shared the story of my suicide attempt with my extended family. But I had to let her know how I felt, and I had to give her some idea of why I felt that way. I wrote her, privately, to let her know I’d seen her insulting post. And I told her that I happen to have a life-threatening illness (which I now consider bipolar to be; it certainly threatens MY life), and that I had chosen not to share my diagnosis with family.
I told her that because America has no national health plan – something she strongly opposes – I have to live in fear that I’ll be laid off from my job and won’t be able to afford treatment for my illness. I told her that I have many friends with various health conditions that can not get health care, and other friends who must depend on government-provided care, which may now be discontinued.
I told her that people I love might die as a result of these policies – policies I believe are less about necessity and more about greed. And I shamed her, because she happens to be enjoying a wealthy lifestyle, angry that she has to pay taxes, at the same time as she condemns those who are less fortunate.
My relative never responded to my message. I’m glad she didn’t – frankly, I don’t want an argument OR and apology from her. I simply needed her to know. She doesn’t know what life-threatening illness I have – maybe she thinks I have cancer or AIDS. I really don’t care. I can pretend to be nice to her at family outings, and that’s good enough.
I’m afraid. I’m afraid for my country and its future. I’m afraid for “the least of these” – the minorities, the children, the disabled, and yes, those with mental illnesses. The cards are stacked against us. And I’m not going to debate about that.