What's All This Manic Stuff, Anyhow?

Dec. 1, 1998
A while back, I was invited to give a lunchtime lecture at the Bipolar Circuits and Technology Meeting (BCTM) in Minneapolis. I talked about "What's All this Bipolar Stuff, Anyhow?" and that also...

A while back, I was invited to give a lunchtime lecture at the Bipolar Circuits and Technology Meeting (BCTM) in Minneapolis. I talked about "What's All this Bipolar Stuff, Anyhow?" and that also turned into a column (Electronic Design, Aug. 7, 1995, p. 95).

At this lecture, I told a story about a journal my wife was reading. Nancy said, "Bob—this article in this magazine says that people with Bipolar Disorder have a lot of problems, conflicts, fights, suicides, and murders... is that what this conference is about?" I roared, "Yeah, those are all my friends!" When I told this story at the lunchtime lecture, all the audience roared and laughed. And I did, too.

At the time it was amusing because I was not really very familiar with "Bipolar Disorder." But, I have gotten a little more education. First of all, bipolar transistors and bipolar disorder have NOTHING in common. Bipolar transistors mean ordinary NPN and PNP transistors, as distinguished from JFETs and MOSFETS. A bipolar transistor has holes and electrons, an emitter and base, and a collector. If you (as I do) still work with bipolar transistors and want information on this conference, contact Jan Jopke at [email protected].

"Bipolar Disorder" simply means a person who is alternately depressed, seriously unhappy, and then very positive and cheerful. "Bipolar" just means alternating from depression to happiness. This definition is not widely appreciated. Even the article my wife was reading was kind of vague about it.

Then a couple months ago, I was absentmindedly listening to the radio at 3 a.m. The guy was talking about people who have this manic phase, are very enthusiastic, and get along on three hours of sleep. I perked up my ears and said, "HECK! They are talking about me!" I listened some more and realized that when a person who has bipolar disorder is in the POSITIVE phase, he (she) is very enthusiastic and positive and gets along great on very little sleep. Conversely, when a person is in the negative phase, they need lots of sleep and are quite unhappy and depressed. I read some more about this in a book by Colette Dowling (You Mean I Don't Have to Feel This Way?, Scribners, New York, N.Y., 1991). Well, I have almost always been a positive and happy person. I don't think I have ever been depressed, even in the case of the loss of a great person or friend. Almost nobody gets out of here alive, but most of us survivors will find ways to keep on going and make the world a better place.

When I was a kid, I learned that the St. Germain family up the road came from Maine. Lucien, Bobby, Patsy, and Janora—nice kids. We kids sometimes called them "Mainiacs." It was just a part of learning how to use words—or to CONJURE with words—and I don't think we caused them any pain. It was all in good fun. To this day, I would never fail to call a person from Maine a "Mainiac" if it would make us all smile.

But, what is a "Maniac?" Is that you—or is it me? Maybe so. You guys may have noticed that I am sometimes DRIVEN with a passion—a mania. Are all manias bad? I dunno. Maybe if taken to excess.

Mark Twain really did say this, probably: "Too much of anything is an excess, bad; but too much whiskey is just right." As usual, he got some parts of the story wrong, but he got some parts right.

What is an excessive enthusiasm? Good for some, not for others. I cannot give all the facts on this, but all you readers will recognize that I've been CRUSADING for several ideas for years, and my energies can be pretty extreme. Many charities that do good for people are similarly endowed with people who are "off on a rant." Good for them. The world needs people who give a damn and are driven and obsessed.

By the way, I sometimes used to read Machine Design magazine. But, then it was taking too much of my time. I found a cache of a dozen unread Machine Design magazines from '92. I realized there was NO WAY I could read them all, so I recycled them even before my wife began to gripe. But more recently, I acquired a subscription and began reading the recent columns (editorials) of Ron Kohl. He is almost as fine a madman as I am. While he is constrained to a mere 3 kbytes of column every issue, he does really well. I LOVE most of his editorials. I hate to say it, but his magazine and editorials have some EXCELLENT ideas. To sign up, e-mail to [email protected], or go to their web site at http://www.penton.com/md/subscribe/index.html. To buy a book of a collection of Ron's editorials (about $16), called Mad as Hell, just dial (800) 213-9150.

On a good day, manics contribute a lot to the world. I try to. I have boundless energy (except when my wife wants me to clean out something).

Is there a CURE for bipolar disorder? Apparently, some of the lithium-based drugs can help relieve the extreme manic state and decrease the depression. It's standard treatment, prescribed by your doctor. I have never heard ANYBODY propose that there is (or should be) a cure for the mania or enthusiasm. What do you think?

All for now. / Comments invited!
RAP / Robert A. Pease / Engineer
[email protected]—or:

Mail Stop D2597A
National Semiconductor
P.O. Box 58090
Santa Clara, CA 95052-8090

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