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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