Blessings of a Bipolar Crisis

jayson-blair-docA mental health crisis, once it resolves, can leave people with a sense of overwhelming anxiety that co-workers, distant friends, family, and strangers might find out about what happened.

Jayson Blair, however, never really had the opportunity to worry about that… His was an extraordinarily public mental health crisis.

In an article in Bipolar Hope he talks about what happened…

“I was a reporter at the New York Times and I fabricated and plagiarized articles, was forced to resign from my job, and had constant reminders of my misbehavior through the comments of loved ones, articles about the scandal, and television shows where the topic was widely discussed.”

For those of you who a. re long time readers of the New York Times, this version of the story may not seem familiar, because what was reported at the time was a story of straightforward plagiarism and poor review of stories by his editors. The Wikipedia article on Jayson summarizes the aftermath of the controversy this way:

The New York Times reported on Blair’s journalistic misdeeds in an unprecedented 7,239-word front-page story on May 11, 2003, headlined “Times Reporter Who Resigned Leaves Long Trail of Deception.” The story called the affair “a low point in the 152-year history of the newspaper.”

Jayson Blair is African American and much of the commentary and discussion at the time focused on whether, as the result of its commitment to affirmative action, the New York Times had promoted him inappropriately. His editor,  Jonathan Landmann, was quoted as saying, “”I think race was the decisive factor in his promotion. I thought then and I think now that it was the wrong decision.”

Reading the story now, with the knowledge of Jayson’s bipolar diagnosis the story of reckless fabrication, charm, sloppy writing, even his excessive use of cocaine at the time, makes better sense as a story of a bipolar crisis.

In the article Jayson writes about how a crisis may have silver linings.

The 8 blessings he describes are:

  1. Defeating delusional denial – “it is hard to ignore the concerns of loved ones who can restate the stories (so easy for us to forget) about our reckless and dangerous behavior in acute manic or depressive episodes.”
  2. Fighting minimization – “Even when we remember what has happened, it is easy to forget how far outside the bounds, or how dangerous certain behaviors are to us and others.”
  3. Boomeranging deflection – “Before I was diagnosed, I used to tell a colleague that everything would fall into place if I had a new boss, or if someone else changed.”
  4. Partners in education – “When others know about our acute bipolar episodes, they usually reach for the shelves and pick up books such as Kay Redfield Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness.”
  5. Combating complacency – When you haven’t had an episode in a while it may be tempting to forget how bad things were.
  6. Eliminating enabling – “Loved ones can find the creative aspects of bipolar charming. But this attitude can be enabling for the person who has bipolar until the damage done in acute stages becomes apparent to everyone.”
  7. Added support – When problems are public it is easier to get support from others.
  8. Partners in advocacy – “Once other people see you suffer through acute episodes, they are more likely to join in your efforts to help others who have bipolar.”

For More Information

Eight Gifts of a Bipolar Crisis

Starting Bipolar Treatment – Dr Suzanne A . Black and Mr. Stuart Jessiman

Effective Communication – how and when to talk about bipolar with others.

For more about what happened…