Is Trump on the verge of a bipolar meltdown?
Tonight I’m feeling smug and self-satisfied because my recent prediction may be coming to pass even sooner and more spectacularly than I thought it would: Trump may be spiraling straight into mania right before our eyes. The Albany Times Union printed the following Op Ed on Monday, though I actually wrote it ten days ago. I’m using my original Word document since it will be easier to format for my blog. Just now, for the first time, I compared my version word-by-word to theirs, confirming what I already thought: they didn’t edit or change a single word. (They did change one punctuation mark; see below.)
So much has happened since I wrote this Viewpoint article that I can’t begin to recap it here. But I do want to credit the TU for the caption they ran under Trump’s photo: “Does a suitable diagnosis for Trump exist?” Offhand, I can come up with several. Stay tuned by subscribing to my blog so you won’t miss anything.
I’ll never forget the full-blown episode of mania that earned me the official diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I’d been sleepless for days, and it culminated in a call to the New York Times at three in the morning. Reading about Donald Trump’s recent flurry of ill-considered tweets about the former Miss Universe brought back vivid memories, and I can’t help wondering if he’ll soon earn the same label.
My own diagnosis came when I was in my fifties. The average age of onset for bipolar disorder is around age 25, so I was a late bloomer. But research reveals that the first episode can strike at any age, and it’s more common in middle and even old age than is generally realized. According to Dr. Robert C. Young, a professor of psychiatry at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and attending physician in psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital, psychiatrists even have a name for it: “Geri-BD.”
I’ve been watching Trump’s performance with growing disbelief. Like many media pundits, I labelled him with narcissistic personality disorder. My well-worn copy of the DSM-IV, the ultimate authority on mental disorders, shows that he’s literally a textbook example. But he could be bipolar as well—the two aren’t mutually exclusive.*
During manic episodes, people typically experience high energy levels. They talk more, interrupt people, make decisions in a flash and feel less need for sleep. Along with confidence and the feeling that they can do anything, there is often irritable, angry and impatient behavior. They may say and do outrageous things and take ever increasing risks.
A first manic episode can be precipitated by an unusually high level of stress. That was certainly true for me. As founder and president of a licensed home care agency in Ulster County, I was on call 24/7, constantly worried about whether we’d meet the payroll, frequently filling in for no-show aides. A shrink prescribed an antidepressant, and soon I was feeling better—miraculously better, in fact.
I grew more and more manic. The climax came when I locked myself in my office, threatening to call the police if anyone tried to get in. At about three, I called the New York Times and managed to reach a reporter working the night shift. I told him I had an urgent story about my father, who had been Managing Editor of the Milwaukee Journal during the McCarthy era and who had died 20 years before. I demanded that the Times run a front page story about him immediately. The reporter diplomatically suggested that the story didn’t sound quite right for the Times, but that I might want to call the Journal because of the local interest angle.
Eventually my husband coaxed me out of the office and got me to my shrink, who prescribed some heavy-duty sedatives to bring me down. I spent the next few days on the living room couch, watching video movies in a semi-stupor, and since then I’ve been more or less stable with carefully calibrated medication.
No one but my husband and my shrink knew how thoroughly off the wall I was, how close to a devastating crash. As my mania built, I churned out endless pages of prose on my computer, but this was before the advent of the Internet and social media. Had I been able to email and Tweet my crazy thoughts and theories to the world, I know I would have done so with uninhibited glee.
So as much as I detest Trump, I can empathize with his increasingly unhinged behavior. Time—and I’m talking days, weeks at most—will tell if I’m right. Remember, you read it here first.
*The last sentence in the fifth paragraph contains the only edit the TU made to my article—they changed the em dash to a semicolon. They kept my other dashes, though. As a writer of fiction and poetry, I rarely use semicolons; however, I suppose I could make an occasional exception.
COMING SOON: my memories of sexual assault back in my single days.