Sure, when the videos of Charlie Sheen first started popping up on YouTube, i watched a couple with the same slack-jawed astonishment as the rest of the world.  But it didn’t take long before i was squirming.

i’ve been there.  i have heard virtually the exact same words from my sister, T, as she rolled off on a manic phase.  On more than a dozen occasions.  It’s unpleasant.

From her initial meltdown at age 26, through her 50th birthday party last August, i’ve had those conversations.  They are difficult.  Perhaps difficult as an interviewer, but FAR more difficult if the person is your sister. 

Mr. Sheen is clearly dealing with mental illness.  And listening to the commentary in the media?  It is even more clear to me that at least in the U.S., we are woefully lacking in understanding about what this means.  i see it in my own family – my Mom* and i are the only two who have some appreciation that T is not “doing it on purpose just to be mean”. 

At the gym last Monday, i was stuck on an elliptical machine with a broken television – couldn’t change the channel from Fox News**, some mid-day talking heads program.  Closed captioned for the hearing impaired and gym-bound.

The topic:  Mental Illness.  They discussed the seeming constant stream of celebrities encountering melt-downs.  Stating “Six percent of the population is afflicted with some form of mental illness…”, one of the cutesy blondes went on to say “So why does it seem that Hollywood has more than it’s fair share of the mentally ill?” as she laughed…

The segment went on to cover the pressures on celebrities that might cause more breakdowns – the stress of fame, perils of having a lot of money.  Blah, fucking blah, blah, blah.  At no point did these idiots mention that perhaps it seems that way because boneheaded media wonks are always watching and ‘reporting’ on celebrity meltdowns? 

It wasn’t until i was tossing and turning in bed, and happened to catch late night talk show host Craig Ferguson’s opening monologue the same night, that i was able to get my head around it. 

Laughing at the mentally ill.  Watching their antics as a form of entertainment.  You’d think we’ve come a bit further than in the past couple of hundred years.  Apparently not. 

i’m just a bit thankful that we’ve been able to process my sister’s condition in relative obscurity.


* Mom was a psych nurse for about 16 years.  She always said she felt at home on the Psych Ward.  i’m pretty sure she wasn’t kidding….

** Regarding this topic?  Fox News is no worse than any of the others…