The DOE, The CFR and the Hypersexual, a Narrative  By  E. Irving Curb September 29, 2010
Keywords, in no particular order: Masturbation, banishment, unresolved derogatory information, Code of Federal Regulations, Internet, unusual, Seneca, manic episode, hypersexual, olive oil, electro sex, merit badge, Parnate, electrocution, yellow star.
"I am very interested in insanes." That was a strange way to start a conversation with a fellow who'd just stood you a drink. Yet that was precisely how the doctor, in the Bella Vista Bar, had started their conversation the previous night. Could it be [he] considered his practised eye had detected approaching insanity—and this was funny too, recalling his thoughts on the subject earlier, to conceive of it as merely approaching—as some who have watched wind and weather all their lives can prophesy, under a fair sky, the approaching storm, the darkness that will come galloping out of nowhere across the fields of the mind.
Under the Volcano
Malcolm Lowry
How does it happen that a man, a grandfather, the father of three happy, well-adjusted children, now grown, and a Harvard-trained computational physicist, whose uneventful and unblemished career spanned more than 40 years at one of the Nation’s most prestigious R&D laboratories, falls out of grace with the Department of Energy in a single moment? What, you wonder, could I have possibly done that would turn them so utterly against me and so quickly lead to banishment? Why had this unassuming Dr. Jekyll suddenly come to be viewed by them as the base Mr. Hyde? At the risk of spoiling the story that follows, I offer up to the reader by way of preliminary explanation the sudden onset of mania, my first, in the fall of 2002, at the age of 64. And even if I was manic as hell that one fall, how does one get from there to conduct so unusual it’s likely to catch the eyes of DOE security re-investigators eight years later? Well, it's a simple enough process, and once I explain it to you, you'll see how logical the whole thing is.

With the precipitous onset of mania one unremarkable moment in the fall of 2002, an agitation akin to madness, and a thing to be feared more than death itself, descended upon me, a darkening pall, yet one that sent me soaring as if I had been set free. And with it, I had become a law unto myself, free of human limitations and immortal; my sexuality, unbounded.

I took up masturbating at every turn in a rather twisty road. I knew it wasn't right to prevail upon my poor wife to accommodate such frenzy, to each day and night spend untold hours in bed, or on the couch, or doggy style on the stairs to the bedroom, or cramped-up down on the tiled bathroom floor or movie style on the kitchen table or in the garage in the back seat of the Buick. I could not get enough sex.

I had become, in a word, hypersexual, not that I knew what that meant at the time.

How to describe the fiery urges, the seductive and scrotum-tightening urges, the ones that would wind your prostate into a tight little ball at the base of your gut leaving it aching for release? And how it feels so right when you're doing yourself, how it all makes sense and seems so reasonable and natural, and how it goes on and on, a theme and endless variations, how your urges take over with you along just for the ride as the passive observer with your will totally committed to coming just one more time, and on and on, until you’re stunned by the sound of your own voice entreating you at the point of tears, "Please stop. Please. Please.”

I was on fire! And nothing helped. Nothing would or could slake the flames. And oh, how I wept. A frenzied rat in my brain was clawing to get out. My entire body was beset with an erotic tingling, how deliriously delicious then to touch myself, anywhere, everywhere, but especially there in the center of my being. And I couldn't stop. And this was the shits. But I didn't want to stop. Torment and ecstasy, obverse sides of the coin I insisted on spinning over and over, watching the two sides blur into each other, again and again. On and on into the small hours before dawn when you stop finally, not because you want to, but because you have to, for you’re unable to go on, and in that pause you're able to think for the first time in a while, the blood still pounding in your brain, the rat still clawing to get out.

And your thoughts are that you've finally gone too far, and you’re certain you've gone quite mad, leaving you wondering, sick at heart, what kind of life you can have now. What has life left in it for you now, how is this going to work, and how find meaning in anything? And you're not sure, the doubt almost nauseating. You do need to work to support your family, but how reconcile that now suddenly aggravating and unreasonable need with your newfound one, the one, the steed, that came galloping, thundering, out of nowhere, prepotent and unbridlable?

But I'm not a machine; I'm flesh and blood and though my spirit was willing, my flesh was proving weak. This is not what you think—flaccidity didn't enter into it. No, I had begun to chaff but, undaunted, I’d continued on mindlessly, until I had begun to bleed. "Surely there must be some better lubricant than mineral oil," I wondered, "but what?" "Well," I reasoned, "you can find out most anything on the Internet,” so later that's where I went. It didn’t take long. I quickly found a chap who seemed to know what he was talking about—"Olive oil is organic and good for the skin, and has the highly desirable virtue that it conducts electricity," he stated authoritatively. Did I mention already that when manic everything is rivetingly interesting, everything!? My curiosity was promptly piqued, "What difference does it make if the lubricant conducts electricity or not?" This line of questioning ultimately led to my simple introduction to electro sex.

Once recruited into the ranks of the electro-sexual, the first task the novice must set himself to is locating and downloading special sound files, mp3 files of sound waves, some stereophonic, deliberately constructed using special software so as to be sexually stimulating when played back through an ordinary stereo amplifier connected, not to right and left speakers, but to right and left electrodes connected to or inserted into one’s private parts. The electrodes, the second task, can be as simple as self-adhesive, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) patches, available from any medical supply outfit, or as elaborate as do-it-yourself rings or sounds fashioned from copper wire of suitable thickness.

"This sounds like an answer to my prayers," I mused. "I won't have to use my hands at all." "One word of caution," the article concluded: "Don't turn the amplifier up so high that it heats the electrodes to the point of burning you." But I was horny, beyond horny, and needed all the stimulation I could find, and what I didn’t need, damn it, were the warnings of a wuss of little faith, one who couldn’t possibly understand what I was going through; they were a distraction. I glossed them.

I burned myself.

Human flesh can withstand only so much heat, and after 2 hours of being connected to home-made copper electrodes connected to an audio amplifier, I was pretty pink—almost as if sun-burned. But I wasn't worried about the burn per se, or at least not at first, and yet slowly the paralyzing thought took over that I might have seriously damaged myself, a deeply penetrating burn, that I might have nuked my meat. Did I mention to you that manic people are sometimes prone to panic attacks? They are. I panicked. I don't think it's possible to be manic and panicked at the same time, but I could be wrong; I'm no psychologist. But if it is, I can attest to the fact that panicked takes precedence over manic.

At the clinic, luck of the draw, the doctor I drew was this beautiful young East Indian woman. I think it was her first day on duty at the clinic; I may well have been her very first patient ever. "Poor thing," I thought, "so innocent. How'm I going to explain this to her?” I was sitting there sans shirt while she took my vital signs, feeling more naked than being without a shirt warranted, and utterly apprehensive over what I knew was in store for me next. My brain was going 60. "Think! Think! Think!" was all I could think. Mania beckoned. My mind raced. I triggered. "She's a doctor, she's probably heard it all before, just tell her the whole damn truth and be done with it." My words burst into the air like so much confetti from a canon as I bared my soul to her. Mind you, I had no idea I was bipolar, for I'd never heard of it. Ditto hypersexuality. "It was the olive oil that got me started on this," I tried to explain, dropping my pants and underwear, staring over her head at my reflection in the framed diploma on the wall opposite, my eyes dancing like pinwheels. She just looked at me and blinked a couple of times. My mouth was going the whole time she examined me. "Just apply a dab of cortisone cream once or twice daily," she interrupted me hurriedly, "and you should be fine in 2 or 3 days."

End of tale? No, not hardly, for it seems that in her notes, in her haste, she had scribbled down that I had electrocuted my penis, a mistake on her part that would come back to haunt me 7 years later during a routine DOE security reinvestigation, over the course of two separate, four-hour interrogations, each at the hands of a sweet but pharisaic novice, pharisaic in the way that only the truly nescient and provincial can be, one a 30-something man with the pronounced ministerial air of the TV evangelist, the other a rather corporate-looking, androgynous young woman whose gray and white houndstooth-check slacks suggested she might well have been a pastry chef in a previous life. Adroit delvers and adept at asking questions though they might be, they weren't prepared for raunchy-mental. As each one questioned me about electro sex and how it is done and how I did it, their questions progressed from the general to the specific, and though they bordered on the prurient at times, it seemed to me, they persisted despite their obvious embarrassment and my obvious discomfort at how candid I was being called upon to be. What is it with God anyway that He would inflict the daffiest and raunchiest of us manic-depressives on the truly innocent albeit misguided and holier-than-thou? Not funny. Do you have any idea of how humiliating it is to watch your confessor turn as bright as blood as you recount your sins for the record?

It was a small windowless room with two chairs and a table in between with a tape recorder centered on the table. Where do you look as you explain that you didn't electrocute your member, that you merely burned it? I chose to stare at the tape recorder. When I glanced back her way, I could see that her eyes were watering and her cheeks were burning. The interrogation concluded, I rose to leave and turning back to her I felt compelled to tell her how sorry I was that she’d had to go through all of this, and an overpowering urge to show her I really am human and have feelings, to convince her I’m not a creep or pervert, not really, though by the end of the interview I was beginning to have my doubts, but what came out was, “My, this has been quite an education for you, hasn’t it?” She just looked at me and blinked a couple of times. Why couldn’t I have come out with something more along the lines of what Virginia Woolf had to say in defense of her variation of our shared affliction: “As an experience, madness is terrific and not to be sniffed at.” Mine felt sniffed at, most definitely. To myself as I left the room, feeling strangely triumphant, another inane remark, “SHE won't soon forget ME!”

As I left the building I couldn't help but feel keen disappointment in my performance, couldn't help but think that with my testimony not only did I not further the understanding of bipolar disorder among the Normies, a cause near and dear to the manic-depressive heart the world over, I'd merely served to irreversibly darken its stigma, to further entrench its stereotype in her mind and in the minds of all who would eventually listen to the tapes we’d just made, or later read their transcripts.

So, there you have it. How one fall day in 2002 while unwittingly hard at work on my bipolar merit badge and driven to the limits of human sexuality, I managed to scorch my string, and seven years later, the Department of Energy found out about it and decided on the basis of that and after consulting the Code of Federal Regulations that my continued presence in the realm posed a threat to national security and so revoked my citizenship and banished me to BLDG 101. True story; I'm not making it up, not any of it, and while it’s true I am bipolar—a much welcomed diagnosis that came about in the Fall of 2003—I haven’t therefore imagined it, not any of it, for I'm not delusional nor subject to hallucinations, i.e., the kind of bipolar disorder that presents with psychotic features.

"Unresolved derogatory information," the director of personnel security said by way of explanation. "I must ask you for your badge," she went on matter-of-factly, while at the same time producing my new badge from a large envelope stuffed with papers and bearing my name, which she clutched defensively to her bosom. I handed her my badge.

Much could be said about the emotionality of this moment and such a simple act. Almost from the beginning humans have used “badges” of various sorts to denote status and affiliation, to discriminate between those who belong and those who do not, each designation potentially having its own badge, in theory anyway, e.g., the idea of the yellow star dates back at least to 7th-century Iraq. For 47 years I had worn, and proudly so, I must admit, the badge that said, in essence, "Your Government trusts you to handle and protect nuclear weapons information and material in a responsible manner," a badge that proclaimed to all who would see it that indeed I belonged, that it is safe for my peers to share such knowledge with me provided I have a need to know it, that I, too, was a citizen of Rome. She handed me my new badge. I felt abandoned; my life, bereft of meaning. I felt beset by an unmistakable stench, a taint, one that no toilet, whether simple or elaborate, could purge me of—leper.

The official Lab badge, as per a Department of Homeland Security directive, is color-coded to reflect the clearance of its bearer, and displays near the top his or her grand color photograph; near the bottom, what appears to be a gold seal but which actually is a microchip. In contrast, my new badge, plain white, bore my tiny picture centered near the top in a wide, grey and white, zebra-stripe frame. "Lab only" was all it said beside my name, which meant I could come onto the campus but would not be allowed access to any of the protected areas. My old office and haunts had been located adjacent to the singularly most protected area within the Lab, the so-called “Area 51,” where the Lab's inventory of special nuclear materials was stored and processed. I was not to be allowed access to any protected area, not even my old office, not even under escort. The transgression of which I'd been accused was so serious in nature, so pervasive in scope that my mere temporary presence, even under escort, was to them a paralyzing thought, and not to be countenanced. Had what I’d done, you ask, warranted the wreaking of such devastation upon my professional life? For make no mistake about it, for a scientist or engineer to have once been denied a clearance pretty much precludes employment in the private sector ever again. It is a career-ending death sentence.

Sitting there in that meeting room, holding my puny new badge, my pariah badge, my yellow star, light-headed and more than a little nauseated, I felt utterly estranged and bereft of identity—an untouchable. Gradually it became apparent to me that my management, for they were there too as per the Director’s instructions, were feeling as blind-sided by what had just transpired as I, for they hadn’t been told in advance what the purpose of the meeting was going to be, only that they were to round me up and escort me to it. I sensed that they were genuinely embarrassed for my sake. We sat. Now that this odious duty was over for her, the head of personnel security, no longer having to steel herself against it, softened and, showing genuine concern, told us we could sit there as long as we needed. She slid her business card across the table gently. On it she'd written a name and phone number. "I think you should appeal this decision; here is the name of a really good lawyer who has a lot of experience handling such cases for Lab employees," she added with an almost solicitous tone in her voice. My managers nodded in agreement. I was to be allowed one last entry to my office, chaperoned by them, to collect what few personal items I could carry as I was escorted off the premises. Was this to be the decidedly ignominious end to my 47 years of faithful and, as far as I knew at that point, unblemished service?

Early the next morning, I took possession of the temporary digs my management had found for me in the interim, a cubicle in BLDG 101, a cavernous, warehouse-like building whose high-ceilinged and brightly lit interior is awash in a sea of cubicles, most uninhabited. The reference grid along which these cubicles were laid out and assembled is inclined at 45º to the exterior walls of the building itself. What this does is immediately disorient the visitor or new resident, because BLDG 101, like every other building at the Lab, was built with its walls congruent with lines of latitude and longitude, so upon entering this labyrinth whatever sense you may have had of north and south vanishes and you feel lost and boggled.

Banishment! Is this what it felt like for Seneca, whenever it was, to be cast out, no longer to be at the center, to be cut off from the source of all knowledge and from one’s peers, not to be allowed to know what they know or share with them what you know, to be driven out from all that seemed familiar and meaningful to a place that seemed summarily disconnected from everything and everyone—these thoughts I mulled as I sat somewhat forlornly in one corner, my corner, in a 3-person cubicle in that warehouse full of cubicles, where it was clear that people had resided recently, albeit temporarily, but where now no one could be found. I could hear an occasional voice from across the great expanse of empty cubicles, but could never manage to catch a glimpse of whoever had spoken or make any sense of what it was he was saying—Kafkaesque.

If at the end of your security reinvestigation there remains any "unresolved derogatory information," you will have failed the reinvestigation and your clearance will be revoked immediately. The Code of Federal Regulations spells out exactly what is meant by derogatory information; it's not what it sounds like, like one of your neighbors put the kibosh on you when interviewed by a field investigator, "The creep lets his kids run around neked in the backyard." No, the CFR spells out in legalese in the form of 12 criteria what exactly constitutes derogatory information. For example, if you had friends who were enemy agents or spies, Criterion B would cover that; or if you lied or otherwise obfuscated in filling out your Personal Security Questionnaire, Criterion F would nail you.

I feel a word is in order about so-called administrative law (to be contrasted to statutory law as laid out in the U.S. Code). As every student who's ever taken a civics class will recall, in the Federal Government, the Congress is the law-making branch, so how does it come about that the various agencies within the Executive Branch are allowed, on their own, to come up with the rules and regulations that collectively comprise administrative law? Well, Congress is the body that comes up with the legislation that creates the various agencies, e.g., the CIA came into existence with the passage of the "1947 National Security Act." Though it is Congress who creates and funds these various agencies, it turns control of them over to the President and the Executive Branch. Recognizing that it (Congress) does not have the resources, or knowledge, or time to administer the various agencies in the nitty-gritty, paradoxically it turns that responsibility over to the agencies themselves. That is, the various agencies have been granted broad authority to interpret the statutes in the U.S. Code that they have been entrusted to enforce. So each agency formulates all the rules and regulations by which they and their "customers" and employees live. As these rules and regulations come into being, they are reviewed by the public. That is, they are published in something called the Federal Register. After a suitable period of give and take during which the public is encouraged to make comments to which the agencies respond, the rules and regulations are permanently adopted by their respective agencies. The entire body of all such regulations and rules is known as administrative law and is bound and published in something called the CFR, the Code of Federal Regulations. The CFR takes up over 25 lineal feet of shelf space in a typical law library, and the various rules and regulations it embodies are treated by the courts to be as legally binding as statutory law.

The CFR is divided into 50 sections, known as titles, with Energy being title 10. The titles are further subdivided into parts, the parts into sections, and the sections into paragraphs. The reader will see many references in this narrative to 10 CFR 710.8(h) or title 10 of the CFR, part 710, section 8, paragraph h. And since the topic of 10 CFR 710.8 is the so-called criteria, I’ve taken to referring to paragraph h as Criterion H.

The criteria they found applicable to my situation are 10 CFR 710.8(h) and 10 CFR 710.8(l). Criterion H—[Derogatory information shall include, but is not limited to, information that the individual has:] “An illness or mental condition of a nature, which, in the opinion of a psychiatrist or licensed clinical psychologist, causes or may cause, a significant defect in judgment or reliability.” I refer to this one as the bipolar criterion, and since I’m bipolar, a fair cop, for clearly if you're bipolar, especially an untreated or unsuccessfully treated manic-depressive, which I am not, undoubtedly you MIGHT, from time to time, experience moments totally lacking in good judgment, say. I was diagnosed at the age of 65, in the fall of 2003, but have been successfully treated since that time.

Criterion L—[...the individual has] “Engaged in any unusual conduct or is subject to any circumstances which tend to show that the individual is not honest, reliable or trustworthy: or which furnishes reason to believe that the individual may be subject to pressure, coercion, exploitation, or duress which may cause the individual to act contrary to the best interest of the national security. Such conduct or circumstances include, but are not limited to, criminal behavior, a pattern of financial irresponsibility, conflicting allegiances, or violation of any commitment or promise upon which DOE previously relied to favorably resolve an issue of access authorization eligibility.” I don't honestly know how to refer to this one. It is peculiarly general, sounds ominous, and borders on the defamatory. But it's clear, at least to me, that the intent is to say that "the individual is a bad person."

Before I move on, you may be wondering how DOE investigators found out about my bipolar disorder in the first place. Quite easily, in fact; they asked my psychiatrist and therapist. "You fool," I can hear you ask, "why did you tell them?" Well, I didn't tell them anything. No, it was simpler than that; I signed a medical waiver, giving them full access to all of my medical records. You have to sign it if you want a clearance. It's as simple as that—10 CFR 710.6, Cooperation by the Individual, pretty much covers that access.

I need to take a moment to integrate “unusual conduct” into the stream of this narrative. Though I wasn't diagnosed with manic depression until I was 65, in the fall of 2003, practically all my life I've been plagued with melancholy. "Why is Irving always so sad?" my mother's friends would often ask her. "He's not sad; he's just old for his age. He's an 'old' boy," she'd tell them. Melancholy imparts to the afflicted the demeanor of great wisdom, and age beyond one's years. But you see, I was sad. Unvintageable sorrow was my lot. It wasn't until decades later, during therapy, that I recognized that though ever melancholic, the sadness, the sorrow, the depression would come and go, and as it departed, mindless and unbounded enthusiasm would gradually take its place, and this in turn would turn to irritation and then rage. My rages were mercifully brief, lasting a few hours or so, and they seemed to be cathartic. Tears would flow, but with the tears, melancholy would return…and self hate. Each cycle would transpire over a few weeks, and the cycles would repeat over and over. Didn't I think there was something wrong with me? No, I thought I was a bad person, a fact that I desperately tried to hide from everyone including myself, but which during moments of unbridled rage must surely have been obvious to all. And how depressed I'd become then.

Anyway, my family physician was forever leaning on me to do something about the melancholy. He had never witnessed my rage fits. After much nagging, I finally took him up on his offer of treatment and started taking Celexa, an SSRI antidepressant, in the fall of 1999. It didn't touch the melancholy, but it did render me impotent—I insisted on something else. "I don't know what else to do," he said. "I suggest you 'talk to somebody.'" (That's doctor-ese for “see a psychiatrist.”) It was at that point that I entered into treatment with Doctor V.

Doctor V was an Italian from Argentina, where he had been born and raised, but he had received all of his medical training in this country. He had the most soulful looking eyes, sort of like a handsome, Italian Peter Lorre. His face suited his profession. He was extremely knowledgeable about meds, and soon had me diagnosed with dysthymic depression and taking Wellbutrin, an atypical antidepressant, starting in the fall of 2001. I responded instantly, "Wow, so this is what it's like to be free of depression," I told him. I was hooked. But over the next 2 years we had to gradually increase my dosage of the Wellbutrin in order to get the desired effect, until we finally could increase it no further, having reached the maximum safe dose, even though my depression had returned, it looked like, for good.

He tried augmenting the Wellbutrin with a variety of other meds, e.g., Pemoline, Provigil, Risperdal, Depakote, Trileptal, but these had to be abandoned for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that I failed to see the necessity for taking an anti-psychotic or an anti-epileptic when what I was being treated for was depression. It was at this point that Dr. V added the antidepressant Parnate, an amphetamine analog and MAOI, and powerful as hell. After three days on it, I was manic as hell—enter the willful Mr. Hyde. This was in the early fall of 2002. For reasons not entirely clear to me, he didn't pick up on the fact that I was manic, and that depression wasn't the issue, but that bipolar depression was. Sad to relate, Dr. V hung me out to dry as the mania raged on and on and days turned into weeks. My family should have 51/50ed me, but were too afraid of me to do it, they said much later. It was during this period that the “unusual conduct,” my brush with electro sex, occurred. Now, more than ever, I knew I was a bad person. I think it’s worth noting that under the heading of “Warnings to the Physician” in the GlaxcoKlineSmith drug monograph for Parnate, it states, “Parnate has not been approved for the treatment of bipolar depression.”

Given that those afflicted with bipolar disorder are usually the last ones to figure out that something is amiss when they are manic, how then did I manage to escape its grip? For that I have my then 2-year-old, spunky grandniece to thank. We were taking her home after a visit one Sunday afternoon a week or so after I’d “electrocuted my penis.” She was asleep in her car seat next to me in the cab of my big American pickup, but having awakened in a foul mood, commenced to shrieking at the top of her lungs. Her fierce screaming triggered me, and I commenced to shrieking at the top of my lungs, too, for her to shut up, this while tooling along with Sunday afternoon traffic on the Interstate. It was a Mexican standoff between the two of us, and in the calm as we each took deep breaths preparatory to launching new offensives, a small still voice said to me, “This is not right. Have you no shame?” And so in less time than it takes to say it, the mania ended, exit Edward Hyde, and in his place came, not the cerebral Dr. Jekyll, no, a figure dark— oblivion’s spawn. Depression.

It is not as simple as I’m making it out to be. The criteria are arrived at through the intermediary of what in statutory law would be called an indictment, but what in administrative law is referred to as The Statement of Charges. These charges are distilled from all the information that is uncovered via the security reinvestigation, and once they are in place, the specific, relevant criteria soon follow. If there is an appeal and subsequent hearing, it is up to the lawyers to duke it out in court as to the veracity and applicability of these charges. Only through refuting or otherwise mitigating the charges can one hope to show that the criteria are not applicable and thereby ultimately resolve the derogatory information.

In the way administrative law works, the defendant is guilty until proven innocent, so it is up to me to show ultimately that the DOE is applying the criteria in my situation wrongly or in an unfair and unjust manner, and that it strains common sense, if not credulity outright, to assert that continuing my clearance will somehow pose a threat to national security. It's up to me to show that either the criteria don't apply at all, as in the case of the bad-person Criterion L, or if they do, only weakly, as in the case of the bipolar Criterion H.

The DOE has asserted (Criterion H) that since their psychiatrist has said I'm bipolar I might at some time in the future show bad judgment or prove unreliable. I assert that this criterion is antiquated and out of date: First of all, it is totally dismissive of the difference between possible and probable. Sure, it's possible I might go manic again, but how likely is it that I would, given that in my 47-year history with the Lab, I only went manic once, and this only after being mis-medicated with an amphetamine analog, and this, 8 years ago. Secondly, I fault the criterion for indulging in simplistic black or white reasoning. It takes no cognizance of the fact that bipolar disorder is a spectrum disorder that encompasses every type of mood disorder from simple, unipolar depression at one end of the spectrum to full-blown bipolar depression with psychotic features at the other end. That is, it makes no allowance for any variation in manic depression from person to person.

In some people, the disorder is so mild as to almost escape detection (e.g., the truly gifted writer Andrew Solomon), while in others it requires frequent and lengthy hospitalizations, and/or ECT (e.g., Marya Hornbacher, perhaps the most eloquent writer on the subject todate). I have a mild, but readily detectable and eminently treatable form of it; my doctors, a psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist, would attest to that. It goes without saying that there is at least as much variation in bipolar disorder from person to person as there is in the shape of their noses. It is decidedly NOT one size fits all, where either you have it or you don’t, and for the DOE to act as though it is, is unfair and unjust. At no time during my mania was I a danger to myself or others, and that this criterion doesn't address this issue further underscores its fundamental inadequacy. Finally, considerable progress has been made in the medication, and diagnosis and treatment of all mental illnesses, not just bipolar disorder, since DOE lawyers first crafted Criterion H. So while it may have been true at one time that Criterion H was sound and had merit, the situation now is considerably more complicated and the criterion totally blunts that point and, as well, how the defendant’s individuality factors in. And this too is unfair and unjust.

Criterion H would have you believe that to grant me a clearance would somehow endanger national security because I'm bipolar. Yet I have protected one of the most significant weapons secrets for 47 years and counting, 47 years during which I have been bipolar every step of the way. Clearly the best predictor of my future behavior is NOT Criterion H but IS, in fact, my past behavior.

Now, regarding my judgment whilst manic: I showed good judgment by not imposing myself on my wife; I showed good judgment by not becoming sexually involved with other people and risking disease, seriously wronging my wife and destroying my marriage; I showed good judgment by seeking medical attention when I discovered I'd accidentally burned myself. Likewise, I displayed good judgment when I took myself off the Parnate. Manic-depressives, when manic, are notorious for reckless spending, destroying their marriages and engaging in risky sexual practices. I did none of those things. For the DOE to maintain or imply that because my judgment was impaired that judgment was therefore totally absent is inaccurate, unfair and unjust.

Regarding Criterion L: first of all, surely the DOE doesn't mean to suggest that according to administrative law masturbation, in and of itself, is not to be allowed and is grounds for denying a clearance, that granting a clearance under such circumstances presents a clear threat to national security. And they surely aren't maintaining that masturbation constitutes “unusual conduct” or for that matter that the use of electro-mechanical devices for such purposes is also. A cursory search of the Internet using YouTube on terms like electro sex reveals that electro sex is far, far from unusual, and you can find out all there is to know about it there. That my interrogators had never heard of it is irrelevant. That I was able to discover it back in 2002 while researching sexual lubricants, and learn everything I needed to know in under 15 minutes speaks volumes as to how not unusual it really is. For the DOE to maintain in the face of evidence to the contrary that my conduct was unusual is not only inaccurate, it, too, is unfair and unjust.

So far, I have looked at my case from the standpoint of “unresolved derogatory information” as illuminated in 10 CFR 710.8, the so-called criteria. But, in point of fact, what will dominate the hearing (trial) awaiting me next is the Statement of Charges (indictment) with which I was presented, mid April, 2010. It is through these charges that they arrived at the criteria.

To summarize these charges:

The DOE-consultant psychiatrist found Mr. Curb to be bipolar. Furthermore, Mr. Curb openly admits to being bipolar. Mr. Curb has experienced one auditory hallucination. Mr. Curb openly admits to a period of hypomania in October, 2009. Mr. Curb masturbated excessively during his manic episode in the fall of 2002, and also experimented with electro sex and burned himself thereby. During this manic episode in the fall of 2002, Mr. Curb became verbally abusive toward his 2-year-old niece. Mr. Curb’s bipolar disorder interfered with both of his marriages due to fits of rage. Mr. Curb found the discussion of his hypersexual exploits embarrassing during the security interrogations.

I am baffled at why the DOE has elevated an isolated incident from the fall of 2002 to a position of such seeming importance. As I’d pointed out to them during the reinvestigation, this incident was the result of the misapplication of a powerful antidepressant, and my observed behavior during this episode has not been repeated before or since. That was nearly 8 years ago. I have been successfully treated and stable during the last 7 years. My one brush with auditory hallucination was, as I reported during my interrogations, the result of having taken, as per my psychiatrist’s instructions, too much Desipramine, which is well known to do this.

In the matter of my bipolar disorder itself, as far as any effects it could have on my judgment or reliability, I can only repeat what I stated earlier, that the best predictor of my future behavior is my past behavior—I have worked at this lab for 47 years and have never missed one single day of work as a result of my disorder. I am always on schedule with my assignments and never go over budget.

This whole experience has been a mixed blessing: on the one hand, it has led to a diagnosis of manic depression, and as a consequence of that, successful treatment consisting of medication and therapy, and thereby an end to the cycle of melancholy and rage that has plagued me my entire life and been such a burden to my families for such a long time. But on the other hand, it has led directly to a career-ending defrocking at the hands of the Federal Government, one in which not only have I been proclaimed a lunatic, one whose reliability, honesty and judgment are at best suspect,but I have also been labeled “a bad person.” I have struggled virtually my entire life against these dark images of myself. Thanks to my therapist, I am now able to distinguish between what is me and what is my disorder. I protest most vociferously all attempts on the part of the DOE to blur that distinction and darken my mind anew.

Part of the overarching mission of the DOE is to advance the energy security of the United States, and ensuring its nuclear security is but one of the strategic themes along which the Department’s strategic goals hope to achieve this mission. To that end the DOE has established a number of national security laboratories whose mission is, through science and technology, to ensure the safety, security and reliability of the U.S. nuclear deterrent. In a word, the DOE is in the business of enhancing and protecting national security, and it is its efforts at the latter that have ensnared this hapless author. The complex system of rules and procedures that have at core the overriding goal of protecting national security has proved to be my undoing. What’s being called into question here is my honesty, my judgment and my reliability over the history of my time at this lab, and that’s just plain false. I’m finding that I am collateral damage of the fierce and single-minded manner in which the DOE has applied these rules. That I am collateral damage is fundamentally unjust, but how find justice in the seemingly black or white CFR? As one delves deeper into my case, the grayer it appears, the more the more. However, there is hope. A methodical examination of the CFR will reveal that it does attempt to accommodate gray—the administrative review process.

Every loss of access authorization (clearance) leads automatically (10 CFR 710.10) to an administrative review (10 CFR 710.20–710.32) and a hearing if one is requested. Hearings are conducted in a court of law before a Hearing Officer; both sides are entitled to legal counsel to represent them. Because the grays do count and have to be heard is the reason, I’d like to believe, why there are hearings. Institutions function in the black or white, where a person is either right or wrong, and cannot function in the gray where nobody is wrong. But you have to prove somebody is wrong in order to win your case. This is discouraging. The only thing you can hope is that there is room for the individual to say, “It is unjust that I am collateral damage,” and a mechanism whereby they can agree, “He’s right, it is unjust.”

My hearing was to take place in mid August, in a hotel meeting room near Belle Fourche, SD. Success for me hinged on my side convincing the Hearing Officer that one episode doesn’t a lunatic make, and that there exists a great expanse of gray between what is possible and what is probable. Criterion H would have you believe that if a person is adjudged bipolar, it’s all over, that the mere possibility of the possible is sufficient to put national security at grave risk. This is black or white thinking straight up and therein shares in common with schizophrenia that it is unable or unwilling to distinguish between what is merely possible and what is probable. The gray position in this instance is that it is not possible to predict future behavior on the basis of present mental state, and that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, a stance which virtually all psychologists and psychiatrists favor. Whatever else we did in the hearing, we ultimately had to persuade the Government’s psychiatrist that it was unlikely I would ever exhibit poor judgment or unreliability due to my disorder, that while this was possible in the abstract, in reality it was improbable.

In the weeks prior to the hearing, I grew increasingly concerned that neither the Hearing Officer nor the prosecutor would be all that knowledgeable about bipolar disorder, thus putting me at a distinct disadvantage. That is, how would they know to judge my bipolar antics, how assess their significance and import? What perspective would they bring to bear on my hypersexuality? How would they know if we didn’t show them that electro sex is not that unusual. It seemed to me, therefore, that it was incumbent upon my legal team to educate the court, on the fly, as to the bipolar facts of life. But how knowledgeable were my lawyers themselves in this regard? Did they even realize that it was up to them to establish the perspective against which to judge my behavior? So, in these weeks I began to write memos and email them to my attorneys, trying as best I could to delicately bring these issues up, and at the same time begin tactfully educating them myself.

The key to fully half of my defense had to do with Parnate and how dangerous it is to administer it unopposed, i.e., without also co-administering a suitable mood stabilizer, to a manic-depressive. I felt that if my legal team didn’t understand this and, in turn, bring the court up to speed on it, my fate was sealed. A significant fraction of the ten charges in my indictment stemmed from my manic episode in the fall of 2002. Clearly the optimum defense is to brush them all aside in one swoop, saying, “These are all nothing more than the fault of and a direct consequence of Mr. Curb having been given an unopposed, powerful antidepressant.” But in order for this to work, my legal team had to know this, had to feel it flowing in their veins, with something approaching scientific conviction if not religious fervor, the way we all know instinctively that heat will burn the flesh if given the opportunity.

I could’ve saved my breath, for all my worrying and memoing were for naught. At some point the true nature of my fears became apparent to my lawyers, and they acted quickly to calm them. They assured me that the pharisaic duo who’d conducted my interrogations, which they then used to concoct the indictment, would not be present. They explained that the prosecutor would recognize which elements of the indictment were contrived and unsupported by the facts in the case. Further, they made it amply clear that the court is eminently aware it lacks the expertise to fairly evaluate the merits of my defense, and has, therefore, enlisted the help of an expert witness, who, as it turns out, happens to be the same psychiatrist who performed my psychiatric evaluation the previous February, which makes a whole lot of sense when you stop to think about it. Who better to advise the court as to the true significance of my behavior and the prospects for my continued stability than the very individual who had assessed them not 5 months earlier? Who better to ask the questions that needed to be asked and answered than someone who had asked them of countless patients over the years? It was beginning to look as though gray had a fighting chance after all.

I have seen the psychiatric evaluation. Aside from the use of the adjective bizarre in referring to electro sex, nothing particularly damning or unfair leaps out at the reader. One can’t help wondering how what is basically a neutral, albeit faint, document could lead to such a precipitous loss of clearance. The answer to that can be traced directly back to the intent of my interrogators; I feel. My indictment has in it everything but the kitchen sink, e.g., that I once screamed in a fit of rage at a 2-year-old child, that I once had a momentary auditory hallucination, that my SAMe experiment had to be abandoned because it precipitated a bout of hypomania, that I once masturbated so much it chaffed me, that I had dabbled in electro sex, that my bipolar disorder had interfered with my marriages, and that I was embarrassed to talk about my hypersexuality during these interrogations. That my interrogators had dug up all of these irrelevant and picayune “facts” and were prepared to use them against me in the worst way imaginable says a lot about the true nature of their motives. Is malevolent too harsh a word? For it is they who concluded that these “facts” supported and warranted the levying of criteria H and L against me. It is they who decided on the basis of what they’d dug up during two grueling four-hour interrogations that there was unresolved derogatory information. It is fair to say that we, they and I, were working at cross-purposes during those interrogations: I was looking to educate them as to the true nature of my malady, so I held nothing back and was completely forthright in every regard, whereas they, on the other hand, were looking to hang me and envisioned everything I revealed as them giving me enough rope to do just that. From the outset it was a witch-hunt, or so it seemed.

My therapist, who has graciously agreed to critique this narrative, figuratively looking over my shoulder as I type these words, thinks malevolent IS too harsh a word. “A society as large and complex as ours, needs these interrogator types, and puts them to good use all the time. They serve a purpose; we need people who can dig, who can ask the hard questions and follow them through to the end. But there obviously has to be a way to regulate them, to keep them in check.” So maybe that’s what this hearing is all about, a way of keeping black or white in check, in the service of justice and fairness.

The Hearing took place on August 12th, a Thursday, at 8 a.m. Try as I might to prepare myself in the days preceding it, in the end I found myself literally overcome by the stress. My meds seemed unable to prevent or in any way mitigate the state of dysphoric agitation that became my lot then. With the clock winding down, I found I was unable to sleep. I felt disconnected from my surroundings, from the moment, from my life.

At 8 a.m. precisely, we filed through the double doors into the meeting room. Four long tables, the only furniture in the room except for some seven chairs, had been arranged into an open square. The Hearing Officer and the court recorder occupied one side, the side closest to the double doors, now closed. The DOE’s psychiatrist and prosecuting attorney, and their two chairs, occupied another side, the next closest to the doors, the side opposite the one belonging to me and my lawyer, and our two chairs. The fourth side, the one opposite the Hearing Officer’s side, and furthest from the doors, and containing only one chair, was reserved solely for the present witness. For the next six hours, this tableau and the steady stream of witnesses as they filed into and out of it, and occupied it, would be my whole universe as I desperately stifled the urges to embellish their testimony with unsolicited observations, elaborations, and lies, all for the sake of a laugh. My attorney, sensing that I was near to unhinged, had passed me a note, “Speak only when spoken to!!!”

In establishing the ground rules, the HO explained that this hearing had been convened for my benefit and that I had requested it. It was to provide me the opportunity to present a defense to the allegations contained in the Statement of Charges issued against me on April 13th, 2010. The HO explained that he would be assisted by the prosecuting attorney in establishing a complete record of the hearing, in bringing out a full and true disclosure of all facts, favorable and unfavorable, which have a bearing on the issues before him. The prosecuting attorney, he added, would not participate in the Hearing Officer’s deliberations, and would express no opinion to him concerning the merits of my case, unless my attorney was also present.

My attorney availed himself of the opportunity presented then to make an opening statement. The gist was that many of the charges in the Statement of Charges predate the treatment by my current psychiatrist, Dr. W, treatment that even in the opinion of the DOE’s psychiatrist is more accurate and complete than the treatment in effect during the time frame of these charges. So in conducting my defense against these charges, he would be focusing on the context of the relevant, operative treatment.

The Hearing Officer swore us all in en masse, and with that my trial commenced. What was it to be, the continuation of the witch-hunt from last winter culminating in the loss of clearance, a battle between the strident articulations of black or white versus the insistent, but at times indistinct, voices of gray?

My psychiatrist, Dr. W, was our first witness. Under questioning from my attorney, he revealed that it was I who had approached him in the fall of 2003 for treatment for depression, that I had had a falling out with Dr. V over the Parnate incident and no longer trusted him. He testified that at that time I was lucid and oriented and of a serious, but appropriate, mood, and that I seemed capable of logical thinking, with both my intellective functioning and grasp of reality in tact. The preliminary diagnosis was dysthymic disorder even though I’d had a rather serious manic episode brought on by Parnate. A diagnosis of bipolar disorder didn’t seem warranted at this time, because Parnate is known to have this effect. The DSM-IV specifies in a footnote that if a patient’s manic behavior is caused by an antidepressant, that this should not count towards a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. That I had become manic, violent, hypersexual in the extreme, with racing thoughts and little need for sleep, were, in his opinion, all the fault of the Parnate.

As to when and why my diagnosis was changed to bipolar disorder, Dr. W testified that in January of 2004 he became concerned with my sleep disturbances, the speeding up of my thinking almost to the point of racing thoughts, and periodic bouts of irritability, and these seemed compatible with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. And because I characterized my ‘manic’ episodes as very uncomfortable, accompanied by a sense of great psychological pain and distress, Dr. W further elaborated upon my diagnosis—Bipolar Mixed, wherein the patient experiences the combination of some manic symptoms and some severe depressive symptoms at the same time.

“Over the seven year span of your time with him,” my lawyer wanted to know of Dr. W, “did you ever observe or otherwise encounter behavior or thinking that could best be characterized as psychotic?” Dr. W made it quite clear that aside from the time I’d been under treatment with Dr. V and given Parnate, a period of which he had only my recollection to go on, when I was very likely psychotic at times, he had not ever seen me when my grasp of reality wasn’t intact or when my thinking was disordered. He did describe one brief period when I was beset with musical hallucinations, but since this was entirely due to his having prescribed too large a dose of Desipramine, my antidepressant, he attributed no significance to it. That is, he did not feel the need to modify my diagnosis.

As to how well he thought I understood my bipolar disorder, Dr. W replied, “I think Mr. Curb understands his condition far better than the vast majority of patients who suffer from bipolar illness. The tendency of most people who have bipolar illness is to use a form of denial that there is really anything too much the matter with them. Mr. Curb knew something was the matter with him, sought treatment, and didn’t like the diagnosis, but nonetheless was a keen observer and actual recorder of his own symptoms over a period of time. He’s been very cooperative in his treatment and has phoned me on occasion when things didn’t seem to be going well, and has kept his appointments in a most disciplined fashion.”

Now I’ll be the first to admit that, like most other manic-depressives, I too have had my brushes with self medication, e.g., ephedra, L-dopa, and yohimbe in an effort to rekindle the euphoric highs of hypomania/mania, or red wine to calm the inner storm of racing thoughts, or somehow mitigate the oppressiveness of a particularly heart-wrenching melancholy, but my experiment with SAMe was different. I’d discussed using it with Dr. W ahead of time, explaining that it had the reputation of being a bit of a mood brightener that I felt I could benefit from. With his approval, I started taking it, 200 mg each morning, in May of 2009. I gradually increased the dosage until by October of that year I was taking 400 mg twice a day. It was at this point I began to experience intrusive hypomanic bursts off and on every day. I informed Dr. W of my reactions; it took little to convince me to abandon my experiment. All of this was attested to by Dr. W in the waning moments of his first direct examination.

The prosecuting attorney opened his cross-examination of Dr. W wanting to know the difference between Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2, and how Bipolar Mixed fits into these categories. Dr. W explained: “Let me start with Bipolar 2. Bipolar illness is at this time in history a fad diagnosis so that many, many people come to see me who say, I have bipolar illness, and the vast majority do not. Bipolar 2 was taken up as a catchall category to include a number of people who had general emotional instability who did not fit the criteria for Bipolar 1. [In] Bipolar 1, there are manic symptoms which are very clear and fall into the description I presented earlier. Bipolar 1 has as another manifestation depressive symptoms, usually with the depression being of a very apathetic type, where someone has difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, taking a shower, brushing his teeth. So people with Bipolar 1 may have a relatively short manic period that lasts for days to a week or two, and then periods where they’re perfectly okay, and then periods where they’re profoundly depressed, with depressive symptoms lasting probably for months at a time. That’s truly what Bipolar 1 is. Then Bipolar Mixed is that combination of symptoms that I described earlier.”

With that, much was made of the fact that I don’t exactly fit the definition of Bipolar 1, yet that was the diagnosis I was given. Dr. W explained that under the circumstances, Bipolar 1, Mixed was the best diagnosis I could be given. “When he described to me, after the first session, or somewhere in the, maybe third, fourth or fifth sessions, what these brief periods of manic behavior were like, and when I talked about his having episodes of speeded-up thoughts, his thoughts jumping around,that intense discomfort at the same time, that said to me, this is manic, therefore the diagnosis should be adjusted.”

The prosecutor seemed bound and determined to stick me with a label of psychotic in some form or other: Is there any certainty that as his medication evolves, that he won’t have a Parnate-like reaction? Would you consider hypersexuality psychotic? And racing thoughts, is that a psychotic episode? And Mr. Curb’s periodic sieges of hypomanic bursts, is that psychotic? How likely is he to have more hypomanic bursts? The fact that Mr. Curb is on three different antipsychotic mood stabilizers, does that suggest that you are concerned about a psychotic episode in the future? What mood are we stabilizing if not fear of a psychotic or manic episode?

Dr. W, adopting a professorial demeanor, parried each such thrust with alacrity if not outright zeal: Was there a Parnate lurking in my future? “There’s no guarantee, but then there’s no guarantee that anyone’s condition won’t change or deteriorate. We’re talking high probabilities here—it’s a very high probability that Mr. Curb will never have a psychotic episode.”

Psychotic sexuality? “Hypersexuality is not psychotic. I’ll say that our sex drives drive us crazy at times, but that doesn’t really make us psychotic.”

Racing thoughts and hypomanic bursts? “Racing thoughts can be symptomatic of a psychotic episode, that is true. The question then is how much, how long, how impaired are we? At times we all focus and concentrate more seriously. At times our thinking will become more scattered, as it were. Sometimes when we have a lot of anxiety we don’t think very clearly at all and our thoughts jump around a significant amount. So we’re talking about a continuum in which at one end we’re very focused, on the other end our thoughts are gibberish, and where is one on that, and how? What can we do about it?

How much does that impairment impact what we’re doing in our lives or our work? In Mr. Curb’s case, it’s not so much a matter of racing thoughts as it is one of hypomanic bursts. And it is possible that he will experience such bursts in the future. However, the bursts would be confined to a period of hours and would readily be controlled by a medication adjustment, some of which he has some flexibility in his ability to use his medications so that if he feels uncomfortable he can make a small adjustment that will bring it under control.”

Why, if he isn’t psychotic, is Mr. Curb on so many antipsychotics? “Mood stabilizers fall into two large groups, those that were originally developed to treat psychotic illness, and those that were originally developed to treat epilepsy. The antiepileptics all have some negative effects on intellective functioning, whereas the antipsychotics do not. So the antipsychotics are desirable for those who are required to be intellectually sharp. For example, if you (addressing the prosecutor) had bipolar illness, we would not give you a mood stabilizer of the anticonvulsant group. We would give you a member of the antipsychotic group even though you were not psychotic. And in the same way, Mr. Curb is not psychotic, but he takes medications that are members of the antipsychotic group, again, just called antipsychotic because they are used for the treatment of psychosis. They were originally developed to treat psychosis, and only years after they have come into existence did we come to realize how valuable they were as mood stabilizers and useful in the treatment of bipolar illness.”

Regarding my propensity to rage, noted in the past, Dr. W noted that having angry outbursts is not a disease in itself, and that I have never been truly violent in the sense of having assaulted anyone. He explained that he was not terribly concerned about my penchant, when irritable, for sturm und drang, and that he has every confidence that with my present cocktail of mood stabilizers I’ll have no problem controlling my anger.

Isn’t it true that the dosages of medication have to be increased over time for manic-depressives in order to maintain their efficacy?“No!” (It was at this point that the DOE psychiatrist chimed in, “I could comment. It’s not true, because these are not addictive medications so you don’t develop a tolerance and need for more. The opposite could be true, that as Mr. Curb gets older he may need less medication because his metabolic rate will slow down. If he gets to be 90 years old he’s probably going to need less of them, not more.”)

Has Mr. Curb ever mentioned to you that the manic episodes were kind of thrilling? “All people who have manic episodes think that they’re thrilling. If you feel exhilarated, well, that’s a good feeling. And we all like to feel good, and no one likes to part with feeling good. So if I say that the good feeling you have is really a symptom of a disease, you would be reluctant to either agree with me or want to embark on any course that was going to make you feel less good. So that’s common in anyone who has manic or hypomanic episodes; generally they tend to like them. [However,] remember that Mr. Curb’s episodes are not quite like that. He has a great sense of discomfort at the same time, which makes him…well, it’s hard to envision this idea of mixed. How can you feel good and bad at the same time? But you can. And those are his episodes.”

Concerning people who suffer from Bipolar 1 illness, what is the percentage of reoccurrence of either a manic or depressive episode? “But let me say the percentage of recurrences of episodes is very high, that, and one just has to be aware that it is high. And these things can be managed very well. I have other manic patients who have not had episodes in decades. But nonetheless, we always have to be vigilant that it’s possible. I know you’re not going to ask me this question, so I’d like to introduce it myself. The question is, in the psychiatric evaluation performed by the DOE psychiatrist in February of 2010, your psychiatrist addresses this very issue that I think you were asking me. He says there is no guarantee that Mr. Curb will never have another episode that could impair his judgment and make him a national security risk. And I would say to that, again, the issue of guarantee, no, there is no guarantee. And again, I would say that if I were the DOE psychiatrist seeing a patient in a one-shot consultation I would make the same no-guarantee statement that he did, because you’re only seeing someone for one or two sessions in consultation. Whereas I feel that by having seen Mr. Curb for more than 100 sessions over a long period of time, I can make a statement that while it may be probable that he’ll continue to experience hypomanic bursts, there is a high probability that he will never have a serious episode or have an episode that would compromise his judgment or his ability to make judgments that could in any way endanger national security items.”
At this point the HO concluded Dr. W’s testimony with a complex but pointed question: “In the end I need to be assured to some measurable degree, but a fairly high degree, that Mr. Curb is not likely to be in a state of mind where he would reveal some classified information, information of nuclear weapons, that he’s not supposed to reveal. So I have to be concerned with the risk of his disclosures in the future, which means the risk of his being in a mental state where he would inadvertently disclose. So it isn’t just a psychotic state, it’s any state at all that would decrease his natural vigilance to protect this information. And I know that I’ve had cases where psychiatrists have said I think the general acceptance in the security area is that someone in a depressive state is not likely to reveal information, they have their wits about them, or their judgment is not impaired when they’re in a depressive state. But when they’re in a manic state that would be something where if the level of mania were too high, if their thoughts were racing to a specific degree, they could actually lose their inhibitions, lose their ability to maintain their usual judgment with respect to protecting information. And I guess if you could speak to that I would appreciate it, because that’s the situation I’m concerned about with the medical diagnosis in front of me right now. It’s not all of the diagnosis, it’s only those situations where Mr. Curb could lose his inhibitions, his usual inhibitions to protect the information, and what is the risk of those kinds of episodes occurring in the future?”

To which Dr. W replied succinctly, “Predictions we have about the future are clearly a function of what we’ve seen in the past, because we’re not talking about a deteriorating condition here, we’re talking about a condition which at one time was relatively unstable, which is now much more stable. And even at its worst we have not seen anything that looks like the manifestation of your fears, your concerns. So I think we’re in better shape now than we were in, even in the pre-Parnate era as far as Mr. Curb’s ability to maintain his usual inhibitions. I also want to [say], again, addressing that point, people can have problems in some areas of their lives, and other areas of their lives are intact. And regarding his work, as far as I know, there has been no problem with his ability to function, even when he was symptomatic, nor has there been, as far as I know, any indication that he was so impaired that he might have a lapse of this sort that you’re concerned about.”

If the testimony of my psychiatrist could be characterized as authoritative and clinically exacting, that of my therapist, Dr. F, can be thought of as equally authoritative but compassionate. Jumping right into the fray, my attorney questioned her about my hypersexuality and dabbling in electro sex. Specifically he wanted to know how much she knew about it, how much I had revealed to her, and when. “What I understand about that, it was an internal symptom of agitation and being expressed through hypersexuality, which is not that uncommon with mania. And he felt like he had to release himself, you know, and the inner tension. And what he told me was that he was masturbating quite a lot and trying to relieve the feelings. And in the process, he hurt himself, hurt his genitals, and went to the doctor to make sure it was okay. He basically just hurt his skin, and stopped doing it after that, I would say. “

He had been surfing the Internet, actually, I think it was for some lubrication, because he was masturbating to the point of discomfort, and in the process he discovered this site that explains [electro sex], that gives you ideas about that kind of self-stimulation. You know, I hadn’t really heard of it. It’s not that common. But he’s a very thorough and intelligent man, and I’m sure that he was searching the Internet. And he knows about electricity and is very creative, and I’m thinking it sparked his interest, both because it would serve his purpose, and because it was different and interesting. It’s been my observation over the course of my practice that some level of experimentation with sex is quite normal and very usual. I mean, everybody has all kinds of feelings and orientations and behaviors in their sex life, and most of these are not known by others. Those are very private except for the people with whom one is doing them, and so a lot of people don’t know about them. In my work I hear a lot of things that people don’t hear in regular everyday conversations. It is absolutely common for there to be some level of embarrassment regarding that subject matter.

“I am quite comfortable in thinking that he disclosed a significant amount of the experiences that he had. I think he pretty much told me everything. And absent the Parnate in all of this, I would have seen [his behavior] as unusual, but not—I didn’t take it as though the actual behavior was that serious. The fact that he hurt himself, people can hurt themselves masturbating in all kinds of ways, and people use electrical instruments to masturbate all the time. So I saw it as an interesting way to try to find things out. I understood that, again, it was his interest in things and his research. And he researches everything thoroughly and finds out things that a lot of other people would never even find out. That told me more about him than the masturbation itself.

My attorney concluded his direct examination of my therapist with a simple, direct question, “What would be your opinion regarding his reliability and judgment based upon the fact that he’s being treated and what you’ve seen?” To which she replied, “…he has very good judgment about himself and his relationships. He is very aware of himself and what is going on. He’s very reliable in every way I can think of, a very honest, reliable man.” This, as we shall see, turns out to be pivotally crucial testimony.

Fully half of the cross-examination that followed was comprised of efforts on the part of the prosecutor to educate himself about the nature of bipolar disorder: “Why did he react so adversely to the Parnate? What’s the difference between hypomanic and manic? Would hypomanic episodes qualify for diagnosing someone as Bipolar 1 or 2? How do you define psychosis? Has Mr. Curb ever questioned his diagnosis?”

My therapist obliged him: On the Parnate incident, “…many antidepressants, depending on the person’s chemistry, do cause manic symptoms to emerge. And, you know, there is a question, there is controversy about whether or not it was an original underlying bipolar disorder that gets manifested, or whether it is actually caused by the medication and that there wasn’t one before. There is usually some mood issue before, but whether it was clearly a bipolar disorder, they’re not even sure about that.”

Re the distinction between manic and hypomanic, “…colloquially people use them all the time sort of interchangeably. Hypomania is a much more mild form of mania, and it’s one that maybe people feel when working on a paper in college, say, staying awake for two nights and frantically writing, that is hypomania. We can call it hypomania, it’s not pathological, but you’re feeling the symptoms of hypomania doing that.”

Bipolar 1 or 2: “Human beings are a little harder to completely define than the DSM would have you believe. I’ve had questions myself in terms of [his] diagnosis, whether I would say hypomanic or Bipolar 1, because that’s what I ask is, how severe is the bipolar disorder? I don’t think [his is] that severe. I think it’s affected by medication. I think he is very sensitive to medication.”

Psychosis: “Psychosis is disordered thinking, highly unregulated affect, can include hallucinations, auditory and visual, and disordered thinking, strange thinking, strange understanding, and no, Mr. Curb has never experienced psychosis in the past. His one auditory hallucination was a reaction to medication, and that is not psychotic.”

In the matter of my having ever questioned my diagnosis, “Oh, yeah. I mean, in the beginning when he first got the diagnosis it was very distressing to him. It sounds like such a serious diagnosis, which, by the way, I’m not sure that it’s that serious or uncommon. We obviously know it’s more common than we used to know, but mood disorders are very common. It’s a mood disorder. And how serious it is, is really only when it gets to the point where it’s in a psychotic or unmanageable stage. In my opinion, I think it’s hard for [bipolar] people because they feel things more intensely than the average person does. But he had a hard time with the idea that he was bipolar, and it was kind of having to work through what I just said and understand what that meant about himself and how much it had to do with who he was and is as a person, as his character versus the biochemical aspect of the disorder and the illness part of the disorder, which is really the biochemical part of it, neurological and biochemical parts, which I think is very separate from the emotional issues and character of the person. And [Mr. Curb] needs to kind of figure that out, because we have a stigma in this society about that diagnosis, that suddenly you’re a disturbed weirdo because you have bipolar disorder, and that’s not true.”

On hypersexuality, the prosecutor made it clear that the DOE is not concerned with people’s sexual practices, but is concerned about manic episodes, and asked whether being hypersexual was any more concerning than if a [manic] person went on a shopping spree, Dr. F replied, “No, and given the way [Mr. Curb] deals with it, it’s probably better. He’s not spending thousands of dollars.”

Asked whether she’d read the report of the Government’s psychiatrist (psychiatric evaluation, February 2010), and did she disagree with any of it, she replied, “I thought it was a pretty good report, and actually pretty positive and pretty accurate. Two things, I think his disturbance, except for that one episode, has been less severe than—the word severe was used quite often in the report, and I don’t see his disorder as that severe. I wouldn’t use the word severe, I might use moderate and mild. And the other thing I wanted to say, I know I would be much more certain about the likelihood of any recurrence of that serious period that happened. I would be more certain about that, about that statement. I can’t be 100 percent certain, I wouldn’t say that about anybody in the world, but I’m very certain that his judgment is not going to become bad. That’s what I want to say. I’d be more certain in my conclusions about the reliability of his judgment.”

With that, the HO concluded Dr. F’s testimony with basically the same question he’d put to Dr. W: “The concern is whether in this case Mr. Curb will have any kind of episode in the future that would put him in the mental state that would challenge his inhibitions or his judgment that he usually exhibits in protecting classified information. So my question to you is, what is the risk of future episodes occurring, would you say for starters, low, medium, high?” To which she replied, “Low, low risk, but nothing is absolute…for any of us. But I feel very confident in staking my professional judgment and expertise on the fact that that wouldn’t happen, that the risk is extremely low.” The HO continued, “And contributing to that judgment is that his medications are in good order now?” Dr. F, “Yes, yes, that he manages it.” The HO, “And so what I hear is that he has a self-awareness that many people don’t have, that he senses when something is going out of order.” Dr. F, “Absolutely, I trust that completely.”

Next to testify were my two work supervisors, one an administrative supervisor and the other, a functional supervisor. Much was made by the prosecutor of the fact that my administrative supervisor was HRP certified—DOE’s Human Reliability Program (10 CFR 712)—and was thereby trained how to spot the loony in the workplace. That she had absolutely no reservations about me over our 6-year history together was telling. Similarly, my functional work supervisor, though not HRP-trained, testified that at no time during our 10-year work history did I ever give him pause for concern. This testimony did much to underscore what I had maintained all along, that my disorder had not ever caused me to miss a day of work, or be late with an assignment.

And then it was my turn to testify. Between my lawyer, the prosecutor and the HO, we thoroughly masticated the Statement of Charges. My testimony was pretty much a rehash of the things I’d said during my two PSIs and my two psych evals as I attempted to explain and mitigate the various points raised by my interrogators during the winter of 2009. But given that they saw me as dishonest (10 CFR 710.8 (L)), the very fact of the hearing itself a clear indication that they had believed none of my explanations and attempts to mitigate their concerns, my rehash was, I felt, about to fall on deaf ears. Along the way, that morning, my therapist had testified that I was the very soul of honesty and integrity; both of my doctors had much to say about my sound judgment and reliability. Would that be enough? Was there any aspect of the Statement of Charges that remained unresolved, some stone unturned?

The HO seemed to think so, and I was once again taken to task for my unwillingness, during the various interviews I’d been subjected to, to bring up my adventures with electro sex, that it was they, my interviewers, who had to bring it up. I explained that it was one thing to be startled and shocked when the intimate details of one’s sex life are suddenly sprung on you by a stranger during an interrogation, and an entirely different matter to be deliberately untruthful. But would the HO believe that I really believed that? Or did he think that I was a sexual deviant and therefore given to obfuscation about it, and that this statement was yet another example of that?

Did that mean I could be blackmailed by threats to reveal all unless I revealed all? I did my best to convince them that I knew the difference in gravity between having my sex life discussed in an open forum and compromising national security. Again, would I be believed?

The hearing concluded with the prosecutor posing the following question to the DOE’s psychiatrist: “What is the one, specific question you are asked in this case?” To which he replied, “Does Mr. Curb have an illness or mental condition of a nature which causes or may cause a significant defect in judgment or reliability?” He answered his own question, “Yes, yes he does...” The room fell pin-drop silent except for the un-racing of my suddenly absent pulse. No one moved. “…But I would amend that to read, ‘However, it is very unlikely that this will happen.’ ” And then a most curious thing happened. The HO and prosecutor seemed genuinely pleased with this outcome and smiled broadly. What had happened to my witch’s trial? At some point, maybe from the outset and I was too in the grip of raptus, too frenzied to notice it, it had become a quest for truth, fairness and justice. We adjourned; Gray had carried the day, or had it?

It was clear from their psychiatrist’s above amendment, to the effect that it is very unlikely that I would experience a serious defect in judgment or reliability, that we had significantly mitigated the concerns embodied in Criterion H, the bipolar criterion, but what about the bad person criterion, Criterion L? The thesis coming into the hearing was that, because I had been less than forthcoming during the PSIs and psychiatric evaluations about my hypersexual exploits that one time, I was dishonest, and therefore, under such a premise, nothing I testified to, heretofore, could be believed a priori. Had Dr. F’s flat-out assertion that I was very reliable in every way that she could think of, and a very honest and reliable man been enough to convince the HO that I was to be believed? Did her candid claim that people frequently use electrical instruments as masturbatory aides once and for all dispel the taint of sexual deviance inherent in Criterion L’s use of the words unusual conduct?

The DOE’s Office of Hearings and Appeals maintains a web site
where they publish the results of all hearings and appeals. The decision for my case, TSO-0914, was published on September 13, 2010. Paragraph V from that decision reads as follows:
For the reasons set forth above, I conclude that the individual has resolved the DOE’s security concerns under Criteria H and L, and therefore has demonstrated that restoring his access authorization would not endanger the common defense and would be clearly consistent with the national interest. Accordingly, I find that the individual’s security clearance should be restored.
William M. Schwartz Hearing Officer
Office of Hearings and Appeals
Date: September 13, 2010
I had won.

Despite the incredible contributions made by the world’s manic-depressives-such people as Beethoven, Mark Twain, August Strindberg and Sylvia Plath-the popular stereotype of them, still, is that they can't be trusted, that they're prone to violence, and that they are unable to consistently do anything or be anything. That's pretty damning, and if you’re bipolar, very depressing, for the very basis of friendship and indeed all social contracts between two or more parties is that the other person can be believed, and that the other person will not harm you. All human beings have a need to be heard, seen and known, to have their minds known by others, but this stereotype and stigma can’t help but frustrate that need. Perhaps the reader can begin to understand why manic-depressives lead such isolated existences, and why the DOE's recent decision in my favor is such a victory for bipolar sufferers the world around, for they have decided and so stated in a public forum, that with suitable treatment, we can be trusted to tell the truth and not seek harm, that our minds are worth knowing.
The truth is, after much furrowing of brow, I can't think of anything to say by way of preface to my blog. Along the way I wondered what it's purpose might be and maybe I should say a few words about that and would, except that I don't know what its purpose is, or could be, or should be. I only know that my clock is winding down and I'm so desperate to have my mind known that I could just spit! Maybe my blog could be about that. But how depressing and pretentious that could be! But hold on a second, maybe not—my therapist commented the other day how in late adulthood (AKA elder years), one is forced to deal with the sense of loss, all the time, it's always there, and it's painful, it takes great faith to live on even though one knows it's going to end and that whatever they accomplish, if anything, is not going to matter all that much. How does one find meaning or a sense of fulfillment in life knowing that it’s coming to an end? Psychologists have not written much about this if anything. It's sort of an unexamined part of adult life. It takes a lot of self-discipline to function in spite of this sense of loss—it's so easy to give up on the constant struggle, on life. A lot of people do—drinking, TV, drugs, electrosex, So, if you'll bear with me, let us examine this unexamined part of adult life.
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