The Fifty-Seventh Inauguration: A Call for National Civility and Productive Discourse

Work obligations prevented me from watching the Presidential Inauguration today, although I did follow it online. The ceremony was uplifting, reassuring, and well organized. President Obama’s address touted his progressive agenda, but also a need for everyone to come to the table. The President said, “Our journey is not yet finished” (paraphrased), which was an acknowledgement that he is well aware of the problems facing our country. He would have been remiss if he glossed over the strife in Washington: Presidents must deal with reality and advance an agenda at the same time. The first challenge awaiting him in his second term will be getting everyone to the table and conducting meaningful deliberations about truly moving our nation “Forward”.

I’m grateful that the Affordable Care Act was passed, even if it is far from a perfect solution to healthcare problems facing the United States. The fact that 30 million more Americans will be able to get insurance is a good thing, not a cause for alarm or rebellion.

My BPD and Type 1 Diabetes make it almost impossible to get reasonably priced health insurance. When I began to apply as a sole proprietor a few years ago, I was denied outright because of my pre-existing conditions. The insurance companies never bothered to look at my medical records, which portray a healthy adult who is only guilty of being cursed with chronic illness. If you compared my blood test results to another 33 year old “healthy” male, my numbers would be the same or better. For example, my Cholesterol levels, kidney functions, and glucose levels are well within the normal ranges. Unfortunately, the USA hasn’t reached a point where individual health records are considered in premium pricing, only whether or not it would be profitable to have me in their program. They feel I would be a liability.

I hope Mr. Obama also addresses mental health in his second term. Many people go untreated because they feel embarrassed about their troubles or simply do not have the money to visit a good doctor. A decade ago, a Psychiatrist gave you an hour of their time each week and meds. Now, Psychiatry seems to be an industrial process: one big appointment upfront for legal purposes, write prescriptions, then 15 minute followups now and then. That is not an adequate standard of care, particularly for people with BPD.

Community based mental health initiatives might help pick up the slack. Licensed social workers and medical students could run support groups in their area, similar to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings that have proven very effective at battling addiction problems. Obviously a well meaning grad student or tenderhearted volunteer might not have the skill to coordinate a good DBT session, or pull someone out of a suicidal depression.

That said, we shouldn’t shoot down the idea of local support because a Medical Doctor is unavailable to run sessions. Instead, the focus should be helping people through grief, general depression, and addiction. These are the most prominent mental health problems in our country that no one talks about. Groups where people can talk to each other, share stories, and seek advice would act as a great preventative care mechanism, while those who present themselves with more serious problems can be referred to medical doctors.

Stepping back to the National Stage, our country needs to come together and find some common ground. Politicians scurry around hurling insults at one another, oblivious to the fact that they are elected to solve problems, not make them. The state of the Nation’s finances is particularly serious, and there are fair points being made on both sides of the aisle. The problem is that no one is willing to say, “Ok, I’ll cut spending here if you raise taxes there”. Politicians choose to take absolute positions and refuse to act in the country’s best interests.

Indefinite inaction is worse than compromising. People dig in deeper, yell and scream at their Congresspeople, and act unreasonably. We can’t continue to kick the can down the road on money, national security, healthcare, and many other issues. Can kicking works for bored children but it’s not a viable way to govern a nation. We’ve got too much lose with partisan gridlock and radical ideologies.

My battle with mental illness has taught me many things. One of them is that anger should be treated as a fleeting emotion, not as a constant state of mind. It’s understandable if you’re mad at your parents for the way they raised you. It’s understandable if you’re mad at your partner who cheated. It’ understandable to feel angry and betrayed when you are rejected. Express the anger, get it out of your system, and then return to reality. If you just had a BPD rage, your anger level is high and it will take a few days to calm down.

Eventually, you have to address reality in reasonable emotional terms. You also have to think about issues in your life methodically and explore all the possibilities of your actions before you go off the diving board.

I mention all that because the point is lost on our leaders, who are supposed to be sane and intelligent people. Right now, political discourse is like watching people with BPD simultaneously explode. It’s not healthy and not productive. The name calling, black or white thinking, and fight or flight emotional responses are supposed to be for us nutty people 🙂 , not lawmakers.

It’s time to get it together. Conservative or Liberal, it’s time to stop acting like brats and get the job done. You’re setting a poor example and not doing our Nation any favors.