One evening last October, I cussed my grandmother the fuck out. I was talking to her on the phone in the midst of a nasty bipolar manic episode, trying to process a lifetime’s worth of trauma in a psychiatric ward in San Antonio, Texas.
A male orderly working that night approached me as I hung up: “You should never talk to your grandma that way,” he said, intimidatingly. I bucked back, asking, “Why not? You don’t know our relationship. What are you going to do about it?” That’s precisely when he and another orderly hemmed me up and took me to the ward’s quiet room, where mischief-makers are confined until they calm down. As I was being pushed into the room, I grew more aggressive, not comprehending why I was in trouble. Eventually, the men became convinced I needed to be forcefully silenced.
As one worked to pin me down, the other’s arm closed down on my windpipe. I writhed under his viselike grip, frightened and gasping for air. I called out for the nurse, who came sprinting to see what the commotion was about. When she arrived, I was finally released from their hold, but left in the quiet room for the night and several more nights to come.
While in that room, I asked for a pencil and petroleum jelly. I used them to write and outline a phrase in tall letters expanding across the entire wall, a phrase that had become lodged in my self-righteously sanctified brain: “Jesus Is King.”
Within days, Kanye West released his album of the same name, to mixed reviews. The previous month, September 2019, I had watched West play the project for a theater full of enraptured fans in New York City. The album, and Kanye’s shift toward extreme vulnerability and hyperreligiosity, was one that I took special interest in.
Since 2016—the year I was diagnosed as bipolar—my journal entries and iPhone notes have been flooded with exaltations of God, and peppered with mentions of Ye. “I heard Kanye West calling my name,” I wrote in one journal in October 2017, during my second episode. It wasn’t until June 2018 that Kanye would come forward and reveal he was living with the same condition as me. I had long known what the truth was; his mannerisms and unpredictable outbursts reflected my own habits, post-diagnosis. His revelation was validation for me.
So when he announced on July 4 that he was throwing his hat into the ring for the 2020 U.S. presidency, formally or more likely unofficially, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. I, myself, have had a little imaginary character on my shoulder for the past four years, telling me that I should run for president. Me, with no political experience or interest. Me, with a background that I wouldn’t want anyone digging through for adversarial ammo. That character has spoken louder in some instances than others, but it’s been there, in various states of adamancy, since my first encounter with bipolar disorder.
This past October, shortly before I was hospitalized for my most recent episode, I wrote the following:
“We’re running now,” I typed out. “You can be President.” I continued, hyping myself up and making cabinet plans with friends in positions of power. I even went so far as to map out the years: “2024: 1989. I’ll be 35.”
Then, came the kicker: “Kanye ‘2020.’”
I distinctly remember thinking that Kanye was going to run this year, and accepting the fact that I would have to wait until I was eligible to either run against him for his second term, or run against another candidate, if he chose to revert his attention back to music and design.
In a manic episode, it can authentically feel like you’re the new iteration of the person who’s had the most significant impact on humanity: Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, Superman—whichever representative best aligns with your belief system. Having such a powerful experience, one in which you think you're a sacred or revered figure in history, means that something like a presidency is attainable and completely possible.
Kanye West may very well have experienced delusions of grandeur during mania. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s delusional now. It may simply mean he’s leaning into the experiences he’s had, and trusting God to complete his journey. (Note: Keep an eye out for his “platform.” It will be heavily focused on religion, spirituality, and saving the world. Kanye is likely running now, opposing his pal Donald J. Trump, because he feels divinely compelled to do so.)
West's unwavering faith doesn't mean he's the right man for the job. But his confidence that he can become the President of the United States of America is completely understandable for someone like me; someone who’s felt at times as if the universe has built itself around me and pushed me into a position where I have an outlet to speak openly about my episodes and subsequent learnings.
If I were Kanye West—a person who believes he has encountered a higher power, a prominent public figure who has been in the spotlight for decades, a Forbes-certified billionaire, a global superstar who can do no wrong in the eyes of hundreds of thousands, if not millions—you can fucking bet I would be running for office right now.
When I tell my older brother, who’s also bipolar, about my feelings on Kanye’s run and the thoughts I’ve had myself, he smirks, then speaks matter-of-factly. “You can do anything you want to do,” he says. “You could be president, too, if you really wanted to be.” It sounds like words of encouragement a teacher or parent would tell a child. But in this context, I know it means something else entirely.