I’m Bipolar and Now I’m Having “PETE Traumatic Stress Disorder”
Pete Buttigieg’s Historic Bid for the White House
I never understood the absolute excitement and joy of politics until I became involved in Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign. I’ve been a disciple of Mayor Pete ever since he announced he was running for president last spring. Pete was the unity candidate this cycle and his campaign embodied optimism, it fostered idealism, and sparked imagination. It represented transformational generational change. Pete was the HOPE candidate for 2020. He challenged us to be FOR something, not just AGAINST. He took the mantle as the hero
to heal this nation after the havoc, destruction and discord spread by President Trump.
But the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, IN, bowed out honorably Sunday night. And it hit me hard.
Even though I’m in despair at the moment, I’m glad to be involved. And I’ll stay involved. I hope you do, too.
I wasn’t going to weigh in on the election on this blog, but this race is having incredible impact on both my mood disorder and my outlook on life.
Mayor Pete emerged as a staunch advocate for us who struggle with mental illness. In a recent CNN Town Hall, he mentioned bipolar disorder by name and used it in his stump speech.
“The American people need to create a culture where it is as acceptable to talk about struggling with bipolar disorder as it would be to talk about a fight with cancer,” he said. “Where it is as routine to seek an emotional health checkup as it is a physical.”
Mayor Pete changed me. He inspired me to be a better human being.
Pete’s was a historic candidacy. He is the first openly gay man to win delegates in a presidential primary, besting Bernie Sanders in the Iowa Caucuses to win first place, even if only by a hair.
As a gay man myself, I never thought I would see someone like me be a serious contender for the White House so soon in the annals of history, merely just a few years after marriage equality became a reality.
Many first learned of Pete Buttigieg when he appeared on the cover of TIME magazine in May of 2019, with his husband Chasten at his side under the cover-line “First Family.” Chasten would’ve made an incredible first First Gentleman. I had the opportunity to meet him and just like his husband, Chasten is a class act.
Pete is an all-American gentleman from the industrial Midwest, who reflected his constituency. He was no millionaire or billionaire. He was a demure candidate, the least wealthy person in the race, with six-figure student debt and a modest house with a mortgage in South Bend.
No one knew who the heck Pete was a year ago, — let alone how to pronounce his last name (it’s BOOT-EDGE-EDGE, a refrain that would become a rallying cry at his events). He launched his campaign in a freezing-cold rally inside a long-ago shuttered Studebaker automobile factory in South Bend. Millions would soon learn how well-rounded he is.
A Historic Campaign
In his announcement, Pete declared: “Yes, I am gay. And I am the son of an immigrant and an Army brat. And I am a husband. And I am a musician. And I am an Episcopalian. And I am a Democrat. But above all, I am running as an American. I am here to build bridges and to tear down walls.”
Pete was one of the most impressive yet humble candidates this country has ever seen. He’s a Harvard grad, a Rhodes Scholar, and an Afghanistan veteran who speaks eight languages and plays piano, guitar, and didgeridoo (I had to look it up, too).
As Pete put it, he was “definitely the only left-handed, gay, Maltese American Episcopalian in the race.” He wanted to be the president for all people — people of faith, and people of no faith.
Allow me to take you inside what we called the “Pete Storm.”I spent time creating a homemade sign and marched in Chicago’s gay pride parade with the Pete contingent in June. It was a small yet burgeoning community. I volunteered on behalf of Pete, talking up his candidacy to festivalgoers at Halsted Street Market Days, the largest street festival in the Midwest. I made and xeroxed DIY flyers promoting Pete and passed them out at Riot Fest, a music festival in Chicago that leans punk. I started a Facebook group called Punks for Pete Buttigieg.
Barnstormers for Pete
And in the fall, I became a Barnstormer.
Barnstormers for Pete was a movement we started to travel to early primary and caucus states to rally, march, and canvass on behalf of Pete.
Halloween weekend, more than a thousand of us came from all corners of the country — from all 50 states and Puerto Rico — to campaign for Pete in Iowa. In a pickup truck stickered with Mayor Pete’s campaign logo on the sides, I joined four strangers on a road trip for the big Liberty and Justice Dinner, held every presidential cycle by the Iowa Democratic Party. I had the opportunity to hear 13 candidates speak.
On a cold, rainy day in early November, we rallied in a Des Moines park, and then marched to the Wells Fargo Arena for the big event. Us Barnstormers were the largest, loudest, craziest crowd of supporters in that arena.
I’ve heard Pete engage in dialogue with voters a handful of times, on the South Side of Chicago this summer, at a fundraiser on the lakefront in the fall, twice during the aforementioned Barnstormer weekend in Iowa, and the last time in Chicago’s South Loop this winter. I also had the honor of hearing Chasten speak at a gay bar in Chicago’s Boystown in September.
At one fundraiser, I parked myself up front, standing at the edge of the stage. After he spoke, I tapped Pete on the shoulder and said “Mayor Pete! I love your plan for mental health and addiction!” We shook hands and talked about that subject and how the two are intertwined, and I gave him a copy of my book The Bipolar Addict. I told him “I know you don’t have time to read right now, but if you read the first paragraph of Chapter One, it would mean the world to me.” Even though I never heard from him, I’m sure he read it.
Pete ran on a progressive platform of change. He wanted to expand the Supreme Court to include 15 justices. He wanted to abolish the electoral college and rallied to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. He planned on a presidential staff of 50% women. He lifted up marginalized communities, often evoking and championing trans women of color as a group that experiences undue prejudice and hate. And he believed in mental health parity, an issue that is dear to my heart. In fact, he had the most comprehensive mental health care plan of anyone running for president. He knew that that addiction and mental illness are linked — an idea that is the central tenet of my book.
Winning The Era
After bowing out gracefully on Sunday, Pete endorsed Joe Biden. Joe had some immensely kind words to share about Pete.
“You supported a man of enormous integrity,” he said, giving a nod to Pete’s voters. “A fellow who has as much moral courage as he has physical courage.”
In the ultimate compliment, Biden compared Pete to his beloved son Beau, an Iraq war veteran who died of brain cancer in 2015.
“I don’t think I’ve ever done this before,” Joe said. “But [Pete] reminds me of my son Beau. To me it’s the highest compliment I could give any man or woman. Like Beau, he has a backbone like a ramrod.”
In his campaign, Pete knew how to speak to voters with poise — without yelling at them like some of the other candidates. Yet he can still fight with the best of ’em. He dominated debates and won over millions of people. He denounced “my way or the highway” politics, and welcomed people into a bigger tent of the Democratic Party.
Pete Buttigieg oozes with youthful enthusiasm and unabashed charisma. He is cool and decidedly even-keeled. And though he didn’t win the White House, he definitely shattered a glass ceiling when it comes to gay progress.
In a touching moment on the campaign trail, a 9-year-old boy had the courage to ask Pete for advice on coming out. “I don’t think you need a lot of advice from me on bravery,” Buttigieg told young Zachary. “You seem pretty strong… Even if I can’t promise it will always be easy, I can promise you that I’m going to be rooting for you and I think there’s a whole bunch of people here who are going to be rooting you every step of the way.” The boy effectively announced he was gay in front of a national audience, proving the power of Pete to influence people.
Pete was a breath of fresh air, the total and complete opposite of President Trump.
In my eyes, Pete can move mountains and walk on water. He was and still is a hero to me. This is the very first candidate who has inspired me to volunteer, to speak up and spread the word about his candidacy everywhere I went, and yes, to donate $3 here and there, my first time being moved to donate to a presidential candidate.
I will continue to follow Pete’s “Rules of the Road“: Respect. Belonging. Truth. Teamwork. Boldness. Responsibility. Substance. Discipline. Acceptance. Joy. Qualities we should all strive for.
Pete gushes kindness, empathy, and not only passion, but compassion. I miss him already. But he’ll be back with a vengeance. When the Democrats win the presidency, Pete will be a sought-after resource for the winning candidate.
“You’re gonna end up over your lifetime seeing a hell of a lot more of Pete than you are me,” Biden said onstage Sunday night.
And the crowd erupted in massive applause.