Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A letter to Barry Bitzer

An Open letter to Barry Bitzer. He's running for State Senate in Sandoval County, New Mexico and he fights for the mentally ill. He's also a Republican, oddly enough.

Dear Barry:

Something I wanted to tell you tonight but I thought it bad timing. I am...more interested in the rights of the mentally ill than most because I'm actually a recipient of a big government program that helps the mentally ill. Since around January of 2004, I have been on SSI. You might find that surprising...perhaps not. I'm on SSI because I'm a diagnosed bipolar. But I'm also a (fairly) lucid and well-educated soul, which puts me in a lot of interesting positions.

When I first got on SSI, I swore I would be an advocate for the mentally ill. I was steeped in advocacy as a (mostly) homeless person for years and years - once I started to get well, (it's amazing what regular meds can do for someone) I sorta put all that "behind" me, or at least to the side, as I focused on what my "real" interests were.

I truly applaud your efforts in fighting for the rights of the mentally ill. As someone who has been "fortunate" to be both very sick and very well and nowadays a more or less functioning member of society, I have seen both sides of the issue. Listening to you tonight made me want to figure out some way to help again, to be an advocate for those who are, in fact, my brethren. I feel like I could be a bridge, in some respects - challenging the assumptions of those who think they know what a "mentally ill" person looks like.

It may not be time for me to do that, yet. I am struggling to get a career off the ground after many years of being waylaid by an illness I couldn't control. Perhaps someday I'll be able to be that bridge. For now, I am pleased that there are smart-thinking folk like you are there to make the necessary changes that society needs to help those less fortunate struggle to get their lives under control. Republican or not - you're a hero to me, man.

with deep regards
Gregory Pleshaw


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