Saturday, March 19, 2011

Why Americans Shouldn’t Panic

I just came across this headline while supposedly preparing a tax return. Sometimes my attention wanders and I take a look at current headlines, and this one popped up.

And why shouldn’t we? Do they have any idea how close it is to April 15th? I’ve course I’m panicked!

Perhaps they weren’t talking about my tax deadlines. I don’t know. I didn’t read any further. Instead, I commenced to panic. Just tell me I shouldn’t do something, and I’m gonna do it, gosh darn it. It’s my rebellious streak.

On the other hand, tell me to panic, the world is coming to an end, and I’ll sit back and wonder what I should have for lunch, lunch being far more important to me than the end of the world.

Not that I’m not fond of the world – it is where I keep all my stuff, and I am uncommonly attached to my stuff. Some of it’s not worth much, most of it probably, but it’s my stuff and I like it.

There’s not much I can do about all the things I’m not supposed to panic about. Most things I fear never come to pass, like taking the wrong turn off the interstate and finding myself in an alternate reality, so I’ve found it easier not to worry about it. If I do find myself in an alternate reality I’ll worry about it then.

As it is, reality is enough of a problem, isn’t it? Don’t we have enough going on that we don’t need anything else to add to it? The possibility that (insert major disaster here) can strike isn’t so much as if but when – eventually everything happens somewhere. The uncertainty that conflict will break out in (insert conflict area here) will also happen, at some point. And there’s not a thing I can do about it.

Instead, I sit here on the sidelines and wait for things to unfold. Have you noticed how things are unfolding ALL THE TIME? It’s a constant sideshow, if one were to consider the rest of the world a sideshow and not the main event.

I’ll confine my panicking to what I can control, which at the moment is keeping my clients on good terms with the IRS. Talk about a catastrophe waiting to happen – the slightest slip up and the IRS won’t hesitate to panic. I’d think they were in a constant state of panic if I didn’t know that most of the panicking is done by computers who spit out deficiency notices as if their lives depended on it.

However, computers don’t have lives, not like we know them, and they’re not likely to band together to defeat us mere mortals, no matter what the newscasts say. Or maybe that theme is for movies and TV shows. I can’t tell anymore. There are so many things to be cautious about and to arm ourselves against, and sometimes it turns out to be the thing you least expected it to be.

Prepare for the worst. Expect the best. Or is it the other way around? 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Of Meltdowns and Mania

Everyone's jumping on the Charlie Sheen bandwagon, and while I normally avoid jumping on bandwagons due to my propensity to fall off and injure myself, sometimes I have to go ahead. I'll nurse my bruises later.

Have you ever seen someone in the throes of a complete meltdown? My experience has more to do with psychotic episodes and blazing fits of fury (not fists), but they're not dissimilar. In each case, bystanders wonder, "What's going on, and how can I make it stop?" 

Perhaps not in Charlie's case. He's a media sensation. There's 24 hour reporting of his every inane utterance, his every illogical action, every further step down into his perverse reality. If I were a reporter, I'd latch on to everything that came out of his mouth, I'd be hoping for new spectacular shenanigans, I'd be hoping for even more melting, because that's how I make my living, isn't it? By showing the world celebrity, and what happens when it goes off the rails. Charlie's an easy newsmaker these days. Not only does he provide news, but he gives those of us without celebrity the opportunity to say, "Wow, look what happened to him. Celebrities do have issues!"

And then we can be happy we aren't one of them.

There are, unfortunately, people living through this same thing every day. They're not famous, they're not celebrities, and no one finds it amusing. It isn't a commentary on how celebrity can get so out of hand we can't recognize humanity in it because it's regular people, people like you and me, and they're in need of help. They aren't amusing. They're every bit as entertaining as Charlie, if mental illness can be said to be entertaining at all, but since it is with Mr Sheen, why not? 

It's become a spectator sport. What will he do next? 

If you live with someone who has mental illness, or if you know someone with mental illness, you know it's not a picnic. It is not entertaining in the least, no matter how unintentionally funny they may be. Okay, perhaps now and then there's an occasional laugh, but that's usually to ward off the alternate choice, which would be crying. Or hysteria. 

Charlie needs help, but he's not likely to get it. He has no reason to. He's getting all the attention he craves, people are eating this up, they're loving this train wreck. Give someone in this situation more rope, and he'll use it to make a bigger spectacle, and if that means hanging himself with it, so be it. We keep giving Charlie more rope to hang himself with. 

When my ex-husband was mentally ill and psychotic I could have given him a knife and said, "Go to it hon!" and let him play out his fantasies, but that's not really productive, is it? But celebrities? Let them at it. They're here to entertain us, after all, to provide a diversion from our normally humdrum lives. 

I don't have the answers. I just know that people who have these sorts of issues need people around them to speak the truth to them, to help them, and to urge them to get help. They need to know they're more than their illness, that their illness neither keeps them from being loved or from loving, and that it's an impediment, but it does not define them. Right now, Charlie's illness defines him, and once if he loses that, what's he have?

Nothing. So keep on keeping on Charlie. We're all watching.

For great information on bipolar, read Julie Fast's blog at