Dr. Carter-PTSD? Bipolar?? DRUG ADDICT??? My views...

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In these past few weeks, we have seen the dramatic and disturbing changes taking place within our beloved Dr. Carter. Last week we heard Deb mention the possibility of Carter being bipolar. I've noticed many individuals vehemently protesting the possibility of Carter being bipolar. Some are leaning towards the PTSD scenario, while others are pursuing the far more disturbing "Carter is a drug addict" possibility. Personally, I would prefer the "Carter is bipolar" scenario, given the three current possibilities. PTSD is too obvious and I have a hard time believing the writers would pursue that storyline, given the fact that they already went down that road with Mark after his attack a few seasons back. The drug addict scenario is seemingly WAY OUT of character for innocent anti-drug Dr. Carter, given the tragic overdose of his cousin just two seasons ago. Although, given that it is way out of character, that could be the very reason the writers choose to pursue it. The reason I think the bipolar thing would be the way to go, is because it comes as a shock, and in a sense, makes Carter more real. It's rare that television shows seriously pursue topics as serious as bipolar disorder in a realistic fashion, and I would applaud ER if they were to be one of the first. If portrayed realistically, it would be somethin g that would be a part of him forever, but that wouldn't mean it would have to always be the central focus of the character. It would also mean that his erratic behavior isn't his fault, but rather symptomatic of a disease beyond his control. If they were to go the drug abuse route, I believe it would seriously affect my perception of Dr. Carter and the kind of person he is. It's not within the realm of plausibility as far as I'm concerned, and I will be disappointed if the writers do indeed choose to pursue that route, as I unfortunately believe they will. Anyone out there agree?

-- Mandii Faris (contradiction@uswest.net), May 16, 2000


Drug abuse can happen to ANYBODY. It does not only happen to "the lowlife scum of the earth." It happens to good people too. Carter has always been shown to have feet of clay from day one. He's not "Saint John"! If he was, he'd become boring fast. Actually although the writers have not delved into the character motivations too much lately, there is ample backstory that would not clash with Carter getting in trouble with self-medication. He has absent parents, and there is a history of drug abuse in his family (cousin Chase). He's always been very ambitious and driven, always concerned with looking the most competent and trying to impress others (particularly Benton). For him to not want to open up and talk to others, and to keep up appearances (even if it means he slides into taking drugs to keep his pain and grief under control), is VERY much in character. In fact, if there's any character on "ER" who could get in trouble with drugs, Carter is just about the most realistic one for them to do it with.

The question is whether or not the writers will acknowledge and explore these weaknesses in Carter, or if they will just do such a storyline "generically" and not explore Carter's past.

So in short... I don't agree... a bipolar storyline would be mildly interesting, but it would not depend on Carter's character at all, who he is, where he's been, and his flaws as well as his virtues. Unless one thinks he is St. John of Cook County, I think it would be a very promising storyline (if the writers dare to write it well).

-- debbie (riccardoiii@aol.com), May 16, 2000.

I have to say that I disagree with Mandii and agree with Debbie. The bipolar storyline would, I believe, have to be integral to Carter's storyline for the rest of the character's appearance on ER. I've known some bipolar people and it's not like there's a real cure for it. That's not saying there isn't great treatment, but the storyline could never realistically move on (emphasis on realistically there). Debbie is 100% right about the drug abuse situation. There are certain prescription drugs that are labeled as being "habit forming" and addiction has many levels, including a physical one. If Carter, in pain, began to overmedicate, eventually his body would require the medication and possibly more of it to reach the level of non-pain it desired. I think post-traumatic stress and drug abuse, if not addiction, are the answers that will make an interesting and realistic storyline now and allow the character to move on to become a stronger and even more interesting one.

-- Diana (dilynne@juno.com), May 16, 2000.

One further thought. People have said that this storyline is too much like Mark Greene's getting beat up and turning weird later. However, when dealing with character motivation, this storyline (with Carter) would actually be better than Mark's storyline, so it's a shame that they decided to do that with Mark first.

-- debbie (riccardoiii@aol.com), May 16, 2000.

Personally, I think that Bi-polar disorder would be a very quick and cheap way to account for Carter's change in behaviour. I know that some people think that the druggie story is so cliche, or boring, but in this case I think it could be very compelling. This wont be the story about some street junkie-- but about a smart, educated Doctor, of all people, who *knows* that he shouldn't be taking drugs, but who can't help it. I see this as a threshold for learning more about Carter's character. Alternatively, I think it would be interesting to bring to light a very shameful and private situation that is actually existent in the medical field; doctors using pills/drugs to relieve stress.

-- Samira (matb_west@chickmail.com), May 16, 2000.

I hope they don't go with bi-polar either. I think they are going with PTSD/survivor's guilt/chronic pain/drug use storyline. All of these realistically goess hand in hand with someone who was brutally attacked and seriously injured and has to eventually go back to work where he was attacked at. He also has to deal with the death of a colleague who he was responsible for that day who wound up dead from the same attacker. Carter has definitly shown many symptoms of PTSD. He has shown signs of physical pain. I believe Carter tried to self medicate to control the symptoms his attack caused. However, it got out of control with his current frame of mind. Hopefully, Cartyer is not addicted to drugs and that whatever happens in the finale causes Carter to get help before he does have a chance to get addicted to drugs as well. I agree that this storyline has been handled much better than Mark's bout with PTSD. I'm hoping that Carter will hit whatever his rock bottom is in the finale. I love this storyline, but I'm ready for Carter to hit rock bottom and start his gradual climb back up to his old self. I too think that in the end Carter will become an even better person and make positive changes to his live and how he acts. Carter is a great guy , but has a few character weaknesses like all the staff does. I think we will see Carter make some improvement in his weak area. First he has to hit rock bottom which I think his the purpose of the finale. I think we will see next season start with Carter getting help and starting his climb out of the hell his life is in now. I think and hope that something positive happens to him for a change during the next sweeps that brings on positive changes in him and gives Carter that final push back to his old self. I definitly want to see Carter completly recovered by the time the anniverasry of his stabbing comes around. I don't want them to drag out this storyline for much longer. I want it to be wrapped up no later than christmas time. Then,they can concentrate on giving him other storylines that deal with him completing his residency and findout what will he do afterwards. I would love to see Carter happy for once for some portion of next season.

-- Brenda. (jckwfan@aol.com), May 16, 2000.

Brenda, I whole heartaly agree!!!

-- Paula (pbranden@dwave.net), May 16, 2000.

I agree that it would be nice to see disorder like bipolar disorder be treated in a sensitive realistic fashion on the show. I don't even have a problem with one of the main characters having it. THIS IS NOT WHAT IS BOTHERING ME. (or most of the rest of us who are railing against this development.)

What is bothering me about this possible storyline is that it is NOT being treated realistically. The etiology of bipolar disorder is not fitting the pattern of behavior that we are seeing in Carter. PTSD may be trite, but it is the more realistic of any of the disorders that have been batted around as possibilities. And PTSD can be a serious debilitating disorder. It should be taken very seriously. I think that this is a good opportunity to treat THIS disorder in a sensitive and realistic fashion. Mark may have had it, but it was not as severe, in my opinion. And he was able to recover with only minimal assistance. It is obvious that Carter cannot.

-- S. Trelles (trelles@ix.netcom.com), May 16, 2000.

I reckon Carter needs a friend to help him through- if Greene, Chen and Benton aren't willing to help- they should get Del Amico back, even though they weren't an item, she has been the closest Carter has been to having a best friend since Gant.

-- Anna Rousseau (annadelamico@yahoo.co.uk), May 16, 2000.

I highly doubt that would get Maria Bello to come back to the show. We will never see Anna again. I do think we will see such characters as Mark,Kerry, Benton help Carter out.

-- Brenda (jckwfan@aol.com), May 16, 2000.

I agree with those that don't want the Carter storyline to go toward him having bi-polar disorder. I AM NOT A DOCTOR so I have no idea about what I am asking here. DOES ANYONE KNOW?? : Depending on the type of bi-polar disorder is it realistic that Carter could keep working in an ER? I seem to recall reading somewhere about how bi- polar can be triggered by some type of trauma happening to the person. Once it is triggered how do bi-polar people cope with tense and stressful and traumatic situations? Is it something Carter could continue to do day in and day out? And what about the stresses of working so many continaul hours with no sleep, etc.?

Those are my concerns. I may be totally clueless and please forgive me if I am. But I am just afraid of what the bi-polar label would mean to Carter over the next few years.

i think the drug addiction storyline is very compelling. Getting hooked on pain killers after a surgery can happen to anyone! And as Samira mentioned, I think diving into the topic of doctor's medicating themselves is very interesting too. I just hope Benton is the one who finally tries to help Carter and I hope next season we get our old Carter back (after seeing some rehab for him!).

-- amanda (amanda.rehm@home.com), May 16, 2000.

Debbie, I have to disagree with part of what you say and agree with the other part! First of all, I don't believe that drug abuse is something that happens to "just anybody" or to "the low scum of the planet". Everyone from millionaires to street drug dealers can become drug abusers, it is a concious choice they make. Some are more vulnerable than others, but drug abuse is not a sickness or a disease, it is something that you conciously do (at first at least) that can hurt you and others. In Carter's case, I can see the reality of him becoming a drug abuser. With all he's been through it would be very sitcom-ish for the ER writers and producers to do that to his character. I agree with you in the sense that he's not a saint: we all know he's not pure and his ideals aren't really reaching for the stars. So far, I don't think they've portrayed Carter as saintish. That just isn't his character.

But the possibility of bipolar (spelling?? :-)) disease is something I can also see happening. I think the writers have left this open enough that they can go either way. Carter is, basically, a very disturbed individual who needs therapy from his harrowing experiences. I think the real decision would be if the writers wanted to portray Carter as an abuser (drug addict) or the victim (bipolar disease). What does everyone else think? Would Carter be a better abuser or victim? By the way, which ever way Carter goes, Wyle is doing an AWESOME job acting him out. It's great the way Wyle fits the character.

This is so long!! Sorry everyone and if you've gotten this far thanks for reading :-)!

-- Marie (cartersbabe@aol.com), May 16, 2000.

Actually, the writers haven't really left it open, if you've seen the Canadian previews for next week. :-) But this discussion has been so interesting, so who cares? we have a couple days left to chew the fat.

I think you meant "soap operaish" not sitcom-ish... anyway, I disagree with that. I don't know how many other doctor shows have had their lead characters get hooked on prescription drugs. ER probably isn't the first, but I don't know if St. Elsewhere or Chicago Hope ever did that.

IMHO, The problem with a permanent bipolar diagnosis (and it IS permanent) is that after a while, audiences would become tired of Carter having this condition, or dealing with it. What any writer wants to know is, "How many dramatic situations can I get out of this character's condition?" 1) Carter forgets to take his meds, has a manic or depressive episode. 2) Someone finds out about Carter's condition and treats him with distrust. That's really about it. After that, it just becomes like Kerry's limp - mildly interesting, but after a while, it just is part of the background. And people don't really look at Kerry as a "representative handicapped character" because it never plays a role in her storylines. And it's quite unrealistic to pretend that a handicapped, or bipolar, character would never be emotionally or dramatically affected by their condition - it's not that way in real life. Would that it were so, but it isn't.

On the other hand it's great to show handicapped and people with chemical imbalances living productive lives. But to have them never affected dramatically by their physical problems would be dishonest. And there really are a limited number of dramatic situations that could keep repeating for a bipolar character as they interact with those around them. It would get old fast. On the other hand, a drug abuse storyline would eventually have a conclusion - AND you would have to accept Carter living a productive life, later on, as a permanent "former addict."

-- debbie (riccardoiii@aol.com), May 16, 2000.

I think Carter is a victum in any of the scenerios. Carter was brutally attacked at the hospital where he works . A coworker he was responsible for gets murdered. He develops chronic pains from his injuries. If he develops an addiction from pain pills , there is nothing wrong or weak with Carter . He was taking pain kkillers for legitamite reasons to begin with. I think there are three scenerios that are possible post knifing and are inconjunction with the chronic pain he has developed. (1) I find this scenerio the least likly . Carter's attack triggers Bi-polar that has up to this point been dormant. Carter has had symptoms associated with PTSD much more. (2) Carter suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder/chronic pain/survivor's guilt. I went to web site dealing with PTSD. Carter has already exhibited at least ten of the classic signs of PTSD. Carter has shown symptoms of chronic pain and survivor's guilt as well. All of Carter's behavioral problems can be explained away from the symptomsd and results PTSD causes. Again Carter is the victum in this case. He did not ask or deserved to get knifed. He did not beg for him to get PTSD, survivor's guilt and chronic pain (3) Carter has PTSD/chronic pain/survivor's guilt/drug use. Again Carter is a victum. He probably was given very legitament prescriptions for pain killers. It also possible that he was given legal scripts to help him sleep etc. Even if he did not in his current frame of mind caused by the PTSD/chronic pain and survivoprs guilt it is quites realistic that Carter would have tried to take some drug to cope with them . Also , if Carter is taking drugs he may not be addicted to them , yet. It has only been a few months since his attack and he has not probably been taking sleeping aids and other drugs for that long. The pain killers are probably the only thing he has been taken for a few months. It is quite possible that if gets cousulling and other professional help after whatever happens in the finale that they may have gotten treament for him before he got addicted to any of the drugs. It will be much easier to treat the PTSD and survivor's guilt if Carter is not addicted to the drugs and he can stop taking them without any withdrawal .

I seriously doubt that they are going to drag this storyline for too much longer. Many fans got fed up with Mark and the producers whenb they dragged his post beating yucky Mark for too long. I think the producers learned their lesson and know that they can't afford to lose vewiers by dragging this storyline and making it unrealistic. They know that it is time to end Carter fall and start to begin his full recovery. The simplest way is to have carter hit rock bottom in the finale and start getting help as soon as season seven begins. The best way is for Carter not to be addicted to drugs while for hype purposes it was nice to throw the probable drug use in to make people wonder more and add dramatic flavor to his downfall. I think we will find out in the premeire that Carter got help in time and is not addicted to any drugs. We will see him stop taking the drugs, We will see him being treated for his PTSD and survivors guilt. We will see him have treatments regularly on an out patient basis . He will be closly supervised at work for the first few months . He will not be given high stress stuff like running a trauma, difficult procedures etc at first. Once he starts showing improvements , he will start to do more stressful and difficult procedures again while under supervision. This will probably last a few more months in ER time. I imagine sometime during Nov sweeps something good will happen to Carter that causes him to regain his total confidence in himself. This event will be the final push that gets Carter completly healed and totally able to function again fully as a normal resident in hisd last year of residency would. I think we will see his colleagues be supportive of carter during this time and they will regain their full trust and confidence in Carter again. I think if they handle it this way most people won't either get tired of the storyline for dragging ot out too long or saying that they did not deal with the repercussions of Carter's stabbing enough. I think this will be a good balance between the two extremes.

-- Brenda (jckwfan@aol.com), May 16, 2000.

Regardless of which way the writers take Carter's storyline, has anyone considered that this type of thing is just what Carter's character needs to take him forward in the show? Carter has always seemed to carry the lingering effect of being the wide-eyed, starved for approval med student that the "adults" could not seem to take as seriously as he wanted. Carter as an authority figure, say for example, Chief Resident, would not have seemed plausible to the other characters in the show or maybe even to the audience. Remember his attempt at running the ER in the "Humpty Dumpty" episode.

I don't think anyone could go through what his character is going through and not come out changed. When he gets past all of this (and we have to hope he will), there may be a very different Carter in his place. I don't think the viewers or the other characters will still see him as "young Dr. Carter". I think he will become "Dr. Carter". That in itself can give him more interesting story lines than would have been possible for his character before now.

-- Nancy Wilson (nwilson@wko.com), May 16, 2000.

I see what you mean, Debbie. You're right, Brenda! I'm already a little fed up with this dragging story-line and if they drag it out EVEN LONGER with an inconclusive bi-polar disease, that would be disapointing and melodramatic to say the least. The writers thrive on drama, and so do the ER addicts (that would be me :-)). The drug addict storyline would be a good twist, and it might be one more count to show everybody Carter isn't as saintly as some think. I think that would be a good dramatic twist. But I don't agree w/ you Brenda on the fact that Carter is always a victim. Him being stabbed wasn't his fault. Lucy being stabbed and killed wasn't his fault. His physical, mental, and emotional pain and his survivor's guilt wasn't his fault. The fact that he was and is in extreme physical pain (from "having a 10-inch knife stabbed in his gut", I liked that line) isn't his fault. Getting addicted to pain-killers-- that is his fault. Who can blame the guy if he's very afraid of pain and is over-doing it a little. But he is a doctor, and he probably has seen cases like that before, and he knows better. So basically what I'm saying is, although it would be easy for him to do, him getting addicted to pain-killers is not something people do unconciously. Indirectly, but not unconciously. So Carter doesn't HAVE to get addicted to pain killers. That is a choice. He is afraid of pain, that is the alternate solution. Doesn't make it right, or make him a victim. That's all.

And what I was saying about sitcoms was the drug-addict after pain part, not the drug-addict doctor part. I hope I didn't step on any toes! All this speculation is kinda fun... I can't wait 'till Thursday, but plenty of yakking to do in the meantime. :-)

-- Marie (cartersbabe@aol.com), May 16, 2000.

What's Carter's fault is not that he doens't like pain (who does?) but that for whatever reason, he's been too proud to accept the help and advice that others have given him. Nothing was stopping him from taking it easy and not coming back to work so soon... nothing was stopping him from seeing a therapist... or even telling his own doctor he was still in physical pain! What Carter doesn't like is losing control. That IS his fault and I hope the writers get into that later.

-- debbie (riccardoiii@aol.com), May 16, 2000.

Yes, Debbie! All I meant that Carter wasn't COMPLETELY helpless and I don't like how ER's blurring the line between what is and isn't his fault. I hope he gets help and stops trying to find it on his own-- if he's trying to find it in drugs, or sleeping pills, or whatever. I think he needs help... and should let the people that know him and care about him help.

-- Marie (cartersbabe@aol.com), May 16, 2000.

I also hope that they don't drag this storyline out for too much longer. It's already getting to be a teeeeeny bit predictable, and I'd like to see it end hot.

Comment about whether or not it's Carter's fault if he's addicted to drugs. Yes it is, and no it isn't. Well, partly it's his fault that he's too proud to admit he needs help, but realistically very few people want to admit that, especially men. That's why you have so many people committing suicide and overdosing. I also think that Carter's trying so hard to stay on top of everything, that he's afraid of facing the fact that he's not doing so well. And I know that he should know better, but when you're in such a conflicting state as he is, reason just goes flying out the window.

My other complaint as to why it's not totally his fault is that his so called support system is quite lax. Whatever happened to mandatory counselling? At a job I worked at where a co-worker had something extremely terrible happen to him, we ALL were told to see counsellors, whether or not we knew the fellow . ANd it was enforced, OR ELSE. And what's with all the lame speeches he's getting from people; DeRaad, Mark?? No wonder he isn't setting up appointments with DeRaad. My other thing is, no one's following up on him. That's a main reason why so many people fall through the cracks and succomb to drugs/alcohol etc. Weaver asked him very nicely in Under Control how he was feeling. The issue was dropped very promptly after that. Mark gave him the lists... who wants to bet that the issue won't come up again between them. Why didn't DeRaad follow up after that appointment? It's obvious Carter wasn't doing well, and I know that he can't force treatment/therapy, but a little persitence would have been nice. And Dr."Don't treat em and Street em " Benton... ughh.. no comment on that.

There's a fine line between an addiction being Carter's fault and not being his fault, and I think that the writers are dealing very successfully with that.

-- samira (matb_west@chickmail.com), May 16, 2000.

I don't think of Carter as young Dr, Carter. I disagree that his colleagues think that of him as well. Carter showed in Exodus for example that he could take charge and do well in a hisghly stressful situation. Yoiu noticed that Benton did not take charge at all and he was much more senior to Carter. He allowed Carter to take charge. The staff at the end of "Exodus " were giving him thumbs up and nods of approval at the end of that episode. I think that was a turning point of for Carter in a sense that episode showed Carter was no longer a green medical student and intern. Last year Carter took charge in a episode and did a very good job. I think all of the staff prior to this episode think Carter is a good doctor and respects him. I think they all know that Carter is a good Dr, who is great with his patients and is able to run administrative things as well. I think Carter was the top choice for chief resident before the knifing and I don't think anyone would have doubted his abilities as such. However now that he is struggling with PTSD and associated problems , he probably won't be chief resident. However, once he recovers, I think everyone will think highly of him again. I've mentioned in other post that there is room for improvment for carter as there is with every other character on ER. I do think and have stated before that I think Carter will become even a better person as a result of this. Yes. I can understand where some of you think Carter is at fault for allowing himself to take too many drugs if that turns out to be the case, but I think that is a product more of combination of PTSD , survivors guilt than an inherit weakness in Carter. While I agree that Carter tends to internalize thinks and not ask for help much like we have seen with other characters such as Mark before, I don't think that is the main reason why carter may let drug use get out of control. For example, if Carter had slipped on the floor and seriuously injured his back and needed to take pain pills gfow awhile, I doubt he would have taken many pills and would have kept close tabs on how many he took. However, since he is suffering from PTSD and survivor's guilt ,he has all sorts of other problems and it is seriously clouding his judgment. Yes. We all make mistakes and error in judgements . To err is human. Being a Dr. does not change it. Sometimes things happen and makes things get out of control when the would not any other time.

-- Brenda (jckwfan@aol.com), May 16, 2000.

In reference to the "young Dr. Carter" discussions, I don't think this is meant literally...it is kind of an affectionate way of referring to the doctor they saw grow up; he has turned into a wonderful doctor, as I think most of his colleagues believe; he is energetic and naive (not in a bad way, but in a way that he wants to save everyone, which he cannot do...like in "The Miracle Worker"...he kept the boy awake because he didn't want the mother to lose her son on Christmas, or this year's Christmas show, he thought he'd made a huge difference by taking all the guns away, but in the end, Kerry had to calm him down because it didn't work). He is still young with a lot of hope for the future. Though I know, he is growing up, in fact in real life, Carter (NW) is older than Luka! Strange huh?

Anyways, I've kind of gone on about this more than I planned, but I also think that if Carter does become addicted to something, very little of it is his fault. Yes, he shoudl get over his pride, but right now he has no idea how to get control...work reminds him of things, his colleagues remind him of things, he feels guilty, and he may not even be realizing the problems he is having with the medication he *is* supposed to be taking. No one else has said anything to him that is truly inspiring for him to go to them for help. Maybe Benton will! (hope hope!)

-- Elaine (mrsclooney78@hotmail.com), May 16, 2000.

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