Electronic Design

Bob's Mailbox

Dear Bob:
Your characterization of Bipolar illness and Mania missed the mark a bit (Electronic Design, Dec. 1, 1998, p. 131). These problems are not merely attitudes that are somehow a little extreme; these problems are real neurological malfunctions. Mania is not just a spate of enthusiasm and energy. It can be a very difficult situation for those subject to its influence—the person with the illness, as well as their friends and family. In some ways, the disease could be likened to bipolar transistors—without current-limiting resistors or any feedback. This situation may be O.K. for a switch, but totally unstable, thus very lousy for any other application. (Sounds like me! /rap)

Not all mania is fully modulated "to the rails." But as manics approach full modulation, they can be a total nuisance, calling everywhere in the world at all times of the day and night (I just spent $160 calling around the world "day and night" because some IDIOTS wouldn't answer their phones. /rap) and spending huge amounts of money on illusory projects and grand schemes. (I just spent $25k on my new books. /rap)

And all the while they are saying over and over and over again, "I'm doing great! I'm feeling fantastic! I'm on top of the world! I'm so good you just don't understand." (Sounds like me! /rap) The problem with mania is that unlike other diseases, where the patient feels sick and may want to do something about it, the manic feels wonderful and does not want to do anything about it. Even when their friends and family start cutting them off, blocking their phone calls, or getting restraining orders against them, they will insist that the problem is not them. It is everyone else.

Typically, this will go on until the afflicted person starts coming down, or they crash into a brick wall at 170 mph, complaining about how slow everyone is. Of course, not all manics crash at 170 mph. Some crash at 125 mph while others cruise along happily at 90 mph, being only a bit "eccentric," if not a little trying, to their community. (Sounds like me! /rap)

Unfortunately for us, mania tends to afflict those with sharper minds—doctors, lawyers, and engineers—more often than the general population. Medication exists, but the afflicted are typically not interested in taking a pill that feels like a sedative to them. So it is usually only under extreme duress that a manic will commit to medication. Fortunately, there is help. There is an international support group called the Depressive and Manic Depressive Association (DMDA); (800) 826-3632.

...While they cater to the afflicted, I found that as a family member who has dealt with a manic sister for the last decade, attending a few meetings was extremely helpful to me...I recommend that anyone remotely interested in the complaint, or anyone who feels that they might have a glimmer of mania or depression, take two hours out of an evening and attend. I have been trying to get my sister to attend, but she is way, way, way too busy. Besides, she has heard everything about it already. In fact, she is a real expert in the subject. She is going to become a counselor for those with the problem. She will be the president of a BETTER national organization that really takes the issue where it needs to go. My heartfelt sympathies for your readers who have this illness or family members with it. Hang in there, you are not alone.
via e-mail

Mike, though my explanation was perhaps imperfect, I'm trying to increase awareness of some CURABLE diseases.—RAP

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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