We Baby Boomers did plenty of time in school. While we were matriculating for those advanced degrees, we knew someone or might even be one of those who had a breakdown. They or we were never the same.
James Holmes arrived at the doctoral program very promising. Then something happened. That something, my bet is, was the onset of a severe psychiatric disorder.
My older sister endured that in her 20s. Once brilliant and beautiful she lived the rest of her rather short life disabled. I guess she was among the lucky. Whatever was going on in her head didn't propel her to commit mass murder.
While I was in the doctoral program at the University of Michigan I had, right on schedule according to the expert literature, my first bipolar episode. There was a manic phase, followed by depression. There would be more to come. Somehow I have been able to show up for life, make a good living, and keep out of both mental hospitals and prisons.
According to Tufts psychiatrist Nassir Ghaemi that kind of suffering has equipped me to be highly resilient, creative, and compassionate. His new book "A First-Rate Madness" both recognizes our pain and piles on the evidence how much of an asset it can be. Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln, Ghaemi contends, were also bipolar. In times of crisis we seem to have the edge.