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.