This is not meant to be a white man apologizing for bigotry in another white man. It is meant to help a sick man find a way out of his disease.
I saw the explosion on the net, like so many others. I saw the anger, the rage, the bizarre and incomprehensible fury that just seemed to keep coming, that just seemed to spill forth from you in ways no one — least of all you — might have expected.
When I was in my 20s, I was pretty sure I was an alcoholic. I did most of the usual stuff you expect from drunks. I pissed off my friends, alienated my family, and generally behaved like a complete asshole.
(I mean, as opposed to now, when my assholiness is calculated and deliberate; back then, it was a lot more like your bizarre behavior, shocking and just plain out of touch with both reality and who you imagine yourself to be.)
Your comments on Letterman just seem to underscore my concern. You aren’t quite there yet, but I’m also not willing to say you have a drug problem.
It might be a lot more simple than that. You might be just mildly manic-depressive, as I know myself now to be. (Never formally diagnosed, but I don’t have reasonable doubt; I’ve been in this meat for nearly 40 years; I know how it works or doesn’t.)
It took me a long time to figure it out, because when you’re borderline it’s so much harder to detect. You get moody. You have swings. You have long, long bouts of total normalcy — complete self-responsibility, complete control (though that’s not quite the right word; it’s more like ownership) over yourself. Everything is in balance, everything is in equilibrium.
But sometimes things go awhack. Sometimes it feels like your mind is just racing, just racing, going a hundred miles an hour, sometimes it feels like you can’t keep up with all the words, the ideas, the thoughts, the vibrance in your head.
And then, to try to bring it all back, you self-medicate; most of us use booze, because it works. Our thoughts become dissociated, relaxed, random; we stop connecting so many things to so many other things, and we just sort of fall into a fog of drifting chaos.
The next few days, we’re down — way down, like shockingly down, like even as we’re working happily in the lives we love, doing the things we do, sometimes the idea surfaces that we’re failures, and we remember, intimately and personally and immediately, how badly we’ve fucked up here and here and here too, and we think of killing ourselves, but it’s not even surprising when we do; it’s just a thing, like looking at a cloud and realizing, hey, there’s a cloud. Maybe I should be dead.
And we attribute the downside to the booze, to the hangover, and we regain our equilibrium until we’re caught in that crazy upswing again … and the cycle recommences.
I know your bewilderment. I’ve had it a few times in my life.
There is no outside cause or cure for it; it’s fucked-up brain chemistry. And the sooner you realize that, the better off you’re going to be. Even if you never take drugs to correct this specific problem — there may not be a good mild dose for this understated flavor of psychosis — still, knowing what is wrong can be so empowering; you don’t feel so totally fucking nuts any more.
I’m not saying you have to start Prozac right away. I’m not saying you have to do intensive religious rework. (Please, don’t become a Scientologist; you’ll only get a lot worse, even though a lot of what they say about engrams seems to make so much sense.) I’m not saying you have to do anything except listen to your own mind.
That’s what I’ve relented to myself. I don’t want the drugs; I’m using a mild herbal supplement to help.
It doesn’t always. Sometimes I just go wack.
But I know it will pass, and that, for the moment, I’m not myself — and when that happens I tend to clamp down most, to be most guarded in how I interact with the world; because I know the bubbling chaos is just there, that how I respond to pretty much everythying is not a normal reaction.
I ride it out, but while I do so, I remain circumspect as best I can.
I’m writing this now in a manic phase. I am not telling you everything that is happening inside me. Because I know that if I did, in the light of my cooler mind, it would be impossible to explain.
It would appear insane.
But I also don’t want the drugs, man. I don’t want myself to be compromised; when I’m stable, I do things with a single image and a dash of words that can make jaded men weep, and I’m afraid of losing that. Because I know my contact with the mildly crazy is what gives me the fuel I need to make my work have real meaning.
So my struggle is not to maintain equilibrium in the face of my peers. My struggle is, instead, to maintain the appearance of equilibrium during those occasional times when most of my marbles seem utterly lost in the drain of the universe.
I ride out the black times too, the dark times.
My role model is Spock. I seem cold, distant, unemotional to so many; but underneath is a boil of hot emotion, some of it exhilerating, some of it frightening.
To most I’m just moody; that’s all. I can live with that.
I know what happened to you, I think. I really do.
The good news is that it’s not you, and you don’t have to always put it out there for everyone to see. You can sense it coming; you can feel the onset; and you can just shrug, and know it’s due, and hang on for dear life, and let yourself be sure that eventually the worst will pass.
My formula is to generally avoid all stimulants and depressants, including strong coffee, nicotene and alcohol. Start there and work forward.
And, as best you can, withdraw. Tell the world you need some time to work on yourself, and go within yourself for a while.
The public apology just didn’t help, and I know it as well as you do, and I know why.
Hang in there. And for what it’s worth, I forgive you.
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