Posted on March 3, 2011
Education Unit/Development, Fountain House
“Destroyed by Fame” was emblazoned on one of the check-out counter magazines today with a picture of a disheveled Charlie Sheen. The ‘manic’ part of manic-depression can be far more destructive than depression and ever-so-unsettling to witness. An undiagnosed person with bipolar disorder (also known as Manic Depression) within the throes of an episode will undo decades of respected work and solid personal relationships in a matter of days.
Is he or she accountable? Well, yes, in the same way drunks are accountable when they sober up after the car accident they caused. But here is the major difference - those persons did not do this to themselves, as in the case of drinking too much. Will they add booze and drugs to the high of the mania? Almost certainly. Many of them will ‘self-medicate’ to squelch the incessant impulses that become relentless.
Can a person return to a productive life with consistent relationships? Yes. However that path is arduous and a whole lot less enticing than indulging in a lifestyle of cocaine, booze, porn stars, and hookers - all while claiming that the lifestyle “isn’t a problem, it’s the answer.”
The familiar course of action is to malign him. The real challenge here is that Charlie is a beacon for every one of us. This serious disease is very likely to show up in your own family, perhaps in a friend or at your work space. There will be no fame involved. This is a nondenominational disease, and it crosses all socio-economic barriers.
When Charlie returns to the person he once was - I believe that he will make a full recovery - he’s likely to be embarrassed and remorseful. IF, he makes it through that without a suicide, then a lengthy depression is likely to settle in, lasting two or three times longer than his mania. Meanwhile he’ll be feeling dull-witted, going through a host of trial-and-error drug concoctions. A curious longing for his ‘manic episode’ might take on a perverse appeal, although it destroyed most of his relationships.
If Charlie makes it through that and stays sober on top of it all, he’s in for a long period of trying to show consistency to his peers. People with half his talent and experience will be hired over him. It’s much harder to repair a bad reputation than not to have any reputation at all.
No, I’m no expert, but I have helped more than 15 individuals through this process, including myself, and these are generalities of how it played out. Every week, I see dozens of people living with this and leading next to normal lives now.
It takes a village of people, and it will take a village of people - much more effort than when he was in the limelight - to see a glimmer of Sheen again.