First: I’m not going to vote for Kanye West for President of the United States.
He’s sexist. He’s vain. He’s got no real plans for, well, anything. He’s a bigot.
I’m not going to vote for him.
But it’s not because he has a mental illness.
If Kanye is elected President, he will not be the first President to have mental illness.
In 2019 it was reported that almost half of American adults experience mental illness in their lifetime. Some mental illness is profound and requires life-long treatment. Some mental illness is episodic, and requires intermittent treatment. Some mental illness is triggered by environment mixed with brain chemistry, and some by brain chemistry alone.
Mental illness is personal, but not unique. It’s individual, and yet experienced by so many in our communities.
Mental illness is not something to be ashamed of, either. Lord knows I’ve buried too many people who were too sick and yet too afraid to seek treatment because, well, what would people think?
I think people want to help…but don’t understand it. And are afraid of it.
Mental health is physical health, Beloved. We wouldn’t shame someone who lost an arm or a leg in the journey of life, right? And if we did, well, shame on you. You don’t get to be enlightened by my company.
But if we wouldn’t shame someone who had a physical illness or disability, why would we shame someone who is struggling with a brain chemistry that is so mysterious, so difficult to understand, and yet so pervasive?
I get it: Kanye is easy to dislike. He’s brash, loud, ill-tempered, vain, and often ill-informed.
I dislike most of what comes out of his mouth that isn’t on a CD and auto-tuned (he’s not a great singer, can we agree on that?!).
He’s also damn brilliant, a husband, a son, grieving his mother, and trying to figure out how to reconcile all of the above (and more! I don’t even know the man).
He’s living with mental illness.
But he’s not “crazy.” He’s not “nuts.”
He’s a jerk, but that has nothing to do with his illness.
The stigma. The shame. The hurt. The heartache. The exhilaration. The high. The deep descent into the pit. The rebound. The confidence. The braggadocio. The productivity. The creativity. The insomnia…
And that, Beloved, is one week in a rough patch for many of our spouses, friends, children, parents…and maybe, you.
He’s dealing with what many deal with, he’s just doing it on a stage that’s 100x brighter and 1000x more public than you and I act on.
He’s not nuts, he’s a human living with an illness. And he’s very human in public, which most of us don’t have to be…a luxury for us.
And he doesn’t need our pity. And he doesn’t need our snickering. And, yes, we can take him seriously as he is, but seriously with wide eyes that see the whole story, not the story of the moment.
Mental illness is never just about the moment, but about the whole story, Beloved.
And we must absolutely stop this chatter about his many “isms” being attributed to his mental illness. People who don’t deal with mental illness are prejudice. People who don’t live with mental illness are misogynistic and are assholes and are idiots and are all sorts of things.
Mental illness does not make someone a bigot or prejudice or any of that nonsense.
Unrelated. I’ll say it louder for you in the back: UNRELATED.
My point is: don’t vote for Kanye West if you don’t think he’ll make a good President of the United States. But don’t cross him off your ballots because he’s living with mental illness.
We’ve elected plenty of Presidents who live with, wrestle with (or don’t), and thrive with mental illnesses of all sorts. We have! Statistically it’s certainly more than probable, I’d put money on it.
Look, I pray none of you ever get to peek inside my brain. You’d be amazed and scared of what you find there. I’m sure the same could be said if I were to take a gander in yours.
Mental illness isn’t something to be ashamed of, just like having any illness isn’t something to be ashamed of. He didn’t ask for this. Lord, who asks for this?
He’s just trying to live with it. And yes, it’s very public. And yes, it can be alarming. And yes, it can even be amusing to the untrained ear and eye.
But it’s not amusing, it’s an illness, Beloved.
Don’t vote for him because he’s an asshole. Don’t vote for him because he’s prejudice, because he’s misogynistic, or because he’s…whatever your reason.
But it shouldn’t be about the illness.
Mental illness is just that: an illness.
And it doesn’t disqualify him from anything: not the Presidency, not life and the pursuit of happiness, not dignity, not brilliance, and certainly not respect or love.