Jesse Jackson Jr.’s bizarreness not caused by drugs or alcohol, he has bipolar disorder

Curious political junkies were intrigued when the Huffington Post recently published an interview they conducted with Rev. Jesse Jackson. Jackson told them that when he visited his son, Jesse Jackson Jr. in Washington last June, he learned the congressman hadn’t slept in three days. What the family thought was exhaustion, said Jackson, was “something much deeper, much broader, and it lasted much longer.” Perhaps Jackson senior, knew then he had brought mental illness back to the forefront of our national conversation. Thus it came as no surprise when on Monday, the Mayo Clinic, where the congressman has been receiving treatment, stated that he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

The congressman represents the south side of Chicago and surrounding suburbs. He announced his arrival at the clinic two weeks ago amid calls from his constituents and fellow Congress members to reveal more information about his condition and whereabouts. In a revised Statement put out by the Mayo Clinic on August 13, 2012 we learned that:

Congressman Jackson underwent bariatric surgery in 2004, specifically a duodenal switch. This type of surgery is increasingly common in the US and can change how the body absorbs food, liquids, vitamins, nutrients and medications.

Following extensive evaluation, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. is undergoing treatment for Bipolar II depression at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Congressman Jackson is responding well to the treatment and regaining his strength.

Many Americans have bipolar disorder. Bipolar II disorder is a treatable condition that affects parts of the brain controlling emotion, thought and drive and is most likely caused by a complex set of genetic and environmental factors.

Congressman Jackson has asked Mayo Clinic to distribute this information on his behalf. He and his family remain grateful for support and prayers offered and received on his behalf.

Bipolar disorder, which is sometimes called manic depression, is marked by mood swings. Bipolar II is a less severe form of the disorder than bipolar I, according to the clinic.

While the clinic’s statement is easy enough to understand and digest,  Marcia Purse’s article, published on’s website, raises some important concerns. Purse claims “too much of that characterizing bipolar II as ‘less severe’ [are] ignoring the fact that bipolar II depression is more disabling than bipolar I depression. I would certainly hope to see reporters digging a little deeper instead of parroting the same tired and misleading descriptions of bipolar II.”

Douglas Belkin, who writes for the “Wall Street Journal” raised a few more questions, reporting that Jackson, 47, was first elected in 1995 and is facing re-election in November. He is the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation into allegations that his friend Raghuveer Nayak offered former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich as much as $6 million in campaign contributions in 2008 to appoint Jackson to fill the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.

Nayak was arrested in June on unrelated charges. Jackson hasn’t been charged and has denied any wrongdoing.

The allegations about the Senate seat were followed by revelations about an extramarital affair Jackson had with a Washington, D.C., waitress. The congressman’s mother, wife of civil-rights leader Jesse Jackson, recently said her son had fallen short of his own expectations and was depressed, according to Belkin.

In light of these revelations and the congressman’s diagnosed condition, one can easily imagine the enormous pressure Jackson was under. Who wouldn’t snap under these circumstances? This is not to sweep under the rug his responsibility as a husband or public servant, however, before we jump to any premature conclusions, it would be much wiser to support him and his family as they struggle through tough times.

And tough times they were and perhaps still are. We’re still learning bits and pieces of information suggesting that Jackson Jr. was exhibiting some disturbing behavior near the end of spring.

Though Sandi Jackson had firmly denied her husband had attempted suicide or was receiving help for alcohol or drug addiction, his undiagnosed behavior seemed to contradict her claim.

Now that he’s been thoroughly evaluated by doctors Sandi’s statement has been vindicated.

Though the statement issued by the Mayo Clinic indicated that there was no known time frame for another update on Congressman Jackson’s bipolar condition, the disorder will not stand in the way of his continuing in Congress and seeking re-election.

Jackson is not the first lawmaker to battle mental illness. Former congressman Patrick Kennedy remained in congress for several years after he was diagnosed as bipolar. Kennedy proudly spoke publicly about his mental illness and by doing this, he helped Americans understand it could be successfully treated.

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