The Contra Costa Times is reporting that Scott David Weinberg, 51, charged with setting fires at a downtown fast-food restaurant and the Comcast cable services hub, had suffered from "recurring episodes of uncontrolled" bipolar disorder throughout his life and was hospitalized at least twice.
Weinberg had also been slapped with a restraining order, to stay away from his second wife and her family, because of numerous reports of threats, including to burn down her house, and stalking.
Weinberg was charged Friday and arraigned on four counts of arson, and one count each of resisting arrest, possession of brass knuckles, and theft of lawn figurines. He was arrested outside hi Walnut Creek home Thursday afternoon. The fire at the Wendy's on North Main Street occurred late Wednesday night, and a blaze at the Comcast building early Thursday morning knocked out cable services to nearly 40,000 people.
Whatever some of you might think of Weinberg and his actions, bipolar disorder is a devastating disease and can be extremely debilitating. And a lot of people have it. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, this chronic medical condition afflicts more than 10 million people in the United States.
I know a little bit about bipolar disorder. As I've said before, my husband has a form of bipolar disorder--along with other illnesses. Fortunately he is very diligent about taking his medication. Weinberg was said to act unpredictably when he was off his medication.
From what I've learned through reading and attending an excellent 12-week Family-to-Family course sponsored by NAMI's Contra Costa chapter, people who are mentally ill often don't see themselves as mentally ill. That's one of the symptoms. And if they don't view themselves as sick, why, they think, do they need to take meds?
Also, the side effects of some of the medications can be almost as debilitating as the illness itself, don't always work, or need constant adjustments, and can lead to long-term health consequences.
According to NAMI, bipolar disorder, or manic depression, "causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, and functioning. These changes may be subtle or dramatic and typically vary greatly over the course of a person’s life as well as among individuals.
"Bipolar disorder is a generally life-long condition with recurring episodes of mania and depression that can last from days to months that often begin in adolescence or early adulthood, and occasionally even in children. Most people generally require some sort of lifelong treatment."
By the way, the manic phase can be marked by:
--elation, happy mood or an irritable, angry, unpleasant mood
--increased physical and mental activity and energy
--racing thoughts and flight of ideas
--increased talking, more rapid speech than normal
--ambitious, often grandiose plans
--impulsive activity such as spending sprees, sexual indiscretion, and alcohol abuse
--decreased sleep without experiencing fatigue