FALKLAND, BC — Although I don’t intend to travel to Maryland anytime
soon, Iron Mike Tyson deserves my sincere apology for making snide
remarks about him going berserk in a jail cell in the middle of Monday’s
The offending paragraph read: WAS IT SOMETHING ON TV?: Oprah, Rosie
and Roseanne can force you to shove your foot through the TV screen.
Right? Now Mike Tyson has taken it a step further. On Friday night at
the Montgomery County Detention Center in Rockville, Md., Tyson delayed
his release and any further hope of resuming his boxing career by
throwing a temper tantrum by heaving a TV set around a room. Before the
TV-throwing incident, Tyson was in major trouble for violating probation
concerning his 1992 rape conviction. A changed man? Never!
However, the most important ingredient in the wire story was that
jail officials had started to withhold Zoloft, an antidepressant
medication for mood swings.
Tyson’s doctor, Dr. Richard Goldberg, chairman of the psychiatry
department at Georgetown University Medical Center, had pleaded that the
once meanest man on the planet needed the pills. The jail boneheads
emphatically said “no.”
When a guard hung up the phone on Iron Mike, that’s when he went
“ballistic,” sending a $300 TV set into the stratosphere and he was
shoved into isolation.
He had been serving a one-year sentence for rousting two men during a
road rage incident. Tyson had taken Zoloft on a daily basis leading up
to the Francois Botha fight in mid-January that he won in the fifth
While training, the one-time heavyweight champion seemed to be in
good spirits while on the medication that reduces irritability, anger
and aggression, but once he was taken off it, he became belligerent.
However, Tyson, who like everyone else is accountable for his or her
actions, still didn’t deserve being cut off anti-depressants, for it was
cruel and inhumane. “One of the major rules in medicine is don’t rock
the boat,” explained Dr. John Griest of the Institute of Medicine in
Madison, Wis., who had provided Zoloft to more than 200 patients. The
FDA approved it in 1992.
When I was a kid, if one had mental problems, they were hidden away;
considered to be “nuts” and should be sent away to the “crazy farm.”
Such mental conditions were never discussed openly.
Thank God, they are, today.
At 12, I stayed at home after contracting rheumatic fever and started
to watch a crow cawing in a gnarled pine tree on the edge of a cliff
overlooking the tiny Bass River in Nova Scotia. A feeling of melancholy
swept over me each time I heard the caw.
Subsequently, for unknown reasons, feelings of desperation and
frustration were prevalent throughout my mid-life, that I tried to
overcome by a superficial macho image, playing the “role” of a tough
However, deep within a small boy was crying out: “Help me, help me.”
These feelings were triggered by the most unexplainable images or even
Thoughts of even suicide were never far away, although there were
religious experiences that gave me certain moments of ecstasy, but they
weren’t long lasting.
Then came the nightmares and paranoia and more depression. It can and
did ruin relationships, friendships and lives.
In 1995, I was diagnosed with “clinical depression,” and now take
three Serzone anti-depressant tablets on a daily basis.
I was reassured that I wasn’t “nuts” when I learned others had faced
the same dilemma that is now being brought into the open with education
One of the most prominent has to be the late Sir Winston Churchill,
who called his depression his “black dog.” He was in a company of great
men such as Goethe, Schumann, Luther, Abraham Lincoln, Haile Selassie I
Sometimes such depression can even lead to outstanding careers.
Anthony Storr, the author of Churchill’s Black Dog wrote: “In 1940,
his inner world of make-believe coincided with the facts of external
reality in a way which very rarely happens … (he) became the hero that
he had always dreamed of being. It was his finest hour. In that dark
time, what England needed was not a shrewd, equable, balanced leader.
She needed a prophet, a heroic visionary, a man who could dream dreams
of victory which all seemed lost. Winston Churchill was such a man; and
his inspirational quality owed its dynamic force to the romantic world
of fantasy in which he had his true being.”
However, mood disorders can not be pigeon holed, for they range in
degrees from minor to manic and everything in between.
Some cases have been known to lead to suicides, as in the instances
of Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, John
Berryman, Van Gogh, and possibly Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe, who
apparently overdosed on sleeping pills.
In a recent studies, poets and writers seem most susceptible to
depression as in the cases of Dickinson, Eliot, Poe, Balzac, Conrad,
Dickens, Emerson, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Ibsen and Melville.
In order to understand and educate, such people as CBS newsman Mike
Wallace, Oscar winner Rod Steiger, talk show host Dick Cavett have
discussed their mental ailments. Two that have received the most
attention are Patty Duke, who wrote “Call Me Anna” and “A Brilliant
Madness — Living with Manic-Depressive Illness,” with Gloria Hochman,
and actress Margot (Lois Lane) Kidder, who even spent some time homeless
because of her illness. She’s now compiling her experiences in a book,
Sometimes, depression is extremely hard to detect as in the cases of
international humorist Art Buchwald and Canadian Joey Slinger.
And did you know that Rosemary Clooney, Jonathan Winters, Jean-Claude
Van Damme, Sting, Francis Ford Coppola, Charlie Pride and baseball
pitcher Pete Harnisch have all been diagnosed with depression-like
These are familiar names, however, millions upon millions of common
folks are affected across the globe. There is hope and medication, even
if you have a sense of loneliness and hopelessness.
In treating people’s “black dogs” never say to them: “Lighten up!” or
“Have you been praying and reading your Bible?”, or “You’re a writer,
aren’t you? Just think of all the good material you’re getting out of
this.” Instead give them assuring words such as: “I love you!” and “I
care.” And mean them.
So, Mike, I’m sorry.
I do know what you’re going through!
If you would like to talk about your battle with “your black dog,”
e-mail me at: [email protected]
For further information on depression and bipolar disorder, phone
your local health caregiver or contact: National Institute of Mental
Health, D/ART Program, Room 10-85, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD
20857, or call (800) 421-4211. National Depressive & Manic Depressive
Association, 730 North Franklin St., Suite 501, Chicago, IL 60610, or
call (800) 826-3632.