“In the land of the blind, the one
eyed man is an hallucinating idiot.”
“…real mental illness is boring. Depressives are toxic and dull. Manic depressives are irritating. People with schizophrenia or autism are largely indecipherable.
Most of them are best treated not by charismatic psychoanalysts who carefully excavate the early, repressed trauma that has “led” to their illness, but by doctors who administer psychotropic drugs of one kind of another.”
Tim Lott, “Losing The Plot”, Guardian Unlimited, 12/12/06
“…although I can’t change my fucked up brain chemistry I can change some of my behaviour. I’ve no way really of knowing whether the pills are doing any good until I start looking after myself a hell of a lot better.”
“A Few Home Truths: Bipolar is not a get out of jail free card”
Puddle Jumper’s Bipolar World
There are no benefits to Manic Depression, and the disease gives us no special abilities. We are not better gardeners, writers, lovers, photographers or thinkers because a disease forces our brains to overdose our system with chemicals. Manic Depression is something that fights against us, not for us.
It may seem like heresy but I know for a fact that I would be a better writer without the Manic Depression (MD). I know this because in the past twenty months I have written with more frequency, more clarity and better quality on the medication than I ever did off the medication. When we’re depressed MD prevents us from being able to concentrate or even move, when we’re manic we can’t slow down long enough to complete a project.
I find the writing I did while Manic is wildly imaginative in a ‘blindfolded while finger painting’ sort of way. It’s fun to look at, kind of exciting to read and an interesting insight into the state of mind I was in, but essentially it’s just scary and disturbing to realize the writer who looked at white clouds turn grey and instead saw snakes falling to earth was me.
When I was depressed my writing was depressing, that’s natural. But the disease keeps us depressed much longer than is natural so, of course, I wrote more depressing pieces than not. I was more introspective than some just for the fact I was forced into believing that my depressions had weight, that they were important. But there are no meanings behind the feelings, so we invent them. Mother didn’t recognize your genius in those paintings you brought home in grade seven? Well then, she never loved you and that’s why you’re so depressed now that you’ll write a three page, single spaced short story about a big frowny-faced bear who devours all of the light inside you to justify the depression. To give the meaningless depression meaning.
But Manic Depression has no weight. There may be some depressing, horrible, tragic shit in your life story, but Manic Depression didn’t kill your dog, MD didn’t divorce your parents, MD didn’t kill your best friend in a drunk driving accident before you could apologize to him. Manic Depression did, however, prevent you from rationally dealing with those problems.
This is why books like “Touched By Fire” are so frustrating. It’s very easy to produce lists of people who had a disease, then pin their genius on that disease. Ernest Hemingway was a genius, he was depressed, therefore his books came from his struggle with depression. As if no book has ever been written without Manic Depression as the muse, as if there aren’t millions of non-artists with Manic Depression. For every Ernest “Brains On A Wall Genius” Hemingway there are ten million poor illiterate bastards who are too depressed to make it out the front door of the Shelter to get to their intake meeting at the welfare office.
When I was eating lunch at the Shepherd’s Of Good Hope everyday I didn’t see any authors, all I saw was a bunch of men and women who just barely managed to fight their depression back far enough to make it for soup, salad and an egg sandwich. I certainly wasn’t a writer then. I went a decade between poems, even the written ones were never submitted for publication. I once spent the better part of a year living on Ma*ty’s couch (not his real asterisk), not because it was comfortable, certainly not because I was exploring my inner muse, but because I couldn’t sustain enough momentum to leave his apartment let alone find a job and appear at that job enough times to get paid so I could afford my own couch in my own apartment.
MD might bring an increased level of introspection, but being introspective does not bring reason. Under the influence of MD we believe we’re contemplating the heavy issues which make us who we are, which make us “Us”, but for the most part it’s a lie. I have a tape recording made back in 1988 during a camping trip when my friends and I were baked on weed and mostly drunk. On the tape we discuss grapefruit for thirty-five minutes. Somehow by the end we decided it was logical that grapefruits were a perfect analogy for the perfection of the universe.*
That’s MD-style introspection. People without our disease can attain that level of awareness and understanding from six glasses of red wine and playing Dark Side Of The Moon on ‘repeat’ for the evening. Some artists with cancer have made art about their struggle against cancer. It doesn’t mean the cancer gave them some special insight into the world, fighting the cancer just focused their attention on a specific period in their lives and some artists with MD manage the same despite our disease. Manic Depression is not an automatic PhD in philosophy, it’s not even a college entrance course in self-awareness. It’s a disease with a decent soundtrack that, left untreated or treated poorly, will kill you slowly, or sometimes quickly.
*Then someone (T** or De*n) tossed an aerosol can into the fire. The explosion started a fire in a pine tree. The last thirty minutes or so of the tape is us trying to put the fire out, then trying to find someplace to hide from the Park Ranger. It finishes with him yelling at us that he has our boom box and if we want it back we should come out… this is also the origin of “All Hail The Grapefruit, Fear The Seeds”, which later got me an ‘A’ in college… you can — for whatever reason — find out more on the origins of Salted and Fear on my Frequently Unanswered Questions [FUQ] page.
Wow. I’m quoted on the same page as Marshall McLuhan.
I think maybe I can die happy now…
Seriously though dude. You make a lot of sense. Part of my fear of treating the illness is down to all the romantasism that surrounds it. I want to be a great writer or whatever and then I worry the meds will take that away from me. But you’re right. Without any motivation or focus how do we ever get to do anything useful with our minds.
Man you nailed that one. Strikes right at the core of societies incorrect impression of a mental illness such as MD.
Sad thing is though more individuals that don’t have a mental illness will see these posters and books and believe them to be true.
I love to draw/sketch, but the last thing I did looked like I was having a schizo moment in time, which was at the peek of my last manic episode before I started my decent to where I am now. Pretty scary stuff.
I believe when I get to draw I’m a better artist in spite of having a disability, not for having one.
I linked to this entry on my Live Journal page. I hope you get some hits. I have a few friends on Live Journal (www.livejournal.com) who are writers and who are bipolar, or are writers w/o a disease, perhaps. My Live Journal page is a more personal blog. If you’d like the direct address to my page I can email it to you.
I really got this piece. It gave me words, and a viewpoint that was unformulated until I read it.
AMEN. Unapologetically truthful, as always.
Oh, and thank you for your intelligent and *ahem* amusing comments regarding Trevor. My husband laughed so loudly reading your comments, exclaiming “Exactly!” 😉 Brilliant.
I’ve had so many jagoffs like Trevor bounce in and out… I had a “blog” site back in 2000-2001 that had some political stuff and some personal Manic Depression stuff and “Trev-Types” would bounce in, leave a few messages, then fuck off. It gets so boring. I did what you did, try and engage them, but what ends up happening is you/I get lost in their stupidity and ignorance and you start to spiral down… questioning yourself because some fuckmonkey had a few minutes to blow until their mom got back from the store with their 2L of Jolt Cola.
We don’t actually exist to people like Trev, we’re figments inside his imagination but so is he. Trev might be a decent guy in the Real World, but online he let go a little bit and became “El Dicko Numero Uno” for a week. I’m sure he really thought he was somehow helping you at some point by comparing you to meth-addicted sex freaks… or, more likely, he’s just an el mondo-sized ignorant cruel fucking twerp who likes to pose for pictures next to confused busty women so he can convince someone, anyone (like that guy at the ticket booth at the subway who’s always sneering when Trev talks about his “Canadian girlfriend”), that he’s not some creep who spends all day listening to “Cake” wondering how he can score some weed (and if people really do say “score some weed”) so he can impress the goth girl at the Copy Shoppe.
I could go on for days…
Trev, or a “Trev” will come again, it’s inevitable, but whoever and whatever “Trev” has been or might become will remain/is meaningless.
I learned long ago that whatever was wrong with me was not helping me creatively on any level. It would either get me jacked up and excited to start something I’d never finish, or too depressed to write more than one stanza. So I don’t bank on it.
Plus, most of the people on those “lists” seem to have sacrificied parts of their lives for “genius” (and I fucking hate Hemingway anyhow)
When I was younger… I used to write poetry. No one else in my little high school wrote poetry, so this automatically set me apart so I used to hide it. Poetry was something I did at home, in my room, and it was mostly about depressing stuff because my life was, mostly, depressing. Then, somehow, word got out and certain people started to take an interest in my life. Most of these people had two X chromosomes. And, for reasons still unexplained, those Double X People insisted they be allowed to care for me. It wasn’t that I adjusted my writing for them or to keep them around, it’s that my writing suddenly had benefits so I was encouraged to continue. But my Natural Depressions got completely lost in my Fake Manic Depressive Depressions, to the point where it became impossible for me to write anything. The fact that, for a few years anyway, I was able to make a living as a reporter was remarkable… the fact I never showed up on time, missed one day in eight to depression and missed every deadline for seven years isn’t.
I’ve never really read Hemingway. My favourite authors (for their work and their life stories) would be Mordecai Richler and Elmore Leonard.
My psychiatrist wanted to know if, given the choice, I would choose to live without MD. The question is nonsensical. Asking me if I would choose to live without it is like asking me if I would choose to live with another person’s brain. It is such an ingrained part of the way that I internalize and process the objects and experiences in my world. Epistemic questions aside, there is very little that I “big K” know about anything – much less about MD and it’s influence on creative abilities. Even if I did have enough data to form an opinion on the subject, said data would be processed and an opinion would be formed by a MD brain. That’s a little to cyclical/incestuous for my blood. Where does that leave me in response to your thesis? Fuck if I know. But I’m listening to the Blonde Redheads and they always make me feel verbose; so I’m going to respond to a few of your statements.
The distinction between creative potential and success in creative work is an important one in this debate. I won’t even touch the questions that surround how we define these terms. Suffice to say that is another issue to consider. Using these terms as we use them in common language, I am of the opinion that MD increases my creative potential while decreasing the likelihood that I will be successful in my chosen field.
The former is intimately linked with my ability to share thoughts/emotions with the observer. MD has turned me into a walking nerve ending and this, in turn, heightens my perception of emotions – largely because I am not capable of turning them off or keeping them under rational control. And therein lies the connection between MD and creative potential.
Western discourse preferences rational thought. Consequently, we are embarrassingly undereducated in how to handle emotions. So people try to rationalize them, which is impossible, so they end up repressing them. Well MD does not afford me that luxury, I FEEL. I need an outlet for those feelings. My outlet is design and it shows in my pieces. Most people know what I was feeling when I designed something. MD is tied to emotional experience which is tied to creative potential.
That said, MD severely affects my ability to be successful. Missed work, missed deadlines, missed everything. In work, in relationships, and in life MD fucks with my ability to accomplish anything.
I will grant you that there are many more destitute than successful mentally ill people. But this is an indicator of the disease’s destructive symptoms to utterly overwhelm any benefit (assuming we think creativity is beneficial); not an indicator of the connection between MD and creative potential.
None of what I have written is relevant to my life in any way. I’m creative, your creative and we will never know why; we just are. We need to focus on the obstacles that keep us from turning our passions into sustaining careers. MD is the largest and most destructive of these obstacles. So, to quote you, “Take your fucking medication”.
The biggest obstacle to treating Manic Depression is the disease itself. A lot of its power comes from convincing us we are ‘Manic Depressives’, and that we are nothing without the disease. This disease, above almost all others, has been romanticized out of all proportion. Any artist who has ever suffered, who has ever been depressed for any length of time, is assumed to have automatically received his Muse from Manic Depression. You can write and you’re depressed? Don’t get treatment, you’ll lose your ability. You’ve got the disease that was immortalized in a Jimi Hendrix song, and you can’t get laid? Stop taking the Lithium because you’re not trying hard enough. You believe having out-of-control thoughts; shit sleeping patterns; an absolute inability to focus on any one thing for any amount of time all add to who you are, rather than crush who you could be, and ; being randomly suicidal all lead to character development? The “romancing of Manic Depression” has come mostly from people who don’t have the disease, so who’s really speaking into your ear? People with Manic Depression often feel as though the disease is a significant piece of who we are. But it’s sole purpose is to make us sick, and to kill us. Slowly or quickly, left untreated it will kill us.
Emotion drives art… empathy drives art. Art can come from examining a disease, but this particular disease actively works against your artistic abilities. Books like “Touched By Fire” tell us about the three dozen or so Great Artists over the past 400 years who possibly had MD. They don’t tell us that over the same 400 years the ratio is 1 Great MD Artist : 100million Non-Artistic MD’s /: 500thousand Great Non-MD Artists.
If MD had benefits or gave an artistic vision to people then the ratio would be radically different. The fact that there are millions more people crushed by this disease than there are who find some sort of artistic benefit would lead me to conclude that those three dozen Great Artists in “Touched By Fire” succeeded despite the disease, not because of their being MD.
Creativity comes from empathy. You don’t have to be black to write about a black family, you don’t have to be depressed to write about depression, you don’t have to believe in an orange sky to paint an orange sky. MD is a disease that, mostly, kills your empathy by convincing you it gives you power and insight not found in people without MD. Ultimately, however, all of that power leads you straight into suicidal fantasies and the insight brings you to the other side of a railing attached to a bridge that may be, this time, too high to come back from.
Definitely take your pills. Every day. Every day. Every day. Take your pills. Give them time. If they don’t feel right, take different ones. Take Vitamin D, massive amounts of Vitamin D. Stop drinking alcohol, stop drinking caffeine, DRINK LOTS OF WATER. Hydrate yourself like you were a dolphin. Every day, take your pills. Make routines, make pill-time a ceremony. Make a list “Take Pill; Read Book; Interact With Someone; See The Sun; Write Something; Create Something; Take Pill” and post it to your front door. Make it in a large font with bright colours. Make A Mission Statement: If, in three months, you find your recovery is slow, pick it up. Talk to your doctor. KEEP A CALANDER. Take massive amounts of Vitamin D. Take massive amounts of Vitamin D… orange juice, fish, milk (1-2%), multi-vitamins with Iron. Stand up and get angry at this Fuck of a Disease that has been killing you for all these years.
You’re fucking right.
“People with Manic Depression often feel as though the disease is a significant piece of who we are.”
MD is a significant piece of who we are. I pop a pill in my mouth everyday in order to keep from killing myself and/or running around like a psychotic lunatic. You write this blog, almost everyday. We think about this disease – what it is doing, has done, and might do to us – everyday. I am hard pressed to think of anything more influential in who I am than my brain chemistry.
“But it’s sole purpose is to make us sick, and to kill us. Slowly or quickly, left untreated it will kill us.”
Absolutely, but this quote and the one above are not mutually exclusive. I can accept that MD is a significant part of who I am and that this part of me is horribly, horribly dangerous to my health.
“They don’t tell us that over the same 400 years the ratio is 1 Great MD Artist : 100million Non-Artistic MD’s /: 500thousand Great Non-MD Artists.”
The Madness/Genius or MD/Creativity discussions are interesting ones, but they should be addressed with caution. It is far to easy to slip from an intellectual discourse into romanticizing a dangerous and deadly disease.
I think, or hope, that you know my viewpoint on this already. But I want to make my position on this very clear to anyone reading this post. While I disagree with feartheseed’s opinion on the connection between MD and creative potential. I absolutely agree with his opinion that, left untreated, this disease will not only destroy any chance of success in your creative endeavors; but also kill you. Please, please, please do not confuse my arguments for the link between MD and creative potential with the link between MD and success. Feartheseeds and I do not disagree on the latter. The only reason I can even have this discussion with him is because I am taking my meds. It does not matter how creative you think you are off the meds, you are not rational enough to accurately make the decisions necessary for daily survival, much less creative success. Take your meds, your dead without them.
Back to my response:
“Books like “Touched By Fire” tell us about the three dozen or so Great Artists over the past 400 years who possibly had MD.”
Our discussion may be stuck on definitions, and we might not find common ground here. Creative potential is not synonymous with Artistic Greatness. In my experience there is a significant correlation between some mental illnesses and artistic potential. Which is not the same thing as saying that there is a link between the same mental illness and artistic greatness (i.e. artistic success). I agree that the statistics presented in books like “Touched By Fire” are, at best, misleading. But not for the same reasons that you do.
“Emotion drives art… empathy drives art. Art can come from examining a disease,”
MD increases my perception of emotion, which has a positive affect on my creative potential. I have never been artistically influenced by examining my disease. For me, it is all about emotion. It might be different for others.
“but this particular disease actively works against your artistic abilities.”
Absolutely, again I distinguish between creative potential and creative success.
“If MD had benefits or gave an artistic vision to people then the ratio would be radically different.”
I think the ratio is more influenced by the obstacles to success that our disease carries; not by a link (or lack thereof) between our disease and creative potential.
“Creativity comes from empathy. You don’t have to be black to write about a black family, you don’t have to be depressed to write about depression, you don’t have to believe in an orange sky to paint an orange sky.”
Sure, but we are better writers, painters, artists, etc… for our experiences not our theoretical knowledge of subjects.
“Ultimately, however, all of that power leads you straight into suicidal fantasies and the insight brings you to the other side of a railing attached to a bridge that may be, this time, too high to come back from.”
I unequivocally agree.
“Stand up and get angry at this Fuck of a Disease that has been killing you for all these years.”
I’m not sure if I agree with you here. I understand the sentiment. But, again, we are talking about my brain chemistry. This is a significant part of who I am. In the same way that autism is a significant part of who my cousin is. If you have a life-long disease that will kill you if not treated, then it is a significant portion of who you are. Given the above, I am not inclined to be angry at myself for something I had no control over. Does that mean I can’t acknowledge and address my weaknesses? Of course not. Do I feel more balanced and accepting of myself than I think I would if I were angry at my brain chemistry? Absolutely. Then again, I am Buddhist, which might shed some light on my opinions.
Aikaterine, why does your link take me to a website advertising jewelry?
I’m a jewelry designer. I have always used the english version (Catherine) of my Greek name for work/school since it is easier to pronounce.
I am also a philosophy student. I think you guys get more of the philosopher in me.
I wasn’t quite sure what you meant by “my link”. I just clicked on my name and figured it out. Let me know if you guys think I should link to something other than my commercial site. It certainly was not my intent to advertise. I can link to the website in which I write letters, etc. to my daughter. It might be more appropriate.
As long as your link has something to do with you or if it makes a point about your response it’s all cool with me. This would probably be best, but that’s an opinion:
Hi Aikaterine, sorry it took me so long to respond… I was using this weekend of ridiculously warm weather to help my step-father build a porch.
“MD is a significant piece of who we are… . You write this blog, almost everyday… . I am hard pressed to think of anything more influential in who I am than my brain chemistry.”
Well… technically I write on/in/around this blog maybe once every ten days or so. I do talk to Puddle, my mother, myself, my PlayStation 2 and the people behind the counter at the convenience store almost everyday. If you want to talk about influence on my day to day life the disease has a lot less now that I’ve been medicated for a few years, but any and every disease has the same influence. MD is no more special than cancer, diabetes or… I don’t know… genital warts? Just keep popping that pill… whatever it is… as long as it has something to do with recovering from MD.
“Absolutely, but this quote and the one above are not mutually exclusive. I can accept that MD is a significant part of who I am and that this part of me is horribly, horribly dangerous to my health.”
No argument here. Unless you’re talking about defining who you are. MD is a physical presence inside your body, it exists. We have MD in the same way someone with cancer has cancer, but cancer does not define anyone… except, maybe, in that “I climbed over Mount Everest” kind of definition. It’s the decision to fight or not to fight, then the actual fight against the disease that defines us, not the disease.
“The Madness/Genius or MD/Creativity discussions are interesting ones, but they should be addressed with caution. It is far to easy to slip from an intellectual discourse into romanticizing a dangerous and deadly disease.”
Agreed… if there was a causal effect between clinical and BiPolar Depressions and artistic creativity the ratio between artists and those with a Depressive Disease would be a lot higher… the connection is purely anecdotal. Over the period of Humanity there have been, maybe, a few hundred influential artists who have had some of the symptoms of Manic Depression, therefore MD gives it’s victims some magical insight into the human condition?
Again: 400 MD Artists : 80million non-artistic people with MD. It’s such a meaningless number. Artists delve into their depression all the time, and come out with True Art without MD. If you, I or someone else has some artistic talent isn’t it possible that maybe our talents are natural, coming from ourselves, but that the Disease convinces us that we have more ability through it than Artists who don’t have it? Why are you an artist? Is it the disease, or is it a natural ability you would have had anyway without the disease?
“The only reason I can even have this discussion with [feartheseeds] is because I am taking my meds. It does not matter how creative you think you are off the meds, you are not rational enough to accurately make the decisions necessary for daily survival, much less creative success. Take your meds, you’re dead without them.”
I really believe you would be just as, or probably more, creative if this disease hadn’t sparked up inside you.
“[…]. Creative potential is not synonymous with Artistic Greatness. In my experience there is a significant correlation between some mental illnesses and artistic potential.”
If an Artist finds themselves suffering from a Mental Illness they will be an Artist With A Mental Illness. The insights they receive while fighting MD will probably make it into their art. MD will probably be the single most difficult obstacle they’ll ever face, so yes, it will take most of their focus off of painting trees.
“MD increases my perception of emotion, which has a positive affect on my creative potential. I have never been artistically influenced by examining my disease. For me, it is all about emotion. It might be different for others.”
No, MD doesn’t increase your perceptions per se. While you recover from MD you will focus on understanding which of your emotions are real and which come from the disease, in that sense MD will increase your awareness of what emotions are… . While you are under the spell of unmedicated MD all it does is convince you that you’re using your reasoning power, your powers of observation, your beliefs on how the world operates. But you’re not. The “creative potential” of BiPolar Disease is, mostly, a fantasy created by the disease. Again, if 99.9902% of people with BiPolar Disease believe they’re artistic, but their art is puerile and just plain goofy, couldn’t the remaining 0.0098 whose art is actually expressive and real just be real and talented artists despite their disease?
Try this one: Manic Depression Is A Shallow Disease
FTS: “Stand up and get angry at this Fuck of a Disease that has been killing you for all these years.”
Aikaterine: “I’m not sure if I agree with you here. I understand the sentiment. But, again, we are talking about my brain chemistry. This is a significant part of who I am.
I enjoy a little hyperbole occasionally… or maybe even more than that, but the message is essential to recovering from this disease: you have to treat it as something actively working against you or the chances of sliding back into the disease increase exponentially.
“In the same way that autism is a significant part of who my cousin is. If you have a life-long disease that will kill you if not treated, then it is a significant portion of who you are.”
No. It’s a significant disease that actively works against you, it’s something you need to control. It’s something that has been holding you back since it was first triggered in your body. We are born with a gene, this gene at some point was triggered — usually through some tragic moment which drove your chemistry past a point where it could recover, or, in women, chances are very good it will trigger during or after pregnancy when the hormones and chemicals become overloaded, that’s when the disease tries to take over your life. There was a non-Manic Depressive Aikaterine before there was an Aikaterine with Manic Depression.
“Given the above, I am not inclined to be angry at myself for something I had no control over. Does that mean I can’t acknowledge and address my weaknesses? Of course not. Do I feel more balanced and accepting of myself than I think I would if I were angry at my brain chemistry? Absolutely.”
Never feel as though you are responsible for what the disease has done to you or your family. Your only responsibility right now is to take the pills.
“Then again, I am Buddhist, which might shed some light on my opinions.”
Maybe you’ll enjoy this exchange as well:
queenminx com/2006/12/31/keep-counting/ [the site has been killed]
And you should probably check this out as well (sorry for the homework)… Frequently Unanswered Questions
Aikaterine and I have been having a conversation over the past… month? via email and this is the first time she brought up Buddhism. I thought our (Qweenminx and myself) recent poetic conversation might interest her.
Speaking of weird tangents in blog responses… Qweenminx (and everyone else reading this I guess), if you’re interested in Sleep issues related to Manic Depression I’m having this conversation with a Medical College (Human Givens?) in the UK: Minds A Lot
Hmmm… I am not sure why you have included a link to my poem but for whatever reason, thanks.
As for the jewelry link: I wasn’t sure if Aikaterine had made a mistake with her URL. I was expecting a blog and found a commercial site instead.
Pretty jewelry btw.
Go tangents go!!
I am interested: I followed the link (feel a bit like Alice with no white rabbit!)
It explains a lot about my own sleep patterns/bouts of depression and, why I dream so much but wake feeling like I haven’t slept at all.
I am particularly interested in ‘The 10 Essential Emotional Needs’.
I think I might do a post on it, maybe a little survey – Puddlejumper stylie (thanks for the heads up to her site btw), to question how people’s emotional needs are being met, and how. And, if they are/aren’t, if they think this affects their mental health.
Wanted to let you know that I would like to continue this, you (Gabriel) made some arguments that I might not be able to counter. Which means that you might be swaying my opinion on this matter. Which is a good thing. I love it when I learn information that warrants changing one of my opinions. That said, I am crazy busy this week trying to get my next line done, getting the new yalisma site up (which involves choosing 400 or so products – AAAAAHHHHH) and with the new semester starting up. So, give me a week. But I will be back.
And please, do not hesitate to give me links to things you think I would like. I can never, never learn enough.
Finally I got time to go through this site, something I have been wanting to do since I found out that your fear the seeds one is simply an essay place.
well, your writing is fantastic…here as well as there.
An uncle I was close to was a manic depressive…I understand what it is like. He was brilliant as well. He felt suicidal but he never did it. One can conquer.
Thanks for coming by, Nita* (and for the very kind comment). I’d be very interested in hearing about how the ‘mental health system’ works in India, if you have the chance there’s a woman in Scotland who is gathering experiences from around the world, she can be found here: [puddle jumper killed her blog]
or, maybe, you can just leave a note here.
*Nita writes mostly on health issues affecting the “underclass” in India, as well as the occasional entertainment story, as that country grows into this planets next superpower…
I find a lot of parallels with your take on being BP and my own. Here is a piece from my book that resonates with the above…
“I make no pretence of making peace with the sickness. I don’t celebrate being creative and I can’t find anything to remove myself from what seems a life sentence tagged by my own hand. It is my nemesis, my adversary. There’s no uplift in it for me. I curse the thing and wonder after the infection in my genes and how it filled my mother and fills my brother. It takes parts of me and with a childlike sulkiness begrudges their return. Life remains good. My kids sustain me, and I know love from Kate beyond my entitlement. I want to be kind to the illness but as ever I forget to forgive. Everything is like this. When I arrived, Grow up! When you die you’ve survived. This is my violence: Smilingsmile. I imagine my head on your chest, you’re stroking my hair. Who are these people? Some of them even look like me. Your eyes of light, your smile so fine. Everything is like this.”
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I’m back, christ has it been 5 months? Did I say give me a week? Sorry for not keeping in touch. The site is up and almost done, my new line is out and I only had two major breakdowns during the whole process. I have started to research this issue and realize that both arguments have convincing support. So, I am at a crossroads. I think I am going to take the next few hours to take a break and read some of your posts in other areas. They are cathartic. I have missed them.
I finally got around to really taking a look at your discussion with (dont remember the name) REM sleep. The following stood out.
“Most methods of “dealing with” people with BiPolar Disease rely, in my opinion, far too heavily on the “Best Picture” method where the assumption is that the patient will automatically have the necessary networks and understanding of the disease to carry them through their initial treatment.”
I could not agree with you more, and I think I am beginning to see how your perspective on this disease helps you fight it.
I tend to let the medical communities response to this disease “roll off my back”. It is frustrating, and the “Best Picture” method is insidious.
Which begs the question; what can we do to change it?
Holy hell, I just changed my own mind on this creativity thing. I was ranting about John Nash’s speech. Take a look.
Thanks for the redirect, Gabriel.
I found two research studies that do indicate a link between creativity and BP:
However, I am very skeptic of such studies, so I still really don’t know. My experience has been flashes of artistic creativity during episodes, but more sustained efforts of many more constructive endeavors at other times.
“…suggests underlying neurobiological commonalities between people with mood disorders and individuals involved in creative disciplines, consistent with the notion of a temperamental contribution to enhanced creativity in individuals with bipolar disorders.”
“It has been known for a long time that people with salient social and artistic creativity suffer more frequently from psychiatric illnesses than the average population.”
These are small sample surveys, one of them is based entirely upon a form filled out by the subjects and the other on “literature” retrieved in Hungary and “international scientific literature”, which sounds like code for “T*m Cruise”.
Neither study / survey says “manic depression / mental illness makes people artistic” or that “all artists are mentally ill / manic depressive”.
Instead of the actual disease “making” you something, maybe having the disease allows for a level of introspection that wasn’t there before and, since I’m an artist, maybe that introspection will change my art. I still have the same level of inate artistic talent, even the same level of learned artistic talent, than before the disease manifested itself only maybe now it’s a little more foccussed. Whereas the other 99.9904% of people with Manic Depression get to read about how the disease causes people to be artistic so they go out and create emo sites, because they believe that’s what they’re supposed to do.
I am glad that you found the studies. And that you found this post, because I think you and Gabriel will get along well together.
“However, I am very skeptic of such studies, so I still really don’t know. My experience has been flashes of artistic creativity during episodes, but more sustained efforts of many more constructive endeavors at other times.”
I think that your gut instinct is in line with where I now find myself; which is, in turn aligned with Gabriel. It makes sense to me that the flashes of artistic creativity are actually the result of you being more introspective as you learn to deal with the disease. And your point about constructive endeavors drives it home.
I do not want to take away from the things that help others to conceptualize their own disease. But I have seen some tragic examples of romanticizing the pure aching putrid shit that you, Gabriel, and I (along with all the other bipolar people) have to wade through every day just to continue breathing.
Our lives are not horrible. But they are ‘not horrible’ because we fight in ways that other people could never imagine to make them ‘not horrible’. We ache and bleed and beg for ‘not horrible’. We are creative because our lives depend on it. We do not get through this disease on sheer force of will alone, we redefine boundaries and break with traditional societal norms to create a place wherein we can feel ‘not horrible’. Creativity is a survival skill for us.
Gabriel: Neither does mental illness make people creative, nor do all artists have mental illness.
I fully agree, as I’d said before.
“It is observed that compared to the proportion of mentally ill people in the general population, the proportion of mentally ill people in artists is higher.”
The above statement is entirely different from the above two assertions, and is I believe, the one responsible for this theory. I’m not sure if any such study has been carried out but this theory has been in discussion for many decades, and is the reason for your post. But we cannot refute it comprehensively by refuting the extreme assertions.
Aikaterene: thanks. You are as eloquent as ever. To further elaborate, I’ve created amazing literary essays, and even more amazing sketches, during the bad times. But holding a steady job, maintaining stable relationships, or even having a blog going, are things I can do today. These things also require creativity (as in survival skill like you so nicely said), but not the artistic one in the other case.
I wouldn’t be satisfied by explaining away artistic brilliance as simply ‘enhanced introspection’. How could one sketch brilliantly when having tremors and not be able to when having steady hands? I would think there are many other faculties involved, over and above introspection.
Lastly, to reiterate, I am also vehemently against the romanticizing of the disease. That is almost evil. And as you must have seen by now, I’m against random over-generalizations as well. Thanks for providing this forum,Gabriel!
You’re very, sincerely, welcome.
It’s not something I’ve ever been convinced of… the study results aren’t new, the stereotype has been around forever and it’s very easy for researchers to find enough people willing to fill out a form stating their belief in the stereotype. “Touched By Fire” has, roughly, 300 pages dedicated to the stereotype written by a brilliant woman who, otherwise, should have known better. It has become a bible for enablers and their victims.
So, who is not “artistic”? Can I self-describe myself as an “artist” if I have not published or had a showing? Who is being asked if they are “artistic” or “artists”? Are the researchers wandering up to random people and asking them about their artistic talent and mental illness? Or just the ones dressed in black strumming their guitars in tiny cafe’s? I have never, personally, thought of myself as an artist. So maybe if someone self-identifies themselves as an “artist”, for the sake of the survey and/or study, does that not mean that it’s those who self-identify as artists who have a more likely chance to be mentally ill? Is identifying oneself as an artist a part of mental illness because “Touched By Fire” and similar books say that’s what you’re supposed to do in order to be one of the Cool Mentally Ill Kids? Besides, it really is an elitist argument. My mental illness made me an artist therefore my mental illness has great benefits and gives me importance while you’re a drooling monkey. Who really cares? If someone believes their manic depression or other mental illness gives them great insight into the world, they should stop taking their meds and get with it. I await the masterpiece and the coming changes in mankind thanks to their brilliance… but you know, and I know, that what will really happen is they’ll stop taking their meds and either die slowly or they’ll die quickly, and whatever tiny spark of artistic talent they have — or believe they have because, hey, mentally ill people are way more likely to be artistic — will be smothered in the disease.
“…the proportion of mentally ill people in artists is higher.”
Seriously, what’s the criteria that makes me an artist? Some seventeen-year old girl starts an emo site moments after being diagnosed. The site is fairly well designed and has nice pictures and a few “poems”. Wham, she’s an artist with a mental illness.
Again, walk into any homeless shelter or soup kitchen and you’ll find a lot more manic depressives than if you were to walk into an art class. If all the researchers are doing is hanging around galleries and fashionable apartments filled with people dressed in black trying to out emo each other or, if the people responding spend all day reading blogs and websites dedicated to manic depression as an artistic medium, or if in fact they are being enabled by the people around them into believing that manic depression can and will make them a better artist… well, wouldn’t that skew the results? And where is the Great Art these studies say we should have? Where are the philosophies? There are millions and millions of manic depressives. What have we produced that is so freaking grand that warrants the hell of unmedicated manic depression? The greatest piece of art ever produced by a manic depressive, assuming he was one, was Hemingway’s classic “Brains On The Wall”. Everyone seems to overlook that one, but I think it’s got a lot of meaning…
“emo”, by the way, is my new favourite word.
Anyway… I’m sure you can tell, but at the moment I’m a little burned out on this post. The version on [the other blog] has been picked up by a “discussion group” where “the writer is full of shit” is considered a mighty and intellectual riposte. Normally I’d be over there tearing them a million new assholes, but I’m really exhausted right now. Plus I’m having a guest over for the next few days and I’ve got so many dishes to wash I’m thinking about just buying new ones. I’m a little burnt out, but please, the two of you or anyone else, continue along and I’ll catch up later but for the next little while I’ll have to let the post and my previous responses speak for me. Fuck… and I have to get the dog from the kennel in four hours.
“I wouldn’t be satisfied by explaining away artistic brilliance as simply ‘enhanced introspection’. How could one sketch brilliantly when having tremors and not be able to when having steady hands? I would think there are many other faculties involved, over and above introspection.”
I have the same dilemma. It does seem shortsighted to explain away these moments as ‘just introspection’ but I cannot find words to explain them that do not fall victim to romanticizing the disease. This is one of those phenomena that I just stopped trying to understand, because there is danger in the language that we use to conceptualize it.
As you mentioned, so many people with bipolar disorder grab on to words like genius, artistic and creative at their detriment. They stop trying to fight for stability.
Forgive me for intruding on this discussion but one of Mahendra’s comments:
“It is observed that compared to the proportion of mentally ill people in the general population, the proportion of mentally ill people in artists is higher.”
got me thinking.
I do not think its true…
Perhaps those who are extremely imaginative and sensitive can seem unstable to others…but they may not be.
If you ask me I see many so-called normal people who I feel are unstable. Its the society. they see anyone who is not doing the right things as unstable. often artists do not care about money, or about living an orderly existence but by no means are they ill. They are just living on a different plane. I think of all those brilliant people of our history who were thought to be unstable simply because they thought out of the box.
I am not saying Mahendra believes it…I know he was simply quoting it as a theory…
I think Mahendra was quoting from a few studies that have been published on the topic. There are a number of well respected studies that have shown this correlation.
I’m just leaving to get the dog, and when I come back I’ll only have time to sleep and do dishes for the next few days, but before I collapse I really think a definition of what constitutes being “an artist” may be in order.
“Some seventeen-year old girl starts an emo site moments after being diagnosed. The site is fairly well designed and has nice pictures and a few “poems”. Wham, she’s an artist with a mental illness.”
Bonus points if you can incorporate the word “emo” at least twice into your response.
I actually deleted a similar sentence in my previous post. But then, since I was just mentioning that Mahendra was quoting studies, I imagined that the studies defined the term as they were using it.
But, in general, you make a good put.
I am actually talking of real artists, not those with an artistic bent of mind or questionable talent. I mean really brilliantly creative souls…they are a fraction of humanity and I do not think that a high proportion of them are mentally ill. though people may think they are mad. Have you read Leo Tolstoy’s Anna? There is a beautiful character development there of a painter (so-called) and a real artist. the latter is thought by people to be quite mad, but Tolstoy takes us into his mind so well and we know that all he is consumed with is his art, not people, not money – just making his art perfect, an obsession with his art.
Society does not understand such people and maybe they could be termed mentally ill. I don’t think they are though…anyway, that is my personal opinion.
You gave me an ‘aha’ moment, thank you. Science, being a construct of the human psyche, is dependent of societies labels. We have a habit of needing to differentiate things and labels are the method of choice.
But apart from science, in the form of the aforementioned studies, I agree with you. Passion and obsession are not madness, they are unfortunately merely unique and confusing to people who are not able to feel it to the degree of the ‘great ones’.
I think trying to draw a line where someone counts as an ‘artist’ and anyone below it is an emo wannabe is just plain silly, and somewhat restrictive.
Calling people emo is also silly, and only contributes to that portion of society that feels excluded and lonely.
I find only encouragement that it there are young people out there expressing their disenchantment, their sense of disconnection from society, and their feelings. So what if they appear self centred and melodramatic? When were teenagers ever anything else. Rather the pursuit of self expression, art, inner musing and sharing your feelings than the aggressive bigoted excess and ignorance that seems to be acceptable normal behaviour from young people.
Elitism in any form is something I find ugly, and unecessary. Somebody trying to express themselves, in an artistic and expressive way is an artist. All else is just a value judgement.
I would imagine some of those people thought of as ‘real artists’ spent their youth navel gazing and sighing a lot, and discussing their innermost feelings in Parisian coffee houses.
Don’t try to crush peoples spirits before they have even found their way in life.
(sorry if that turned into a rant…oh, no..I’m not…someone has to stand up for the emo ‘fakers’)
I was about to further refine the ‘theory’ from ‘all artists’ to ‘great artists’, when I saw Nita-Aikaterene’s comments. I tend to agree.
Great artists have been extremely passionate and obsessed with art – a fact that has often alienated them from society. These are the ones that have always been in the public limelight, and their alienated, isolated behavior has been stereotyped to the point of ‘insane genius’. That’s where the roots of this theory lie, me thinks.
I also agree with Gabriel that the artistic abilities are ‘innate to the person’, not ‘gifted by the disease’.
But just like nobody exercises their innate talents and brings them to fruition always, mentally ill people also do not. The lingering question in my mind is: does mental illness play any role in bringing these innate talents to the fore?
Some people need a muse. Some need a friend’s inspiration. Some need parent’s encouragement. Some are guided by religion. Some are driven by the frustration arising out of their mental illness.
Can it be as simple as that?
I agree with darkentries, and myself try to avoid generalizations and labels. I haven’t come across a single ’emo’ site, because I don’t go out looking for one.
Lastly, I saw that Aikaterene has posted her Nash-post in the comments above. I’ve posted a very different perspective on it in her comments, take a look if you’re interested.
“…does mental illness play any role in bringing these innate talents to the fore?”
Does being diagnosed as having a mental illness play a role? Has the stereotype become so ingrained that once diagnosed people feel they have to self-identify as having artistic talent to make up for the stigma of having a mental illness? When these surveys are filled out are the people asked to produce any proof of their “art” or even their creativity — or is it about self-identifying as an artist because that’s what the stereotype tells us to do? Again, if mental illness plays a direct role in assisting whatever artistic gene there may be, one of these researchers is going to have to show where the legions of mentally ill artists are — great or kind of great or even worth reading. They have to show what the criteria for their definition is… because, from the tone of just these two “research” projects they seem to be limiting “mentally ill artists” to “those artists who show signs of having mental illness”.
An “emo” site, my definition, is filled with repetitive and introspection free prose where the writer is doing so only to cause an emotional response from the reader to either a) pity the writer, or; 2) give the impression the writer is so intensly brave they need to be constantly praised… none of which, from a teenager, is a problem. I try not to read them either, but I do come across them quite often as I add “recovery blogs” to my blogroll. To see my idea of a “recovery blog” or “non-emo site” please take a look at any site in my Blogroll listed under “Friends Worth Having” or “Also Recovering”.
“…and only contributes to that portion of society that feels excluded and lonely.”
“emo”, by my definition, is the stereotype of the manic depressive as artist in action. People who feel somewhat artistic and therefore they must attribute it to having a mental illness, or; people who have been diagnosed as having a mental illness who then believe they must adopt the stereotype of an artist, or; that their art has enough merit they must never medicate or treat themselves otherwise they’ll lose their muse becuse that’s what most books and the non-recovery blogs and websites tell them they have to do.
I’ve even come across an emo site — or a site that takes advantage of the emo format — where the “mentally ill” blogger periodically posts a request for money and threatens to do themselves serious harm if they don’t get it… from what I was able to see, or as much as I wanted to see, the blogger was pulling in about a grand a month.
Are we going to have an ‘art’ debate, because I could so go for an ‘art’ debate right now. I am totally going to pull out my aesthetic philosophy textbooks?
Why did I end that with a ‘?’
The hunger is making your mind giddy and you’re starting to doubt yourself… ?? I haven’t eaten in a while either.
This idea that I’ve been pushing for two days now, about what defines “art” in the context of “mental illness and art”, is something I hadn’t really connected to before. I’m trying to pull back a bit just to show that maybe it’s possible we’ve been living in the stereotype for so long that it’s just a given that we mean a specific and very select group of people when we say “artist and mental illness” in the same sentence.
I don’t want to define “art”, nor especially “artist” or “artistic” I just want to know — if researchers are trying to tie art and mental illness together in whatever configuration — what their criteria is… or might be.
It seems to be that the mentally ill/art researchers are making their definitions in the same way someone could use the stereotypical gay man as a way of defining gay men. “All gay men are like Big Gay Al from South Park” or “men are gay when exhibiting these behaviours” or “these behaviours indicate a gay man”. Well… it leaves the majority of gay men completely out of the research. So, if I’m looking for artists with mental illnesses of course I’m going to find a relationship, meanwhile the vast drooling majority of us brain damaged monkeys get to wonder why our artistic talent gene isn’t being enhanced.
For whatever it’s worth there was a study done recently and published in, I believe, The New Yorker where it was found that only eight percent of men have a hair pattern that runs counter clockwise. And the vast majority of these men with counter clockwise hair are gay. There was also a thing with finger sizes that’d take too long to explain. The dude who wrote the piece was on Colbert a few weeks ago.
I was trying to find the ‘a’ you were talking about. emo. emo.
…this is me taking a break and doing dishes.
Not to further beat-down a dying horse, but this is from a community made up of thousands of people who identify themselves as “being” bipolar:
“We are a website community, support network of local groups, and media project created by and for people struggling with bipolar disorder and other dangerous gifts commonly labelled as “mental illnesses.” We believe that when we learn to take care of ourselves, the intertwined threads of madness and creativity can be tools of inspiration and hope in a repressed and damaged world. Our goal is to help people like ourselves feel less alienated, and to allow us—both as individuals and as a community—to tap into the true potential that lies between brilliance and madness.”
Emphasis is mine, and this is what I mean by “emo”.
some people are just asses….doesn’t make them emo’s. just asses.
I know that you are busy this weekend, so please do not feel pressured to respond.
“I just want to know — if researchers are trying to tie art and mental illness together in whatever configuration — what their criteria is… or might be.”
well, I think we just have to judge each study on its own merits. Different researchers define it different ways. But I imagine that the definitions are probably rather arbitrary. Art is like that.
…this is me thinking about doing the dishes…still thinking…
Is there such a thing as an ’emo ass’?
Maybe a change of terminology is warranted on my part. From now on I’ll refer to the people matching my definition as “emotifascists”. Or maybe “emoticons”, but that sounds familiar…
The problem with research studies which use different criteria to define their subjects is none of those studies can usefully be compared to each other. I’m saying the entire argument about the relationship between art and mental illness is moot because the research is almost entirely based on stereotypes. Someone diagnosed with manic depression, for example, might as well be handed the lyrics to a Jimi Hendrix song and an autographed copy of “Touched By Fire” on the way out of the doctor’s office and told, with a hearty slap on the back, welcome to the family.
We believe the stereotypes, our families believe the stereotypes, a lot of our doctors believe in the stereotypes, the woman who wrote the DSM-IV entry for manic depression and the two most sourced books on manic depression believes the stereotypes… at what point do we get to say “the researchers are using people who believe in the stereotypes to qualify those stereotypes and, quite possibly, those researchers are actually looking for the stereotypes because they also firmly believe in them thanks to people like Kay Jamison who keeps selling that freaking book”?
And it’s those stereotypes that kept me, and several other people in my ‘recovery blogroll’, from understanding the disease and being able to actually start our recovery. We spend so much time looking at those studies and thinking they mean something to us and people like us, but they don’t and they never have. If there’s a genetic code for “art” and there’s a link to and from there to “mentally ill” eventually there’ll be a blood test and prison camps. But until then these research studies and questionaires done based on arbitrary definitions are killing people. People believe the stereotype that they receive more benefits with the disease unmedicated than with the disease properly treated… then, sometimes, they put a gun in their mouth and put their brains against the wall. Or, most of the time, we sit in our rooms and fade away. Either way it’s a waste of a life.
I think an ’emo ass’ would be really, really, really round — like French Canadian Grandmother round — but very bouncy and most certainly a little more noisy than a non-emo ass.
Fucking dishes. Fucking emoticonfascists.
Havent you finished the dishes yet? Jeez, how long have they been piling up?
I am having a week where I have no desire for intellectual thought. I have those occasionally, so I have no further thoughts on the matter.
I would say that there is a place for whiny crap emo art in the world, in whatever form it may take, just as much as there is room for the souls who produce works that take your breath away. It gives some comparison if nothing else.
Self expression is great…to me, it doesnt matter what form it takes. Its better than not expressing anything. We don’t have to look at the emo websites, or read their bad poetry. Who knows how many people have sidestepped more serious depression by vomiting forth a bunch of self indulgent crap and then feeling better and moving on. Repression of the self is a cause of depression in my mind, so good on the emo’s for just letting it hang out and indulging their emotions.
Young people everywhere try to hang labels on themselves in order to try and find their place in the world. Identifying as depressive artists can’t be all that bad surely? You may think it belittles a very serious range of problems, but don’t forget that without huge numbers of people claiming to be depressed, there would be a whole lot less research into drugs that actually work, from which many of us actually benefit, and enable us to enjoy our lives a little, instead of sitting in a corner hiding from the world.
Thank you emo kids, for providing the drug companies with a reason to get off their asses and kick out some funky drugs.
Yes your art sucks, but keep on doing it anyway.
“Yes your art sucks, but keep on doing it anyway.”
that is funny as hell
I haven’t suggested self expression is wrong, or even that the people writing “emo” sites are wrong for doing so, I’m saying they’re a trap for people who are really sick. I’m saying that because of the flawed research into the ‘art/mentally ill subject’ people with the disease we have are handed stereotypes which are then reinforced on those sites. On the “emotifascist” site I used as an example above they have a list of “newbie joiners” and on that list were a few people — including a PhD psychologist — who were obviously truly mentally ill. My point is, as long as those people believe in the stereotypes put forward by the site — keeping in mind the site claims “thousands” of members — they have no chance of recovering.
I’m not talking about banning emo kids, or even beating them with sticks, I’m talking about educating people with manic depression to see the difference between a Disease and a Lifestyle. Because, right now, the two are intertwined and confused.
And the dishes are still not done… I like to savour the pleasures I’m given in life. Maybe I’ll wait until next month to finish them.
I quite like the idea of beating emo kids with sticks. I might support their right to whine, but that doesn’t mean I don’t hate their annoying little faces…and their wah wah wah.
As long as there are opposing viewpoints in the ‘arena, I’m happy. The emofetishists, with their you are a lovely genius that nobody understands, and your desire to hack off your fingers is just an artistic urge’ line, and FTS ‘you are all deeply sick and must eat up all your pills like good children and then we can get on with real life’ line.
Choices….we make ’em. That is good. That we have them.
Your viewpoint isnt too far from fascism itself you know? Just because you think you’re right and they’re wrong, doesn’t make it any less fascist. You apply what you have decided works for you, and extrapolated that this would benefit all madkind. (do ya see what i did there?).
I am not criticising, just pointing out your views are similarly forceful.
I, as ever, trundle along the middle way. I can see validity in both theories. I don’t differentiate between my creativeness and my depression. They are both part of me. I think the me that wasn’t depressed would very possibly not be as creative either. They co-exist, and feed each other. Depression causes strong emotions (emo emo), and urges to expel these emotions. Thus comes art.
I also recognise that I exist in the world, and there is a certain amount of functionality I need to enjoy it, and I choose to try to co-exist with other members of society to a certain extent. So I take the pills, I manage the depression. I lose some of the emotion that drives my creative impulses, but I get other things in return. The ability to relate to friends better. To understand other people better. To not be so insular and confused by the world.
My disease is my lifestyle, but I know I can influence it, and that is worthwhile educating people about. Then they have the choice.
There are choices in recovery, the disease allows no choice… there are choices in treatment, but without treatment you either die slowly or you die quickly. I’m not making this up, this isn’t a philosophy, this is what happens to real people in the real world because of a real disease. I could, honestly, give a rats fuck if someone takes pills or smokes medicinal weed or uses diet as long as their treatment works for them and as long as they have some professional help along the way. As long as what they do controls the disease long enough for them to become aware of what is the disease and what is them.
I’ve never claimed to have any answers for anyone beyond get some fucking help before the disease kills you, but I do know what doesn’t work because I did it for eighteen years. Knowing something works, and knowing the difference between right and wrong doesn’t make someone a fascist. Being an absolutist is a start to fascism, and I have never once even come close to saying my way is the only way. I have never once asked about your treatment or pushed mine on you. I firmly believe that my way is the best way for me, if you’ve got other ideas, great, share them — tell us why you’re taking treatment and what’s working for you.
But those people with manic depression who believe what they read from those studies and on those websites about how “depression makes them better than” are being fed a load of bullshit that will only prevent them from getting real help, as they did me and a lot of other people in my blogroll. People with manic depression who believe they are a part of a lifestyle and thus do not get help do not get better, they get worse. If you feel you are properly medicated and therefore in a safe enough place to explore your manic depression and depression safely, great, so am I. And that’s a choice we get with treatment. Off treatment the insights untreated manic depressives have about ourselves and the disease have as much depth as a puddle of water in an asphalt parking lot.
That’s it. Everything I’ve needed to say on this topic has been said in the post or in my six months of responses since then — or you can find more on my FUQ Page, or you can check out some of the other posts where this topic is further discussed on “The First Posts” page.
If something I’ve read here makes you angry, upset, curious, whatever, feel free to link to this post and write a whole new post of your own. Please do not 1) lie about this post; 2) misrepresent this post; 3) close the debate off to people by making it a part of some special “joiners only” discussion group. If anyone feels they have anything new to add, go nuts. I’m not a moderator, and this isn’t that sort of site, so I might respond. Otherwise I’ve got other posts to write, I’ve got other posts you can read and I’ve got dishes to clean.
“but I do know what doesn’t work because I did it for eighteen years.”
doesn’t work for you….that was the very point I was making.
There are some people for whom medical treatment just makes things worse.
No comment needed, you feel you’ve presented your viewpoint and I respect that. I hope my argument didn’t unearth hidden plague pits of annoyance that you didn’t need revealing at this moment in time. But, you’re a big lad, and can walk away if you need to I’m sure.
I am working on 3 posts at the moment so don’t particularly want to add to that list, but maybe in the future I will come back to it.
“There are some people for whom medical treatment just makes things worse.”
If someone gets the wrong treatment, yes they’ll get worse… there are people who get hurt by being improperly treated, it doesn’t mean the pill was wrong just the wrong dose. It doesn’t mean getting treated was wrong, just that they got the wrong one… .
“doesn’t work for you….that was the very point I was making”
No, I don’t think it was… you’re debating the value of emo and depression on art, I don’t see any value for emo in treating manic depression. I see emo, and art work based on depression, as a trap for people with manic depression — we’re not depressed, someone with “depression”, someone feeling their “emo” hasn’t got a fucking clue what manic depression is like. And for someone with this disease to believe otherwise it’s a trap. Someone with their “emo” showing, or someone painting “midnight in my lightless basement” paintings have no insight into manic depression. I firmly believe if an artist, after finding treatment, can turn around and use their artistic ability to represent manic depression, those artists have value to people with this disease. Then, after we have gotten treatment, we can start to deal with our natural depressions and then, maybe, those “black ceiling” paintings may have some value.
What I’m saying is what doesn’t work is not getting treatment for the disease you have… manic depression doesn’t just ‘go away’ or fix itself (although there is some research suggesting menopause can alter the severity), it’s a disease that requires long term management and treatment. Which is exactly what you seem to be doing with the cyclothymia and the prozac.
I disagree with you on many levels. So…
Probably not much point carrying on with this one.
One for a bar, a steady stream of beer and some vociferous bellowing. Text doesnt do it justice.
you know gentlemen, I love you both to pieces, but there is a lot of testosterone going on in here.
“It’s getting hot in here, so take off…” of wait, sorry my mind wandered.
It does seem to me that you both have made excellent points and maybe we can all hug and kiss and agree to disagree. And then we can have virtual drinks and leer at beautiful women. Well, you can leer at beautiful women, I will leer at their shoes.
will there be bellowing?
A loud burst of masculinity that defines you as a person and a man. All hail the bellow, for the thunder it creates makes all beings quiver with love and fear.”
Oh yes, there will be bellowing, I expect lots of bellowing.
I think it bears consideration that the argument that “manic depression causes creativity” is distinct from the argument that “creativity seems to correlate highly with some forms of ‘mental illness,’ and this has been hinted at if not blatantly stated in many of the comments following the original post.
The former does lead to a romantization of, for instance, manic depression, and perhaps the latter does too, but I think I would agree with the latter, if for no other reason than that it’s true for me and apparently many others, whereas the former leaves me cold.
I notice since I have been exploring the online wilderness that once people discover or are told that they are manic depressive and start looking for information or interaction they seem to start identifying with manic depression as an identity. Now I have a whole new vocabulary for myself including terms like hypomanic or cyclothymic; I can say I’m having an episode, or whine about my inertia in a new context. I can discuss medications like lithium and abilify, and I can blame things on a condition! Or, as you prefer, disease. Maybe we could compromise and go with “dis-ease.” (Lately I am very much not at ease.)
And, since the idea that creativity may pair up with idiosyncratic consciousnesses is often conflated with the idea of a causal relationship, I can take a (perhaps overly) positive view of myself if I do have creative talent of some denomination, or at least have an “oh!” moment of the sort that says…”ah…it’s temperament.” A classic temperament, given many labels throughout the ages. I have the artistic temperament!
I do kind of feel that way, but not in a gaggingly emo way. That my temperament enhances my creativity, or maybe has something to do with it.
Now, having a temperament that is often creative doesn’t mean you are. And being creative doesn’t mean you have talent, and of course, being talented doesn’t mean you will do anything of merit.
I think of myself as a writer, if I have creative talent. I think I do, since others like my writing and it gets published and praised.
And thinking about why I personally might relate this manic depression to it in any way I can offer something anecdotal to the ‘art’ debate that wanted to get started above.
For me, inspiration starts with ideas, and ideas for me are things that fly around and need to be caught. Of the million thoughts flying around my headspace every day, some appear to me as worthy of taking note of, and if I’m in the right frame of mind I do. If not they get lost. But they’re, like, magical. I don’t know where they come from…it’s a complete mystery. Some of them are very, very good. I notice that certain people stimulate me, certain situations, things that cause responses in me. And moods are counted among those. Manic depression gets called a mood disorder, and whatever, my moods are strong and my reactions are strong. Small things can have an unbearable effect on me: a strange glance, a comment…not to mention the effect something bigger. I think that these reactions and sentiments stimulate me creatively.
I related strongly to a list post you made of, I think, 25 things you’d been holding on to, that you rued or that made you cringe. And I also related strongly to a comment Aikaterina made that manic depression turned her into a “walking nerve ending.”
I guess I would argue in the end that feeling things so strongly stimulates the urge and the need to express them. Which has nothing to do with the ability or intelligence or talent one has that strongly affect the quality of what gets expressed.
I am sad that you’ve shut off this post and the comments thread. Since coming late, I’ve spent the last 6-7 weeks thinking about this topic seriously in my mind. When I sort of reached something important and useful for all of us to share, I saw that you’ve shut yourself off and closed this conversation thread.
I will respect your choice and decision, and not express my views on this topic any further. Once again, I offer my gratitude for making this such an enlightening post and comment thread.
I think it’s more the “argument” and the debate club I wanted to shut down, I’m always willing to discuss this post… but my arguments have been made. Whatever you’ve got, this is still a good place to lay it all out. There’s always the chance one of the several — much brighter that myself — people involved on this post will respond to your contribution… and, since I got the dishes done, I’m almost always here as well.
Gabriel: Thanks! I’ll “lay it all out” in two parts.
To start with the Title of this post: There’s no art in Manic Depression: you’re absolutely right.
Let me state my responses to some of the original post comments to start with, since the original post has been apparently forgotten in the plethora of comments!
//There are no benefits to Manic Depression, and the disease gives us no special abilities. We are not better gardeners, writers, lovers, photographers or thinkers because a disease forces our brains to overdose our system with chemicals. Manic Depression is something that fights against us, not for us.//
I completely agree.
//It’s very easy to produce lists of people who had a disease, then pin their genius on that disease. Ernest Hemingway was a genius, he was depressed, therefore his books came from his struggle with depression. As if no book has ever been written without Manic Depression as the muse, as if there aren’t millions of non-artists with Manic Depression.//
Again, I completely agree.
//MD might bring an increased level of introspection, but being introspective does not bring reason.//
How true! What an insight, Gabriel – Hats off!
//Some artists with cancer have made art about their struggle against cancer. It doesn’t mean the cancer gave them some special insight into the world, fighting the cancer just focused their attention on a specific period in their lives and some artists with MD manage the same despite our disease. Manic Depression is not an automatic PhD in philosophy, it’s not even a college entrance course in self-awareness.//
Again, I completely agree. I’m in tune with you!
As can be seen: I competely agree with your post and the original content of expression behind the post! Now to the comments…
//Aikaterine: “I am of the opinion that MD increases my creative potential while decreasing the likelihood that I will be successful in my chosen field.”
Gabriel: “Emotion drives art…empathy drives art. Art can come from examining a disease, but this particular disease actively works against your artistic abilities.”
Gabriel: Creativity comes from empathy.//
Me: Not necessarily. Creativity can also come from distancing oneself from others. In fact, I believe that many significant creative works have originated not from empathy, but from rebellion.
//If someone believes their manic depression or other mental illness gives them great insight into the world, they should stop taking their meds and get with it.//
Again, I completely agree!
//…does mental illness play any role in bringing these innate talents to the fore?
Does being diagnosed as having a mental illness play a role?//
No, I was not referring to being diagnosed at all. I was referring only to the bouts of illness that can bring these innate talents to the fore. The personal stuff I’ve shared in these comments were before being diagnosed.
OK, now I’ll let myself loose.
Now, for the second part:
I would like to note that Gabriel (author of this blog) and most of the commentators (I believe) come from a country and a world where such romanticism of MD (and other depressive mental disorders) is quite rampant. Many people from these parts of the world have read books that romanticize mental illnesses. Many of them have also developed ’emo’ websites. I come from a part of the world where most people do not even know that they have such a kind of a disease. And that makes it difficult for me to comment on this (intellectually enriching) comment thread.
The genesis of this post is from a person who’s sick of the glorification of this disease as being “a disease that is common to great artists”. Hence this justifiable abhorrence on the part of Gabriel to anyone and everyone who supported any kind of link between artistic creativity and manic depression. I approached this post and comment thread from a very different perspective – not one who’s being bombarded by such media and book studies – but by one who’s purely academically interested – from a sociological statistical perspective – in understanding if there exists such a correlation at all.
I was guilty of neglecting the original intent of Gabriel’s post – that of disputing any causal link between artistic creativity and MD. I reiterate, that there is none: and there I stand by his post and comments. Where I digressed from this is when I discussed my own personal experiences in the artistic creativity during periods of mental illness and during periods of normalcy.
Regarding statistics and artistic creativity, I (who generally abhors generalizations) would put it this way: creativity is nothing but deviation from the normal and ordinary, so it’s not surprising that sometimes the most creative works come from the most deviant people! Insanity is one of the, albeit not the only one, source of creative genius!
mahendrap, that’s a brilliant piece of analysis and I thank you both for what you said and the fact you took the time to say it… I’m honoured you took the time to add this to the discussion. You’ve dropped several excellent points and I’ll respond at greater length very soon. Really, dude, thanks.
Really like this discussion – I just followed a link here from Icarus, and especially like Catatonia Today’s post above. I’ve thought about
this topic myself on and off ever since my first episode.
My personal view is that people of a certain creative temperament to begin with are _more vulnerable to bipolar_, because of something in their brain structure/chemistry right from birth.
What something? In terms of behaviour, I would say it manifests itself as being both more emotional and sensitive than usual, more able to generate new ideas, and inclined to look outside the norm – all of which increase your vulnerability to BP when a serious emotional shock comes. Granted, it would just be a partial correlation – many artists with these traits don’t ever get diagnosed as BP, and some people who get diagnosed BP might not have these traits at all.
Yes, this is mostly conjecture from my personal observation. But if we want to be scientific, let’s be fair with the stats. Of course there are more non-BP artists that BP artists in raw numbers. But what is the _proportion_ of people diagnosed BP who are artists, compared to among the general community?
In terms of whether mania “unlocks” creativity,
this is probably different for everyone. But in my case I would 100% say that it dramatically stimulated by ability to combine existing ideas into new ideas. Many were bizarre and illogical – a la FTS’s grapefruit story – but not all of them. It is like the “plausibility check” module in the brain is turned off temporarily, for good or ill. I would also say it inspired creative sketching and writing during the latter stage of my episode and recovery from it – before I had heard any romancing of the effect of BP on creativity that FTS points out.
And finally, Herman Hesse and Hemingway were 2 of my favourite authors before I was diagnosed bipolar. When I read afterwards that they were both manic depressive as far as we can retrospectively tell, it just made “sense”. It would be hard to convince me that gut feeling has no basis to it.
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the idea in books on manic depression and creativity, genius, what have you, is more based on the connectivity between that illness, or mindset, life, feelings, biological workings and the “artistic temperment”. it is not saying that all artists suffer from some mental illness, or that you need a mental illness to show your creativity, it is simply finding the correlation between the two are overwhelmingly common. as a contemporary and current artist myself who has worked in every art industry from studios, film and music industry, in art school, and also in pursuing my masters in art, the people i have come across in these fields are not only genius’s in their craft, but are these so called “troubled artists”. all this adds to their art. allows them to create what they do, write these films, paint sculpt, write, stimulate emotions in others through all of this in an unexplainable way, understand the human psyche on a level most people do not or cannot even comprehend. i do understand your frustration, and as someone who suffers from this severely myself, yes it can be life destroying, but yes it can provide the greatest sense of bliss and productivity. agony and ecstasy is what i call it. i could or would never have had all the success and life changing experiences having the simple satisfied mindset that lets one simply be ok with the ordinary. i believe it is a “disorder” or just a personality trait that for many can benefit their creative souls and work, that is has throughout time, does, and will continue to do. there is a reason artists understand each other on a different level than most. just a little bit of my overflowing thoughts.
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