Jesse Jackson Jr.'s Wife Says He Was "Debilitated" by Depression

The lawmaker is focusing on going back to work, but health comes first.

Posted: 08/06/2012 09:49 AM EDT

(Photo: UPI/Brian Kersey /LANDOV)

For weeks, political observers have been trying to put together the puzzle surrounding Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr,'s illness and initially unexplained leave from his congressional duties. His wife, Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson, who has largely been silent on the matter, has finally opened up, offering more details about his struggle. In an interview published in The Chicago Sun-Times, Jackson said that her husband had collapsed at their home in Washington, D.C., after becoming "completely debilitated by depression."

The Democratic lawmaker has been absent from Capitol Hill since early June. Initially, his office cited exhaustion as the reason for his mysterious disappearance before announcing that he was dealing with more serious physical and emotional issues and then finally disclosing  that he'd transferred to the Mayo Clinic to seek treatment for depression and gastrointestinal issues. In the meantime, there was a good deal of speculation about whether he was dealing with drug or alcohol addiction or perhaps buckling under the pressure of an ethics investigation into his alleged role in attempts to buy the Senate seat vacated by President Obama in 2008.

According to Jackson, the congressman "didn't sound right" during a telephone conversation with Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. and told his father that "he was so exhausted he couldn't take another step." The senior Jackson then took his son to George Washington University Hospital.

"His body was just worn out. I never really wanted him to have the gastric surgery in the first place. He called and told me not to worry, but it was obvious he was suffering from a form of depression," Jackson told the Sun-Times.

She also said that it was her suggestion that he seek treatment at the Sierra Tucson Treatment Center in Arizona and the family decided to impose a "news blackout" so that the lawmaker could heal. He was moved to the Mayo Clinic for more intense screening to treat his depression and to determine how his weight-loss may be connected to his condition.

“What I can tell you is my husband has his good days and bad days and they are increasing his depression medication to therapeutic levels,” she said. "Jesse is now gaining weight and eating and feeling better in that sense, but he is still very depressed. But I am encouraged by the number of tests they are running and the quality of the analysis."

As for the future, Jackson says she expects the congressman to return to work but his health, which is "paramount," and their family must come first. He is up for re-election in November.

"It's all up in the air. Jesse has his ups and downs. And although he has talked about teaching, he's focusing on going back to work. Back to his job. He is a gifted legislator."


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