Mental illness is a strange beast. No one is ashamed to admit being diagnosed with lupus or multiple sclerosis, but many are reluctant to disclose a mental illness for fear of being seen as weak and unstable.
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) has been on medical leave for more than two months. Sporadic and vague reports from his office listed “exhaustion” and “physical and emotional ailments.”
Rev. Jesse Jackson, his father, told the media his son was under medical supervision and the family appreciates the public’s prayers.
After weeks of unanswered questions, the Mayo Clinic announced Monday that Jackson has bipolar II disorder, the milder form that is more commonly known as “manic depression.”
Since the highly anticipated information was released, news organizations have jumped at the opportunity to pry into the personal life of a public figure.
Reports question if the illness is related to drug or alcohol abuse, or whether his gastric bypass surgery eight years ago spurred the illness. Both suggestions are being shot down by medical experts at the Minnesota clinic.
In the era of 24-hour news, updates appear every second with a new quote from his wife here or a new theory there.
As a public official and son of a controversial preacher, his life is under a magnifying glass, but there’s no need for an electron microscope, too.
The upside of the heavy news coverage is that now the world has put a face to an oft-misunderstood illness. Perhaps as the congressman regains his health and goes back to work, the stereotype of a person jumping from epic euphoria to deep depression as fast as flipping a switch will begin to fade.
Soon, another politician will say something ridiculous or tweet an inappropriate photo, but until then, Jackson is stuck being the center of attention for reasons he can’t control.
Pictured above: Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. speaks in Chicago. (March 20, 2012)