Having Trouble Watching Charlie Sheen

Well, first it just seemed arrogant and Hollywoodish — Charlie Sheen’s behavior, that is — but as the week has worn on, and he’s doing all these interviews (after his publicist quit, of course — what publicist would recommend these interviews?), I’m having more and more trouble watching him, because it feels like we’re watching a man self destruct on national television, and no one is stepping in to stop him. Specifically, it looks like we’re watching a man with manic depression (a.k.a. bipolar disorder), and no one is helping. In fact, the media is fueling him on.

The reason this all looks so familiar to me is my brother is bipolar. He went through depressive and manic phases when he was young, beginning when he was about 14 (depressive phase that went misdiagnosed and was chalked up to “being a teenager”), then he was finally diagnosed when he was 16ish (manic phase that was much like Charlie Sheen’s — delusional, feelings of grandioseness, paranoia, rapid talking, hyper-sexual, use of big words, irritability with everyone, zero sleep). My brother, in the manic phase, also became terribly creative — writing songs and “plays” in the middle of the night, which we found out later was a common characterist for creative manic-depressives caught in the throes of mania. Another common characteristic is shedding all your clothes — often in public or at any inappropriate time. My brother’s swings are about every two years — manic, then two years later depressive, then two years later manic, etc. — but every bipolar patient is different. The swings can vary wildly. And the manic phase feels very good to them — it feels like you’re high, my brother told me later. He said you feel so incredibly creative and smart and like you can write music/screenplays/lyrics/whatever forever. Because the manic phase feels so good, and they feel so productive, it’s hard to talk them into seeing someone to “help” (they don’t want, or feel they need, any “help” when they’re in the middle of the good-feeling mania).

Charlie Sheen looks so manic to me — grandiose, paranoid, rapid talking, hyper sexual, using big words that seem to make sense to him but don’t really make sense, irritability with everyone who knows him or offers help, and — here was the big red flag to me — he mentioned, in one interview, something like “when I realized I didn’t need any sleep. …”  Clearly, he’s not sleeping. He looks worse every day. That’s classic mania — going at warp speed for several days in a row, not able to sleep, talking faster and faster.

I hope someone close to him can intervene.

Of course, intervening would be terribly hard at this point — I imagine his family and friends are, indeed, trying. I’m sure they’re trying to convince him to see someone, or at least stop doing these interviews. But he’s at a point where he’s in his own reality, and our reality doesn’t make sense to him now. Anyone’s attempt to help would probably be perceived by him as antagonistic, or ruining his “high” and his “brilliance,” and he probably dismisses everyone’s advice with a wave of his hand and says he doesn’t need them anyway. It will take someone very strong, and whom he really trusts, to step in.

I just feel bad that this is all happening on national television, and all of this will be captured forever.

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8 thoughts on “Having Trouble Watching Charlie Sheen

  1. You nailed it Laurie…it is sad, isn’t it. (Of course, it would also make a great story. The wheels are turning. Hmmm….one grandiose manic inventor, an intrepid heroine from his past….hmmm…sigh…too many ideas…not enough time.

  2. Laurie, thanks for sharing an insider’s interpretation of what is going on. I saw a few excerpts from his interviews with Piers Morgan, and he does exhibit a lot of the signs you mentioned. His parents must be devastated, and all of it playing out onscreen must make it worse.

    I am glad your brother has a loving family who appreciate what he goes through and who care.

  3. Wow, what a wonderful interpretation of what he may be going through. I just wrote him off as an out of control drug addict. But your description sounds right on target. I hope he gets the help he needs. I will miss the show as it was one of my favorites.

  4. That is what I was thinking too. I feel really sad that some day he might snap out of it and see himself in these interviews and think, “Man, what was I doing?!” He just seems so arrogant and helpless at the same time! I feel really sorry for his children and his family. Not to mention all his coworkers who are all out of a job now!

  5. Sorry not being a woman, but I have to write some where… I just saw some clips of Charlie and I feel really bad… it was like looking at my dad when he had mania periods in my early teens. He also had Big projects, all other are idiots, paranoia of beeing followed, emotional… etc etc. I really hope Charlie stays away from drugs and get som real people around him like family that can support him in getting help. And all the crap that national TV broadcast will hit him hard when he’s trying getting out of the depression later…

  6. Welcome, Mattias — No need to be a woman to comment here! Men are perfectly welcome. : ) I’m sorry to hear that you had a dad who was manic and going through these periods. But it’s perfectly recognizable, isn’t it? It’s hard to even explain to people, but it’s very recognizable — beyond just the bullet-list in the text books of speaking in a grandiose manner, discounting all help, etc., etc., there are all these “little things” that are perfectly recognizable to a sibling, child, parent, etc. of a manic-depressive. It’s the way they move their hands, and even the way they sort of jerk their head back before they say something outrageous, or the way they half-smile, or the way they do childish things in the middle of a rant with 4-syllable words (like Charlie looking through that twist tie in one interview). It’s just obvious to anyone who’s been around a manic. Thank you so much for commenting! Was your dad eventually treated?

  7. Yes it’s really obvious that he has a manic period, I just sat and starred at the clips and felt soo helpless, like in those days my father had his peek periods. He had 5 or 6 periods with mania and very tough depressions. But the last time he had mania he even manged to medicate him self so he could keep a small mania going for a very long time since he knew how he reacted on the medicin, so the mania is really a drug as you can see on Charlie. But my dad has been calm since he had a stroke 6 years ago at the age of 60. But you can still see the tendencys in some periods. But it’s really the closest family that takes the hardest hits with this disorder.

    Hows your brother doing, is his medicin working ok? I think the medicin my father got in the end of nineties worked quite ok and onwards.

    Thanks for listning… And my English are maybe not the best since Im from Sweden 😉

  8. Mattias — Thanks so much for your comments. You’re really the first person I’ve “talked” to that also recognizes mania from a personal experience. You said it exactly right when you said “mania is really a drug as you can see on Charlie.” That’s exactly it. When he says he’s “on the drug of Charlie Sheen,” he means it! Anyway, my brother has really struggled all his life with it. For some reason, he didn’t respond to lithium (the bipolar drug that usually works best), so it’s always been a trial and error of various other medications that sometimes work and sometimes don’t (or have so many side effects, he takes additional meds for those, too). It’s been rough for him, and really rough for my parents, who try to help him. Since the 90s, as you said, I think most of the medications seem to work well for most people, though, which is good.

    Thanks so much for commenting here! It was nice to connect with someone on this!

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