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Spectacle

Is the line between confidence and delusion clearly delineated?

I watched clips of Charlie Sheen’s interview last night. Anyone wondering how to diagnose an acute manic episode….watch that interview. A once charming and affable man, Sheen is now ranting, persecuted, paranoid, grandiose and narcissistic. The whole world is out to get him.  This next week will be a train wreck in slow motion for Mr. Sheen….or at least for all of us in observance. And we’ll all gawk because we are a voyeuristic society.

I hope to be confident in my actions. I aim to be assured in my decisions. I want to stride forward with determination. But I hope to God that if I start rambling like a mad woman and have the ragged appearance of days of sleeplessness, someone will pull the emergency brake. If I am twitchy and jittery and fidgety, could someone pop me with a sedative? Knock my ass out before I systematically dismantle all I have worked for and achieved. Will I be defensive? Will I protest that I don’t need help? Will I insist I am FINE and can handle it? Maybe. Usually I can and do. But for my closest friends, if I start looking bug-eyed, unkempt, disheveled and I sound like I am off my rocker…..make sure no one hands me a microphone or books me for an interview on Good Morning America.

And what’s with that? It makes for sick entertainment, but it isn’t news. And whomever booked that segment KNEW fair well Charlie Sheen was a rambling manic depressive off his meds. They were banking on the spectacle. It’s cruel, unkind and lacks compassion. If he had a seizure disorder and started having gran mal fits in public, wouldn’t we rush to help him? Even if those epileptic fits are the consequence of him drinking alcohol and skipping his anti-convulsants? If he had an acute exacerbation of emphysema and went into respiratory failure, would we stand idly by and watch him flounder? Would we say, “Well, he kept smoking cigarettes. What did he think would happen?” No, we’d call 911 and transport him to a hospital. How is this acute mental break any different? If you have seizures, don’t skip your meds. If you have emphysema, don’t smoke. If you have a bipolar disorder, take your meds. Maybe the indictment comes when we (as critical observers) know the reason for the spectacle is a direct consequence of that person’s actions or inactions. It’s their own damn fault! True. Charlie Sheen made his own mess. But does that justify our cold indifference? It is probable, that even if you throw him a lifeline, he’d refuse it. So, if we expect him to refuse us, do we just not bother to throw the lifeline? He might drown. The question for ourselves is whether we can accept that he might actually drown. We should still do the right thing. Throw the lifeline, offer help, refrain from mockery and avoid displaying his stunning hubris. If he refuses help and drowns, then it is truly his choice. But to not throw the flotation device is wrong.

We all have bad days, but Jeez Louise, let’s not have film footage of it. Can we agree on that?

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