Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mayor West discloses he's bipolar . . . but to whom?

An article in the Times Herald-Record sports the ambiguous headline West discloses he suffers from bipolar disorder, which has caused several reactions of heartwarming support for his courageous admission around social media.  However, things are not what they seem.  The article states:

West sent an email to Village Board members Thursday, saying that he was diagnosed with the disorder in 2011.

He did not send an email to reporter Jeremiah Horrigan, nor did he post this information to Facebook, nor did he write a letter to the New Paltz Times.  What he did was explain to village board members why he was taking a leave of absence.

And somebody on that board shared the email with a reporter.

My feuds with Jason West are by no means private; he has been a real jerk to me without good reason, and he and I will never, ever be friends.  But this was a very low blow, and it offends me to the core.  I may not like the guy, but I like injustice a whole lot less.  That's why I scolded the village board for cutting his salary, even though I was offended by his raise.  That's why, when trustee Sally Rhoads whispered to me before that village board meeting that West had worked against my wife and I getting our sewer back, I dismissed it as the petty politics it was.  (I'm actually sure she was telling the truth, but Mrs. Rhoads is a strong woman, and if she'd cared about my family's welfare rather than its value as a political pawn, she could have overcome his resistance.)

We live in an purportedly enlightened society, but not so enlightened that some board member didn't think that the mayor having a mental illness would be news.  Point of fact, it's none of our damned business what the man struggles with; he can either do the job or he can't, and we get once chance every four years to evaluate our opinion on the matter.

As someone who has struggled with clinical depression for most of my life, I know that people are going to look at him differently.  He will see it, even if the people doing it don't.  We have a tendency to overcompensate when we don't understand a disability, which any chronic illness is, and it's even worse if that disability is invisible.

Bipolar disorder can well explain someone being a mind-blowingly rude jerk, just like depression can.  I've certainly ostracized my share of people when my chemistry is out of whack, but it's still my responsibility, and if I want to mend those bridges, I still need to do it the hard way.  Being bipolar doesn't excuse West for bad behavior, but it sure as hell isn't an excuse to treat him like crap, either.

I sincerely hope I didn't vote for the lowlife who told the press about this, but with my voting record, I probably did.

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