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Madness OR Creativity

One Student's picture

Madness and creativity get associated, and this is not entirely inaccurate. Speaking for myself, depression and anxiety have broadened the range of my experience of the world in certain ways, have dislocated me in a way which makes me a more original and more challenging writer and scholar.

However, what I worry about is that people will only see this silver lining (which isn't common to everyone with a mood or thought disorder), and they won't understand how horrible mental illness is - the decrease in quality of life, the sheer suffering, the stigma, the lack of understanding, the expense, access to medical care, the side effects of medications, the frustration of not finding an effective medication, and so on and so on. 

After a certain point, mental illness will effectively dampen creativity - I have been paralyzed by anxiety, crushed by depression. It is only now that I'm finally beginning to break free of mental illness that I find myself capable of writing fiction and poetry, for myself and not as an assignment, for example. 

If you gave me a choice between being as I am - crazy, but treated - and having perfect mental health and limited creativity, I would choose the former. But that is only because I am never going to suffer as much as I have in the past, it is because I am experiencing such a significant decrease in my symptoms. Without treatment ... I'd take the perfect mental health, and fuck the poetry.  


One Student's picture

Madness OR Artistry

To some extent my post was a response to that quote - I was rambling around serendip last night - as well as sundry news articles I've come across. And that lucky lucky bastard gets mania to make up for his depression. When I get an 'up' mood, I get anxiety. The one time I had a touch of hypomania (problem with my meds), it as a mixed mood - depression and mania simultaneously sucked, because I wanted to do something but nothing seemed worthwhile - mixed moods are the pits. With BPD, the inevitable crash might seem worthwhile to some - though ask five people with BPD and you might get a lot of different answers. We all have different relationships to our pain, and it has brought us all to different places.

Anne Dalke's picture

Illness and Artistry

From Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind:
I have often asked myself whether, given the choice, I would choose to have manic-depressive illness. If lithium were not available to me, or didn't work for me, the answer would be a simple no... and it would be an answer laced with terror. But lithium does work for me, and therefore I can afford to pose the question. Strangely enough, I think I would choose to have it. It's complicated... I honestly believe that as a result of it I have felt more things, more deeply; had more experiences, more intensely; loved more, and have been more loved; laughed more often for having cried more often; appreciated more the springs, for all the winters... Depressed, I have crawled on my hands and knees in order to get across a room and have done it for month after month. But normal or manic I have run faster, thought faster, and loved faster than most I know."

You'll find on Serendip's Bookshelves a number of reviews of another of Jamison's books, Touched With Fire: Manic Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperment.