Speaking from the Heart- Fluently
I feel the need to write this now, in light of certain current events. This may come off shocking and surprising to some. For those of you who know me well, you may say, "it's about time you said something, but why did you link it to that?"
So first, a caveat: I have the flu. On one hand that might mean that I am not thinking clearly, on the other, I do believe I am clearly thinking. If this post upsets or annoys anyone, I want to blame it on the decongestants and antihistamines.
Okay, now that I've confused you, and possibly myself, I know you are wondering what on earth I'm talking about. I'm talking about him:
Never in a million years did I ever think I would write a blog post about Charlie Sheen, but I feel that I have something to say that is important. I know that we've all watched his horrible very public histrionics and we all have cringed and relegated him to the bad celebrity dungeon of depravity. He appears to be a misogynist, an addict, an egotist... and basically a horrible human being. People are saying terrible things about him. Cartoonists are having a field day. The Networks are ready to skewer him and fry him for the things he has said.
And yes, he has said them. All of those things. When I read the first article after the recent interview with Charlie Sheen, that is when it hit me.
Charlie Sheen has Bipolar Disorder and he is in extreme mania.
No, I'm not a psychiatrist. I don't have all the facts. But what I do have is experience.
I am the daughter of two bipolar parents. When I joke that they were "two crazy artists," I'm not kidding. I am intimate with bipolar disorder.
I have felt its' wrath, its' soaring heights, its' death-defying acts.
I have watched it wreak its' havoc on my father and by proxy on our family.
Someday. Someday very soon, I plan on writing a book about this. I already know the title. But for right now, I don't want to go into all the sad details.
My mom had it, too, but she didn't have the enormous mania swings like my dad.
This is a photo of my mom and me at a gallery opening of her paintings. She didn't live many years past this. She was already broken-hearted by my father leaving her. She also heard voices and thought that people were trying to kill us. She may also have had paranoid schizophrenia.
This is my dad and me from around the same time. He's wearing his "The Wiz" t-shirt. Dad is a twice-Oscar® nominated special effects make-up artist. (Now retired.) Dad is also a sculptor, painter, collage artist, and he has huge manic swings. He has had delusions of grandeur that the Italian government was going to fund a movie he wanted to make about Leonardo DaVinci. (There was no script, but he could definitely do the make-up.) He has said things and done things that are similar to Charlie Sheen, though not that publicly, or at that level of wealth and privilege.
Dad's art is very different when he is in mania. He painted this sofa cushion in 2005 at the peak of an enormous manic episode that cut off most of his family ties. Dad was very upset at George Bush and hated the Iraq war. He focused some of his mania on this painted bolster. He also tried to pick up women who were half my age when we went out to a pub in Manhattan.
I have witnessed the ravaging effects of mania first hand.
I have tried to explain it to my father, himself, and I have tried to get him treatment.
He doesn't want treatment, and I suspect that Charlie Sheen may feel the same way.
My dad loves his mania.
He feels powerful and creative.
He feels smart and revels in his devilish behavior.
He also gets himself into big financial nightmares.
And then the depression takes over.
For him it can be years. Dad is not a "rapid-cycler." I don't know about Charlie Sheen. It seems to me that the older you get, and the longer you go untreated, the cycles become more extreme and last longer. Some people don't go so deep in one direction. It's different for everyone.
But one thing I have learned is: forgiveness.
Mental illness is devastating. I have experienced things no child should have experienced. Things no teenager or adult should have experienced. No, I do not have bipolar disorder. Neither does my brother, David. (The photo at the top of this post is: me, David and my dad from 2005- that smirk on my dad's face is mania, but at that time dad was already on his way down.) However, I have read extensively on bipolar disorder and I have experienced my own mental hell: clinical depression at age thirty-five.
I have learned how to be a survivor. And I have forgiven my father. I am presently making room for him in my home. He may have said and done some terrible things, but I've realized that it wasn't him talking- it was the mania. I see that in Charlie Sheen now.
I hope that there are people around Charlie who recognize the signs.
I hope that he will accept treatment.
I hope that he won't be judged so harshly if this is truly what comes to light.
I wish him all the luck in the world facing his own illness.
More people need to know about bipolar disorder; it is more prevalent than you would think.
I'm going to do what I can to help.
This is my first scary step.