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Creativity and Bipolar Disorder

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Biology 202
2003 Second Web Paper
On Serendip

Creativity and Bipolar Disorder

Nicole Megatulski

History has always held a place for the "mad genius", the kind who, in a bout of euphoric fervor, rattles off revolutionary ideas, incomprehensible to the general population, yet invaluable to the population's evolution into a better adapted species over time. Is this link between creativity and mental illness one of coincidence, or are the two actually related? If related, does heightened creative behavior alter the brain's neurochemistry such that one becomes more prone to a mental illness like bipolar disorder? Does bipolar disorder cause alterations in neurochemistry in the brain that increase creative behavior through elevated capacity for thought and expression? Is this link the result of some third factor which causes both of the two effects?

Centuries of literature and innumerable studies have supported strong cases relating creativity--particularly in the arts, music and literature--to bipolar disorder. Both creativity and bipolar disorder can be attributed to a genetic predisposition and environmental influences. Biographical studies, diagnostic and psychological studies and family studies provide different aspects for examining this relationship.

A 1949 study of 113 German artists, writers, architects, and composers was one of the first to undertake an extensive, in-depth investigation of both artists and their relatives. Although two-thirds of the 113 artists and writers were "psychically normal," there were more suicides and "insane and neurotic" individuals in the artistic group than could be expected in the general population, with the highest rates of psychiatric abnormality found in poets (50%) and musicians (38%). (1) Many other similar tests revealed this disproportionate occurrence of mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder, in artistic and creative people, including a recent study of individuals over a thirty-year period (1960 to 1990). Overall, when comparing individuals in the creative arts with those in other professions (such as businessmen, scientists, and public officials), the artistic group showed two to three times the rate of psychosis, suicide attempts, mood disorders, and substance abuse. (1)

Another recent study was the first to undertake scientific diagnostic inquiries into the relationship between creativity and psychopathology in living writers. Eighty percent of the study sample met formal diagnostic criteria for a major mood disorder versus thirty percent of the control sample. The statistical difference between these two rates is highly significant, where p<.001. This means that the odds of this difference occurring by chance alone are less than one in a thousand. Of particular interest, almost one-half the creative writers met the diagnostic criteria for full-blown manic-depressive illness. (1) This is not to say that the majority of artists are bipolar but rather that there is a considerably higher incidence in bipolar disorder among artists than among the general population.

Collectively, these studies and numerous others have clinically supported the existence of a link between bipolar disorder and creativity. Now the question applies: Is bipolar disorder the result of above-average creativity or is above-average creativity the result of bipolar disorder or are the two a result of some third factor which causes the two effects? From the sources I have encountered, I believe a stronger case is made for the latter, although it is impossible to scientifically or psychologically answer that question at this time.

Predisposition to bipolar disorder is genetically inherited and current studies suggest the same for predisposition to creativity but is there a common genetic factor, which determines the expression of both traits? If there were, neither creativity nor bipolar disorder would implicitly cause the other. A recent study hypothesized that a genetic vulnerability to manic-depressive illness would be accompanied by a predisposition to creativity, which, according to the investigators, might be more prominent among close relatives of manic-depressive patients than among the patients themselves. Significantly higher combined scores from a creativity assessment test were observed among the manic-depressive patients and their normal first-degree relatives than among the control subjects, suggesting a possible genetic link between the two characteristics, as both are prevalent in families with a history of bipolar disorder and not as evident in control families. (1) A wide variety of artistic and creative talents, ranging from music to art to mathematics, were exhibited among the family members of the bipolar patients as well. The varied manifestations of creativity within the same family suggest that whatever is transmitted within families is a general factor that predisposes them to a creative mentality, rather than a specific giftedness in a single area. The coexistence of creativity accompanied by manic depression, whether expressed in bipolar patients or not expressed in their predisposed family members, suggests that a third factor, yet unidentified, may be orchestrating the expression of the two.

Assuming both creativity and bipolar disorder, or at least predisposition to the illness, are expressed simultaneously, what accounts for heightened creativity in people upon onset of bipolar disorder? A deficit in normal information-processing could be manifested in a severe behavioral disorder, but it could also favor creative associations between information units or a propensity toward innovation and originality. (2) The altered neurological structure and functioning in the frontal lobe, prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, hypothalamus and cerebellum associated with bipolar disorder may also allow for more creative thought.

People with bipolar mood disorders tend to be more emotionally reactive, which gives them greater sensitivity and acuteness. This, coupled with a lack of inhibition due to compromised frontal lobe processes, permits them unrestrained and unconventional forms of expressions, less limited by accepted norms and customs. They are more open to experimentation and risk-taking behavior, and, as a consequence, more assertive and resourceful than the mean. (2) (3) Characteristics of the bipolar disorder, such as lowered inhibition, allow for freer expression of previously contained ideas and the constant flux between manic and depressive states also gives an unusual kaleidoscopic perspective of the world. All of these factors can account for increased creativity once the illness erupts. (5)

The current model supports the existence of a relationship between creativity and bipolar disorder as the coexisting effects caused by some third factor. Uncovering the origin of the relationship between creativity and bipolar disorder will require continued studies, particularly those implementing brain scans and genetic isolation techniques, aimed at identifying this mysterious third factor that would link the two traits together. (4) The new equipment and test available, such as PET scans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging and gene mapping, has complicated the process by offering new ways to explain bipolar disorder as a possible collection of disorders presenting closely similar symptoms. Hence, the third factor may actually be a combination of multiple factors like environmental insults to fetal development, hormonal imbalances in the womb and inordinate stress during development in addition to genetic factors. (6) When it is determined which of these factors, acting either alone or in various combinations, are the mysterious third factor, the origin of the relationship between creativity and bipolar disorder will be unveiled.



1) Jamison, Kay Redfield. Touched with Fire. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993.

2) Journal of Memetics, an article addressing creativity, evolution and mental illness.

3) Bipolar Disorder, an educational resource about bipolar disorder.

4) Manic-Depressive & Depressive Association of Boston, an article discussing the genetics of bipolar disorder.

5) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, an online version of the resource book.

6) From Neurons to Neighborhoods, a book that addresses early development of the brain.



Comments made prior to 2007

As a bipolar disorder person, for my entire life, I must compliment the young lady for her assessment of my conditon. There are several items that I think the readership of Serendip's Forum must understand, as an addendum to her article. First and foremost, neither pschiatrists, nor psychologists, understand what bipolar disorder is, and how the medications work in the brain to balance that brain and make it "normal." Secondly, there are no Silver Bullets to help all, only a percentage of the people who suffer from this destructive illness can live normal lives, as long as they take their medications as was prescribed. Thirdly, it is not a mental disorder, but it is a physiological disorder as there is a deficincy of chemicals to the receptors of the brain that causes my problem. Presently, I am working on a book on bipolar disorder, and how my life was a roller coaster ride, and during my entire life. My book should be finished in about ten months. The name will be, "The Roller Coaster Ride of a Bipolar Disorder Patient. Thanks again for her good read ... Michael Joel Hel, 21 April 2006


Joja Majoja's picture

Why bipolaly disordered people front run in TV Advertisement Biz

I have worked with a friend who had this bipolar disorder but he was always very creative and front runner in all TV Advertising and Commercial Video Productions works. He seemed different than other kids, lost in his own world. We thought he was awkward, but soon he was promoted at a much higher level in Eden Creative Media. Now he is sitting with company’s CEO. I do not know why some people that looks awkward progress so fast.

Tara's picture

bipolar, creativity and IQ

this was a good post. i too am bipolar and i spend a lot of time reading research on the topic. the research is cracking the surface and has made the associations however i don't think that they are getting to the gist of it in the way that i feel like it happens. i feel like i can make sense of things really quickly by creating associations and conceptual frameworks in my head. Things go together very easily for me. I tend to think of things in metaphor and analogy very often. I also tend to know things in "a-ha" moments and don't seem to get there through a linear process. Oftentimes, these "a-ha" moments happen when I'm not thinking about the subject of the "a-ha." I just feel like there is some ability in my brain to make sense of a ton of information and I'm not sure how I do it. I am a skeptic. I have a lot of gut feelings and I will go down rabbit holes oftentimes looking for answers. Sometimes I wish (when I have deadlines) that my thinking was more linear and straightforward but then I am reminded that it is in this non-linear realm that my creativity lies.

I also recently "discovered" that I could draw... and paint... well. It has shocked me because it was an overnight phenomenon. I'm not even sure how I do it; it just happens. I have been doing it for about 2-3 months now and my first drawing and painting shocked me.

I have an IQ of 136. I had an IQ test and psych testing when I was hospitalized for a manic episode. Anyway, interesting post!

Melissa's picture

Love how you explain that strange feeling (a-ha moment)

I am not a diagnosed manic-depressive but I have many relatives with "bipolar disorder". I have similar a-ha moments where things seem to make sense to me without a straight line of logic. I had a couple questions...excuse me for being so nosy but I'm curious. 1. Do you take medication? 2. Do you think that maybe bipolar could be more of a advancement rather than a disorder?

Scott's picture

Bipolar 2 and IQ

I too would like to see what the IQ score of many Bipolar 2 patients is. Mine is 130. Stayed out of trouble all my life, (I am 60 now) but creativity was both a curse and a blessing. Now dealing with rapid cycling. Nasty stuff I can tell you. Creativity is still there except you cycle before you can get anything put together. Rapid thinking (look up if interested) very tough. Can't seem to concentrate or get out what I am thinking without a real struggle. This leaves creativity pretty much an orphan.

A bad crash from another drug caused what is going on now. Working to try and get things fixed. I don't want to go back to where I was, I want to get to normal.

another poet's picture

i also have bipolar

im there with you,
thoughts thinking through my head
until three days after yesterday.
if only time stood still so we
could catch up,
instead we gasp for air
in holes below with
the weathered and ruined
as the well walk above.

ouroboros has slithered into our
subconscious and whispered hysterically,
our wrists have wept red
our eyes bled blue
and we've melted into puddles of gray.

withdrawn within ourselves,
too tired to talk back,
hoping that tomorrow will shine,
but tomorrow is always
days away.

pills pile high in our palms,
and prescription pads
simply say more,
as we scream at doctors
through stone faces.

melancholy meanders
through us like
manic inner monologues
haunting us day and night.

so what do we live for?
the good ones
the good ones
the good ones
they're out there.

we have to fight
every day,
we have to stay strong
every day,
we have to live
every day.

Eczema Around Eyes's picture

A bit of advice

I'd like to hear from more bipolar patients on this site, who know there IQ though. IQ has been directly linked to logical thinking and spacial sense, so it would be nice to have some numbers to back up theories. Please only write your IQ if you have taken a book test, and no lying, because that ruins the point of me asking this. I have 145 and bipolar dissorder (This IQ is 3 times confirmed by 3 different books).

Serendip Visitor's picture

I am 16 and bipolar. When I

I am 16 and bipolar. When I was about oh i will say 10 or 11, I was given an IQ test and scored a 130. I dont know if that changes over time or what. I am also very creative I play the bass guitar, draw and write poems I hope this has helped you with your theory.

Roberto Autran Nunes's picture


My IQ: 175.

Francis J. Partel, Jr.'s picture

Marter Painter Caravaggio and Bipolar Disorder

First, let me say that my brother was bipolar, had his first breakdown at 15, was mis-diagnosed, and took his life in 2000 at age 52. Because we went to separate boarding schools and colleges and were six years apart, I hardly knew him after I went off to school when he was seven years of age. As an adult he lived what I called an underground life--secretive, mildly paranoid, occasionally heedless, incredibly manipulative, and holding his cards to his own detriment. He seemed to track right down the "normal" path for a bipolar-promising career as a creative person in advertising and marketing, marriage, a son, alcoholism, divorce, disability, and suicide. He kept me perpetually off-balance, frustrated, and angry towards him as he manipulated the information about himself in what he considered to be his own self-interest. When he died it was extraordinarily difficult to write a eulogy with specificity as I experienced profound guilt over how little I knew him and was so unaware how much he genuinely suffered. After he died I became increasingly concerned that his son was bipolar, too, but his mother was not open to the thought, and 10 years later, at 30 years of age he took his life leaving a wife and two young daughters.

Second, in retirement I wtite novels and my latest novel, The Chess Players, treats Caravaggio as a supporting character whose behavior one of my priciplal characters seeks to explain in modern psychiatric terms. Working with two psychiatrists who are friends and neighbors on Martha's Vineyard, it is pretty clear that Caravaggio was bipolar and exhibited 400 years ago virtually all of the symptoms of bipolar disorder that we recognize today as described by Desmond Seward, in his well-documented biography, "Caravaggio, A Passionate Life." Regrettably a 9-10 page fictionalized portrait of Caravaggio had to be edited out. I believe this is the first time in fiction or non-fiction that this assertion was made in print, and I believe it is a genuine contribution to art history. My character, Laetitia Martin integrates this into her interpretation of Caravaggio's painting in Malta, "The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist." The Chess Olayers, pp 287-294, Navy Log Books, 2011, ISBN 978-0-615-41451-5.

P.S. I live just around the corner from BMC.

Lisa Wilkinson's picture

Help me understand (post by F Fear's mother)

My son, posted on here as F FEAR, was bipolar I with psychosis. He took his life 3 months ago (August 17, 2010). He was 20. I am his mother, Lisa. Since his passing, I have found many writings in notebooks that I was unaware of. I had no idea he was suffering so much. How on God's earth did he keep all that pain inside of him? I mean, I was aware of how terrifying the hallucinations were (well, as much as someone could be without actually experiencing them). I feel so damned guilty for not insisting that Austin stay on his meds. He was diagonosed in 12/2008. We did the meds through 10/2009, but decided to come off of them to see how things would go. While Austin's life was chaotic and he was rapid cycling, I had no clue he was suicidal. I DID NOT UNDERSTAND THE SERIOUSNESS OF THIS DISORDER AND I AM GUILTY OF NEGLECT FOR THAT. I loved him more than life itself. He was my hero, our small town's high school quarterback all 4 years, he had so many friends, over 500 people attended his funeral. I am so proud of him. His last words were "I just need to love myself"....then he walked out the backdoor and in just a few minutes I heard the gunshot. What did this disease do to his brain? He was the most beautiful person I have ever known. God I miss him so much. I MISS HIM SOOOOO MUCH!!!! I guess I thought he would tell me if he needed to get back on meds. I often asked him about it, to check in with him, ya know? He would say he had a handle on it, he said 'you just have to know how to keep it seperated in your mind'. Ohhhh, God, I don't understand. He was in such pain and I didn't see it. I mean, I knew his life was hard for him, hard to focus, hard to sleep, then hard not to sleep, hard to plan one day to the next, not knowing if he would be 'up' or 'down'. Ohhhh, my sweet baby. This hurts so, so bad. I had no clue to be on the watch for suicide.....and it's so damned final. No going back from here. God bless you all for your struggle and your perserverance. I pray my Austin is finally at peace. He had this site bookmarked as a favorite. Thank you and God Bless you all. ~Lisa Wilkinson, Austin's mom

maryam's picture

dear lisa

I am a bipolar, my doctor told me it started at the age of 21 or 22 but if you ask me i have always been a bipolar. I committed suiciding at the age of 23, there was no hope as the dr told my mom. But im alive now and im happy, my mom did her best to provide everything for me in life, she worked hard i am sure you did too, you did your best lisa, every mom does it, my mom also felt guilty but the fact is that even some people are not aware of their own mentally disorder, how on earth should you know?
We are not doctors, nor psychologists, in my country even now going to a psychiatrist is shamful, there was no talk on media nor schools on that, so how my poor mother knows im sick?
If your son had cancer and had died by cancer im sure you would have blamed yourself less, but in bipolar also there maybe something wrong with the genes, like a physical disease, many children are born with mental and physical disabilities.
Every mom is kind to her child so im sure my mom and you are not to blame, you are not responsible for the genes lisa.

Sean's picture

In response

Lisa, I'm sorry for your loss! I'm quite sure Austin's Death has plagued You... After having BiPolar my entire life, and now at the age of 40, I can tell you it's an everyday struggle. Don't blame yourself most of all! BiPolar Disease causes a lot of different moods and you can't always be watching to make sure he was ok. Rapid Cycling is the worse part, I know, I'm now on disability and struggle with the cycles daily... It's not only the fear of what mood your going to wake up in, but what mood you'll stay in all day. I have struggled with suicide due to the deep moods of depression, and like your son, have had many friends. They never knew my thoughts. Most People with BiPolar just try to fit in, and in my case dealt with adolescents without taking meds, when advised to... Still at that time, there weren't any good ways to diagnos Childhood Bipolar... After 3 nervous breakdowns and a 2 year battle with being in a psychosis, I finally got the help I needed, but not after several misdiagnoses! Please understand, your sons rational thinking wasnt your fault and you can't always tell what moods he would be in... I always refer to Billy Joel's song about the masks you wear to fit in... Out of only 5.4 million people in the population diagnoses with BiPolar and not including those that never seek help, rank us as the #7 cause of death in the US... Gods got a purpose for those that suffer from both sides, the receiving end and the one with the disorder. I'm an activist and currently journaling in hopes of writing a book to help aid those struggling with this Disease! My life is currently in shambles, but I constantly Pray for Hope and I'll Pray for You and Your Son, May He be with Our Creator... I can't see it being a sin, because you have no control over the depth of depression associated with the demise... So feel better in knowing, He is with our Maker... God Bless.... Sean

Lisa (Austin&#039;s mom)'s picture

Sean, thank you so much for

Sean, thank you so much for your beautiful message. I sense your sincerity and it comforts me. Sometimes it truly seems to me that people who have bipolar disorder are the sane ones. Angels, in an insane world. It's been a year and 5 months now since Austin left us. Seems like time has stood still, frozen. Good luck with the book, you can do it. I'd love a signed copy when it's ready. ~ Lisa PS, thank all of you for your loving support and kindness.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Your writing about Austin...

Dear Lisa,
I am up late tonight because I cannot sleep. I'm researching my condition, just recently diagnosed as Bipolar Disorder I with Borderline Personality Disorder. I am 38 years old. I came across this site and read your note. It hurt my heart so much to read what you wrote. I'm so sorry for the loss of your son Austin. The last part really broke my heart. It makes me want to just reach out and hug him. I have had a very difficult life, but have managed to keep my motivation up and work and take care of my children. I actually worked in a Psychiatric Hospital for 8 years around tons of Psychiatrists and thought I might be Bipolar then too. Surprisingly no one ever brought it to my attention. I worked hard to be normal, but I never understood why I was so emotionally reactive to things in life. It's like my passion was too overwhelming most of the time. I worked to keep my mouth shut from outbursts, or confronting or debating issues...but it was hard. Sometimes I would react to something or debate something that really wasn't all that important and later feel like I had no control of what just happened, scratching my head wondering what was wrong with me. At the same time I was the life of the party, but in my heart I've always been lonely. I have a husband and three children..they all love me...but I still feel so alone. Why? I don't understand it. After researching, reading and now being on medication (that is actually not doing much for me)...I have come to accept that I am sure my mother is Bipolar too. It explains her mania all these years. This last year I have struggled with serious depression, which would be a period of my manic episode I guess. I'm over that and now going from mania (hyper, happy, irritable, enraged) to normal, nearly everyday. If you met me though you would not realize I am bipolar because I blend in so well with society. Perhaps you could have convinced your son to keep taking his medication. But truthfully, it is the number one reason why patients stay sick and are re-admitted into hospitals. They think they don't need the meds anymore. But stopping is a part of the disease too. I used to be so active, so likeable, and worked so hard and cleaned and went through trials and still kept my kids with me and did so well. And now I feel the progression of my disorder and I hate it. I understand your sons pain...I do. But I cannot explain how it feels. It is not your fault though...not's no ones fault I promise. You cannot beat Bipolar Disorder, it's apart of our very essence, and medication doesn't always make it right...just makes it more manageable. And that is only for some of us. There are also consequences to the meds...gets you better here, but at what expense there. Don't feel guilty. Your son would not want you to feel this way. I believe the best way you can honor Austin is to do something on his behalf for those suffering with Bipolar Disorder. You could help someone else with the disorder and educate others on the importance of continuing their meds. You could use your experience with your son to help others understand and listen. Your son is at peace...we have a good God and he knows your son was in pain and not in his right state of mind. God is a loving and forgiving God and he took Austin's spirit before he ever suffered any physical pain from this occurrence. I have to remember that I have a good and intelligent part of me that is seperated by my manic/mania part of me. I too can make a difference in the lives of others and that is what I hope to do. I can't sit here and feel sorry that I have Biplor Disorder. All my life I have sufferened with hallucinations and delusions that I thought were real. And this year my good mind has allowed me to understand that it was my illness all along. Wow...I suffered unecessarily for all those years and didn't even know it. I fear losing my battle with my disorder for the sake of my I don't want to lose. Thank you so much for sharing your story about your dear sweet son Austin. Keep sharing, perhaps educate yourself and become an advocate of children wtih mental illness. The schools are a great place to start. It's ok to miss Austin, and hurt and mourn his loss. But just remember he wants you to be happy. How can God put him to work up there if he's worried about you down here? If you believe in Jesus, then you know you will see your son again one day. Faith is knowing that everything will be OK.

Stephanie Harris

Kathleen Wade's picture

To Lisa, I am sorry for your

To Lisa,

I am sorry for your loss and your grief. I suspect that you were not a negligent mother. It is very hard for me to cope with my serious mood instability. Unlike in your son's situation, there is no presence in my life of a family member or friend who cares so deeply as you have about your son. Yet, it seems I have suffered less than your son, and I have anguish present often in my outlook. It seems that your son's affliction was extreme. Consider that there may not have been any ideal level of vigilance that you could have maintained that would have made you totally privy to your son's inner world and the extent of his being in danger.

I have recently not been doing well. I am aware that, although I see a doctor and therapist, I reveal to them only the tip of the iceberg about what bedevils me. This is not out of a desire on my part to be secretive. I think those of us who are afflicted with serious mental instability feel a certain aversion to putting our inner worlds on display, even to the most well-meaning of interested parties, family or professional. We feel so extremely different. At an early age, I became concerned that there was no way I could reveal a great deal about my inner world without causing distress for those who were involved in being supportive of me, especially family. We actually worry that others could not cope with the disturbing chaos that we try to contain. Perhaps your son let you know as much as he felt he was able to. When we feel hopeless, we don't wish to invite those we love into that zone of despair.

I feel as though I have not been too clear. But, in conclusion, your son was intelligent and loving. He reserved to himself what he chose too. However misguided his judgement may have been about that, it may have been his expression of concern for you. You wish you had "insisted" on his taking medication. Can a 20 year old man be compelled to do that? Had the medicine greatly relieved his pain, would he need to have been compelled? I am a nurse. The pharmaceutical industry, and clinicians along with them, like to cling to the notion that chemical interventions can do wondrous things. In my experience, that is greatly overblown. Given how far your son's tribulations had progressed at such an early age, he may have become overwhelmingly weary of the stuggle. That might have been what he could have found most impossible to explain.

Try to believe that you did the best that you were able to. Was he not a wonderful young man?

Lisa's picture

So Right Kathleen, thank you

Hi Kathleen, you are so right. Everything you say rings so true. I feel that Austin would likely say the very things you did and I thank you for taking the time (and caring enough)to put it so succinctly, very good insight. He writes, "when i feel the pain of this world, it's not me but an Angel that explains every word...After all, what's as famous as hurt"

I'm not sure i completely get it....but it feels like he did. Bless you and take good care of yourself. Thank you for writing Kathleen. ...thank you so much. ~love and peace, lisa

Serendip Visitor's picture

I am very sorry about your

I am very sorry about your son having taken his life. That makes me feel very sad. I don't take medicine and I feel like I will be okay. Those pyschotic drugs have strong withdrawal symptoms and they stay in your system for a long, long time so I'm not certain that ....

I'm just very sorry your son took his life. It is very difficult to be sensitive and male in the United States. This culture does not produce gardens. Places where people can interact. There is little community. An awareness of anything complicated in how our cultures is put together leaves most of us feeling very ... alone.

It is hard to fight a "good fight." It is very important to have faith. I am very sorry.

Lisa Wilkinson's picture

Thank you. Question....

Hey, thank you for your kind thoughts and support. The loss of Austin is almost unbearable. I wish we had tried Lithium, I hear it can reduce suicide risk better than other medicines.

You mention having a place where people can interact. I have actually considered setting up such a place, Austin had mentioned it as well. Can any of you tell me what you think that place would look like? What would it need to offer and how would it be best set up? Any ideas? I would really like to build a place like that to help in any way I can.

Be Well and know you are loved.

Lisa (Austin's mom, Austin is aka "F Fear" on this site, passed to other side 8/17/10)

Serendip Visitor's picture

Just been diagnosed.

Yes wow, what a comforting article, also sent it to my parents. I have been an artist since I was 5, and art major in highschool, and opted for internet design for a living(but just started painting again). I also had a matter of substance abuse(self-medicating) just to be more not up and down...the creativity vanished during this.
Always an superior athlete and artist, who knew I would turn to self medication. I did find God's (Word) and it has been tough, but the diagnosis helped me understand myself.
We are lucky, just feel the spirit to express and it comes from Tao, Heaven, Enlightment...whatever you believe in. I am Catholic so prayer helps balance the moods, yoga, meditation etc. Breathe, stretch, be in your body not your mind all the time.
My main advice would be try to balance it out, make sure you have a strong social support system. You also have to love life it is a blessing and gift.
I thought I was crazy and here I am just a person that needs to draw or paint...and write in a journal everyday. Geez!!

Rob Adcox's picture

Bipolar. And?

For me, the discovery that I have a Bipolar Disorder came after breaking up a drunken riot across the street so I could have a quiet place to study for midterms, chasing gang members down on foot when they were trying to get away from me in their car (after threatening me), and coming within a hair's breadth of getting into a fight against almost the entire defensive squad of the New Mexico State Aggies in the school cafeteria, in addition to screaming at the police to shoot me and being so severely depressed that I cried hours after the tear ducts dried and felt paralyzed with depression. (Wow. I can't believe that was all one sentence. Sorry.) Getting hauled off to the emergency room in handcuffs was a frequent experience. Blood tests were performed. Diagnoses and Mental Status Exams were routine. And let me tell you, Kay Renfield Jamison's personal experiences with Bipolar Disorder paled compared with mine.

In reading this, one might assume that I have a pretty low level of cognitive functioning. In fact, I'm reasonably intelligent but very prone to anxiety. When I was in school, I looked like that scary-looking guy who lives behind the dumpster behind 7-11 (or Circle K to you in the southwest). You would never have know I was a student, much less a good one. I was a member of Golden Key and Mortar Board national honor societies. Heck, I might still be, but I'm not sure.

The point here isn't to be grandiose or narcissistic, but to point out that one can be successful in spite of the disorder. The operative word for me is sublimation, as in "you have too much energy sometimes. What are you going to do with it?"

I graduated from college in spite of people who said I'd never be able to do it.

D..'s picture

I am Bipolar..

When I was first diagnosed with Bipolar, I didn't know what the heck it was. I was 37 and my sister passed of cancer, which my Dr's believe was the trigger for its manifestation. I was treated for depression for over a year and nothing worked. Finally I was referred for day treatment, of which i partook of for 17 days. During that period, the counselors observed symptoms that indicated Bipolar tendencies. (Thank God for astute counselors). The psychiatrist I was seeing at the day treatment center dismissed their assessments and continued to treat me for Depression. A counselor took me to the side, shared her assessment and the controversy with me, and suggested I change Dr's, because she and the staff that worked with me daily felt the Dr was not treating me properly, and I followed her advice. The new Dr I began with, took their notes and assessments into consideration, and not only began treatment, but also tested me further. They hit the hammer on the nail, however I had never heard of the disorder before. I discovered shortly afterwards that my brother was diagnosed as bipolar at the age of 14 (we are 8yrs apart) while I was away in college. As was my father, of which I did not know. Sad, how this disorder is considered a blemish, in which people dont want others to know.

Anyhoos, after trying lots of combinations in meds I was finally prescribed, successfully, Lamictil, Neurontin and Abilify (I hate that one) as my treatment meds. Lamictil I love. Neurontin works well also, because I also have nerve damage in my neck/arm/hand. Abilify makes me feel irritable and lethargic, but it helps me with my depression issues. My world has turned upside down since my diagnosis. My family tells me I used to be so nice, so quiet, and so mellow, and now I am outspoken and quicker to stand up for myself. Sometimes I feel like I have changed into a better person as far as my defenses are concerned, because before the onset of my Bipolar, I did not speak up for myself when done wrong, or if I did I was very haphazard about it, because I was not USED to doing so. However, considering the situations that have occurred in my life since all of this transpired, I find it has been a survival mode of my mind. The battles I have had to fight and stand up for have been a success because of the change in my personality. I guess God grace my "emotional flaw" into the blessing of survival mode.

For example, I have had to stand up for my disability rights on my job. The "personality change" that transpired from my onset of Bipolar was the motivator in winning an EEOC complaint. Also in two other cases, willing two major legal disputes in court against the Attorney General for my state regarding ADA accommodation cases. My husband attributes those manic episodes as determining factors that helped me win my case, along with the "belief" that bipolar people have higher than average IQs (My IQ is 133 - nowhere near the 145 you were scored at). (His mother has a Masters Degree in Sociology and swears that bipolar individuals are gifted individuals and her word, to him, is the ultimate truth). I dont know if that is factual or not, I just know that God knew what He was doing when the time in my life came when this disorder surfaced and led me to survive in spite of the hype associated with it.

I find the disorder to be both a blessing and a curse at times. I am a different person now, with highs and lows: good days and bad days. There are days that I am so energized that I feel as if I could conquer the world and set out to do so with whatever I have to address in my life. Then there are days in which I don't want to get out of bed. I don't want to move, don't want to face the day ahead and wonder why I lived and my sister passed. The struggle to keep moving gets overwhelming during these times, and I have no one who can understand me. I am labeled by my family as "crazy" when I say no, while in the past I strove to please everyone. I guess I had a personality disorder prior to the manifestation of Bipolar, and didn't know about it. The manic periods start out as energetic, exciting times but gradually become strained due to lack of sleep along with the racing thoughts. Medicine can only control so much of it, and the rest has to be walked out-with the crash finally and just dropping off to sleep for 12-14 hrs straight. Life has definitely changed for me.

Perhaps the hardest part of this disorder is losing my creativity over time. I don't know whether to attribute it to the meds or the progression of the disorder, but I find my writing skills to be more challenging as I grow older. Now, almost 7yrs since my confirmed diagnosis, I find my literary skills more difficult. I used to be able to sit down and in one session, write a perfect paper. I didn't even have to critique it, and would get a perfect grade on it. Now I have to check my spelling, because I don't spell as well as I used to. And that frustrates me.

Do I regret my disorder? No. I thank God for the change in my personality that made me stronger to stand up for my sense of right and wrong. The only change I pray for is the subtleness to express myself with less bluntness, so as to not be offensive when challenging the ills of my world. I just pray that I don't regress to a worse state of psychosis. I want to continue to work on improving the "new me".

Dallas Guier's picture

Maybe it's not us that has the problem

I know this is idealistic, but isn't that the prophetic aspect of art?
OK, I know it's not great when I'm wanting to check outXX. So,I'm forcing some drastic changes on my self.
I'm a musician that was living in Seattle for the past 16 years. I left everything I had going and am now headed to Austin.
The last few years up there I was worthless. Unmotivated, and suicidal for 6 months strait. The few years before that was similar just off and on, off and on.
I packed up my truck and moved to a small town east of Seattle, called Roslyn (Northern Exposure was filmed there) Although I was drinking too much, just being in a peaceful beautiful town surrounded by mountains, rivers and lakes took much of the edge off my BP. It was still there, just not as debilitating.
I of course did sabotage my job and left, but I don't feel the blame was all my own :)
My point is this:
I feel we all take for granted that the society we must interact with is INSANE. I mean Bat shit crazy sometimes, no?
We're desensitized to corruption, the rat race, the strange chemicals in the ecosystem, radio waves shooting through our bodies.
And so who, pre tell will be our normal compass???
I feel really good about my life when I'm in service. I seldom feel mentally out of balance if I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing- Helping someone, writing a song, creating something.
Americans may have things better then people in other situations, and other countries, but that doesn't me it should be " normal to sign 30 years of your life away buying a house that is stooopidly overpriced, forced to get up every morning slam some caffine, loose it in traffic, do what ever it is at your job you do for a fiat currency system, more traffic.
Who says it's sane to give so much of your time and life just for shelter and food, and the ever devaluing greenback. It's sane for the dollar to fall and inflation to rise but wages stay the same?
We are getting squeezed unnecessarily, especially If you are in the position of debt(house, car, boat), or are a parent.
We're not living with that much freedom and choice.
I always wonder why is it that I'm born in to this country and there's not some decent small little piece of land that I could put a hut on? Literately we are that land. Every molecule in our body comes from that soil some one is renting you.
Instead I have to comply with the insanity that is all around and already laid out before me.
I know this is all very general but I'm sure you get the jist.
I believe that every one of us is an artist. We all have the ability to create, and on some level every one has done it.
In my opinion art is a verb, and is more about the process, less about the result.
I do think that the product of art it's self is valuable. Art is in part about bringing new ideas to creation, and new ways to look at old ideas. I feel any person that dismisses their own artistic ability does so to their own emotional peril, and the peril of the soul.
We are breeders of insight and love.
Yes there is always some more talented,,,always will be. Talented is cultivated. Sometimes very quickly, but being an artist is a choice we are all presented with.
The daily things we do just to survive are in such a tight box, most of the time that the artist in us suffocates.
Art tells us there is more to life than just procreating (which is the ultimate creative process)
You can look at life its self as a creative process. We grow and research our interests and sexuality, scan meticulously for a partner/palate, we woo him/her, create plans together, we're in love, there's sex, babies, baby room paint colors, what little outfits there going to wear.... Sounds like art to me.
I would love to go on, privately I probably will, but for now I'll try to recap concisely.
In the above, I'm closely relating BP and creativity. I believe that we are sane artists living in an insane world of normal seeking zombie cattle, brainwashed by TV, Radio, the assault on their circadian rhythm, chemicals, and forced routine. I personally saw the world as insane from an early age. The trick here is what to do about it. The movie Network comes to mind- open the windows and shot "I mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more"
Seriously, sometimes as artists we need to remove ourselves from the madness and surround ourselves with nature. We ARE nature.
It's our jobs as artists to bring up ideas for our evolution. Things are not fine and I don't want to surrender to the "man"
I want healthy food, healthy air, affordable shelter, a decent wage, and an honest government. Until then my brain will probably remain "out of balance"
Please don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to pass the blame. I can't assume that when everything around me is fixed I won't think of offing my self for no good reason. But when those thoughts do come up, I'd just like better tools to in which deal with them.
I would like to have regular access to a good healthy meal and a peaceful walk. Sounds simple? Yeah maybe if you can manage to hold a job in the insanity out there.
I've been up and down. Just so happens I'm temporarily in the largest city in the country without public transportation, it's 100 degrees, and I have $0.19 in my account. Oh yeah, almost out of smokes. :)(:

Please share your art you beautiful people! Finished or not, perfect or not. I'll start.

Serendip Visitor's picture


This. For a second, I thought I was reading my own words. You couldn't have put this any better, in my opinion.

Serendip Visitor's picture

A Quote Whose Author I Can't Remember

"It's no sign of mental health to be well-adjusted to an insane world."

Amen to you Dallas. Agreed. This matrix shit is "realer" than I ever thought possible. I feel like I know way too much about US foreign policy to ever live a normal life at this point. Covert wars, overt wars, drug wars, wars based on lies, empire, and the destruction of America from the inside out--that's what we're dealing with. As for the people who think "I'm" crazy, I'll quote Steve Earle (who's probably quoting someone else: "Just because you ain't paranoid don't mean they're not after ya.") It's no wonder those of us who "get it" suffer more than the average clueless automaton who shows up every day at whatever "Ministry" he/she works for, never questioning a thing. Here's some lyrics (note the meds!)

Tell me what's the price of our achievements
What's the cost of our pride
When our obvious brutality
Is lost before our eyes
So we choke down the pills
So you don't have to bother
Trading one hypnotic state for another

Many have tried
In many ways
All I see are longer rows of crosses on the
Soldiers' graves
So do what you have to
And when it's all been said
Love and understanding are the best answers
I've heard yet
I've heard yet

Blue Rodeo

Love those guys.


Serendip Visitor's picture


I think you might be referring to Krishnamurti's quote: "It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."

lisa (elizabeth) anthony's picture

creativity and bipolar disorder

far out--you sound like a free spirit and you write very well! i am one of the "gifted" also in order to help others and to have a good ride myself-- daphne

Anonymous's picture


can it trigger onset of b p ?

Anonymous's picture

bipolar vs. IQ

I'd like to hear from more bipolar patients on this site, who know there IQ though. IQ has been directly linked to logical thinking and spacial sense, so it would be nice to have some numbers to back up theories. Please only write your IQ if you have taken a book test, and no lying, because that ruins the point of me asking this. I have 145 and bipolar dissorder (This IQ is 3 times confirmed by 3 different books).

Karen's picture

I have bipolar and mine is

I have bipolar and mine is 142.

Rob Adcox's picture

Don't take iq scores too

Don't take iq scores too seriously. No one has yet provided any meaningful operational definition of "intelligence", but damned if there aren't thousands of ways to measure it.

Sonny's picture


Well, from the 100%s I got in physics and maths.. guess I have a good ID.

I'm Bipolar II.
Born at 23 years old between phylo and music lyrics.

BUT, would I say if I was 95 ??

I think Bipolar's IQ naturally raise 10-20 points when they are in "war"

Aiman Husseini's picture


MY IQ is > 145

Wes's picture

Bipolar and Lefthanded

I am bipolar and left-handed. If anyone ever studies left-handed, bipolar, red-headed hyperlipodemic diabetics, let me know. I won 120 contests and awards. I told a Dr I won 100 awards and he put me on lithium. I told a Dr I reported a company for 100 OSHA violations and he put me on Depokote. I told a Dr I was writing an ammendment to the Bible and she put me on Risperdol and I paced around shaking for a week. I told a Dr I just slept with 40 women and she put my on Seroquel. I told a Dr now it's 50 and she added Trileptal. I stopped taking Abilify and my grades on writing assignments improved. If it were not for Rozerem and Simply Sleep I would stay up 70 hours at a time writing poems, stories, letters, painting, and winning more awards. Why do we call greatness grandiose? Okay Okay I was talking to spies on the bugged phone, but don't take away my awards!!!!!!!!!

Ryan (Serendip Visitor)'s picture


Likewise, I am left-handed, bipolar, and red-headed. I have never received an abnormal diagnosis pertaining to insulin or lipid levels and yet I have assumed for many years that resting insulin levels and the magnitude of change in blood sugar levels are abnormal. Body composition, fainting triggers, sweating, water-retention, energy and fatigue swings, are not typical. I'd enjoy chatting with others who are left-handed, bipolar, and red-headed to see if traits my instinct is confident are abnormal are shared by others in the same unique boat.

Cristina Kevia's picture

It is often the name of a crime upon which a life shatters

My experience with this "illness" has been one of gratitude, not of fear. As Rilke writes, "Perhaps everything fearful is basically helplessness that seeks our help." Society often gives names to entire sections of life and that does no service to the tapestry of human emotions that compose reality.

"Why should we not encounter difficulties?"

"To return to the subject of aloneness: It becomes increasingly clear that it is basically not something we can choose to have or not to have. We simply are alone. One can only delude one's self and act as though it were not so -- that is all. How much better, however, that we concede we are solitary beings; yes, that we assume it to be true. Our minds will certainly reel at the thought, for all points on which we could heretofore focus shall be taken from us. There is nothing near and familiar left us; everything is in the distance, unendingly far away.

A person would have a similar feeling, were he, with practically no preparation or transition, taken from his home and placed on the summit of a high mountain. It would be a feeling of unequald uncertaintly - a vulnerability to a nameless something would nearly destroy him. He would think he were falling or would believe himself flung out into space or burse asunder into a thousand pieces. What a colossal lie his mind would have to invent to catch up with the condition of his senses and to clarify it. That is how all sense of distance, all measurements change for the one who is alone.

Some of these changes cause many to lose all perspective. And, as with the man on the pinnacle of the mountain, unusual imaginings emerge and strange sensations arise that seem to grow beyond everything endurable. But it is necessary that we experience that also. We must accept our existence to the greatest extent possible; everything, the unprecendented also, needs to be accepted. That is basically the only case of courage required of us: to be courageous in the face of the strangest, the most whimsical and unexplainable thing that we could encounter.

The fact that people have been cowards in that regard has caused infinite harm to life. The experiences that one calls "ghosts", the entire spirit world, death, all these related things have been forced out of life through daily resistance to such an extent that the senses with which we could grasp them have become atrophied. And that is not even considering the question of God.

The fear of the unexplainable not only impoverished the existence of the individual, but also caused the relationship of one person to another to be limited. It is as though fear has caused something to be lifted out of a riverbed of limitless possibilites to a fallow stretch of shore where nothing happens. For it is not inertia alone that causes the unspeakably monotonous and unrenewed human condition to repeat itself again and again. It is the aversion to anything new, any unpredictable experience, which is believed to untenable.

Only he who can expect anything, who does not exclude even the mysterious, will have a relationship to life greater than just being alive; he will exhaust his own wellspring of being. If we liken the existence of the individual to a room of larger or smaller size, it is evident that most people are familiar with only a corner of their room, perhaps a window seat or space where they pace to and fro. In that way they have a certain security. Yet every uncertainty fraught with danger is so much more human. It is th esame uncertainty that motivated the prisoners in Edgar Allen Poe's stories to explore the form of their terrible prisons and not to be a stranger to the unspeakable horrors of their presence there.

But we are not prisoners. There are no traps or snares set for us, and there is nothing that should frighten or torture us. We are placed into life, into the element best suited to it. Besides, through thousands of years of adaptation, we have acquired such a resemblance to this life, that we, if we stood still, would hardly be distinguishable from our surroundings. We have no reason to mistrust our world, for it is not against us. If it has terrors, they are our own terrors. If it has precipices, they belong to us. If dangers are present, we must try to love them. And if we fashion our life according to that principle, which advise us to embrace that which is difficult, then that which appears to us to be the very strangest will become the most worthy of our trust, and the truest.

How could we be capable of forgetting the old myths that stand at the threshold of all mankind, myths of dragons transforming themselves at the last moment into princesses? Perhaps all dragons in our lives are really princesses just waiting to see us just once being beautiful and courageous? Perhaps everything fearful is basically helplessness that seeks our help?

Reality is always for sale to the highest bidder. It always has been. "Please, dear friend, think about this: Did not this great sadness rather pass through you? Did not much within you change? Did you not, somehow at some place in your being, change while you were sad? "

"The only sad experiences which are dangerous and bad are those that one reveals to people in order to drown them out. Like illnesses treated superficially and incompetently, they retreat and, after a short pause, break out even more intensely. They gather together within the self and are life. They are life unlived, ridiculed and scorned. " Rainer Maria Rilke

All of us who labor in the arts know that it can be a lonely existence. And art does not always have to be the classical definition of the word. Art can be the ability to weave from life a tapestry that communicates a vision that no one else seems to value or share. On some days, this can become overwhelming. We then thirst for a single voice of understanding that will reach into our solitary lives and reassure us that the path we have chosen is worthy, and that the rewards it offers are worth the loneliness it entails.

I recommend reading Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, a German Poet. It is a deceptively simple book. It consists of ten short letters, written over a five-year period to an aspiring young poet named Franz Xaver Kappus. The letter ranges freely over a variety of subjects, from the dangers of an ironic worldview to the value of faith and the close link between physical and creative ecstasy. But, always, they come back to the fundamnetal theme of the aloneness of the creative spirit, and the demands it makes upon the lives of those who labor in its service. Rilke came from a background that made him deeply sympathetic to the struggles of anyone striving to be an artist. His father had been a career military man and had sent his son off to a military boarding school with the intention of training him to be an officer. Rilke, weak of constitution and romantic in temperament, was ill suited to the physical rigors and severe discipline at the school, and was subjected to numerous cruelties by his classmates and teachers. During these five trying years he found his greatest solace and self-expression in the act of writing poetry.

Here is an excerpt:

"You must not be frightened, dear Mr. Kappus, when a sadness arises within you of such magnitude as you have never experienced, or when restlessness overshadows all you do, like light and the shadow of clouds gliding over your hand. You must believe that something is happening to you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand. It shall not let you fall.

Why should you want to exclude any anxiety, any grief, any melancholy from your life, since you do not know what it is that these conditions are accomplishing in you? Why do you want to persecute yourself with the question of where everything comes from and where it is headed? You do know that you are in a period of transition and wish for nothing as much as to transform yourself. If some aspect of your life is not well, the consider the illness to be the means for an organism to free itself from something foreign to it. In that case you must help it to be ill and to have its whole illness, to let it break out. That is the course of its progress.

So much is happening within you at present, dear Mr. Kappus. You need to be as patient as someone ill and as optimistic as one recuperating, for perhaps you are both. And more: You are also the physician who must watch over yourself. But in the course of every illness there are many days in which the physician can do nothing but wait. And that, above all, to the extent that you are your physician, you must do now.

Do not scrutinize yourself too closely. Do not draw conclusions too quickly from that which is happening to you. Just allow it to happen. Otherwise you might easily begin to look with blame (that is, morally speaking) upon your past, which, of course, is very much a part of everything that you encounter now. The influences of the vagaries, the wishes and longings of your boyhood upon your present life are not the ones you remember or pass judgment on. The unusual conditions of a lonely and helpless childhood are so difficult, so complicated, vulnerable to so many influences, and at the same time so distant from all real connections with life, that, whenever a vice may have entered, one may not simply call it a vice. One must, in any case, be very careful with that nomenclature. It is often the name of the crime upon which a life shatters, not the nameless and personal act itself at all. It might have been a definite necessity of this person's life, of which he may simply have availed himself.

The expending of effort seems so important to you only because you value victory too much. It is not the "great thing" that you believe to have achieved, even though you have a right to your feelings. The great thing is that there was something present -- and you were allowed to substitute it in place of your misconceptions -- something true and real. Without it your victory also would have been a mere moral reaction without meaning. As it is, it has become a chapter in your life - your life, dear Mr. Kappus, I think of it wish so many wishes for you.

Do you recall, from your childhood on, how very much this life of your has longed for greatness? I see it now, how from the vantage point of greatness it longs for even greater greatness. That is why it does not let up being difficult, but that is also why it will not cease to grow.

If I were to tell you one more thing, it would be this: Do not believe that the one who seeks to comfort you lives without difficulty the simple and humble words that sometimes help you. His life contains much grief and sadness and he remains far behind you. Were it not so, he would not have found those words."


"It is always my wish that you might find enough patience within yourself to endure, and enough innocence to have faith... Believe me, life is right in all cases." -- Furuborg, Jonsered, Sweden 4 November 1904

"I can only wish that you trustingly and patiently allow that grand solitude to work in you....It will act as an anonymous influence, akin to how ancestral blood constantly moves and merges with our own and links with tha of the individual, never to be unlinked." Paris the day after Christmas, 1908

"Reflect on the world that you carry within yourself. And name this thinking what you wish... Your innermost happening is worth all your love." Rome 23 December 1903

"If you will stay close to nature, to its simplicity, to the small things hardly noticeable, those things can unexpectedly become great and immeasurable." Worpswede, near Bremen 16 July 1903

"Destiny itself is like a wonderful wide tapestry in which every thread is guided by an unspeakably tender hand, placed beside another thread, and held and carried by a hundred others." Viareggio, near Pisa, Italy 23 April 1903

pam's picture

bi polar

I have been on epillum for 2 years and it was like the middle of my brain was shut down. i have been vry depessed and had a manic episode,, a bad one.i seem to be all over the place. previously i took no meds. i gave up drugs and alcohol 4 years ago.and it slows you right down and puts on weight.anyone else on eppilum

prince perplexed 's picture

prince perplexed

I don't know..
I do know, I drove myself crazy when the whole onset of bipolar hit me. I couldn't fathom myself being a real life crazy person, and the worst part was I had to admit that to myself. I see a lot of people sharing their 4 part cocktails with us, this is really non conclusive information, because everybody gets a unique diagnosis. Don't wait for a doc to tell you what's up, go read on it and indulge yourself, you all have insight, sharp enough to trigger your moods, so fuck the doctors. I do have some words for the people that are new to all of this, please don't dwell on your diagnosis and all of your shortcomings, embrace yourself, fight for and seek creative outlets. I play guitar, it's great, it makes my dreams come true, and lets me exercise my all of that manic energy you have has truth.

Robert Allen's picture

Identifying Mania before its too late

I was manic for about 6 months I guess, maybe more I don't know. I'm still trying to figure out if I still am. I realize now what I did during my mania that was destructive but how do you realize before. I guess I should just wait to see. When you start feeling too good about life I guess its safe to say your manic right? Ofcourse I have the same fear as everyone else and I guess my therapist knows why I lie about taking my meds. What does anyone know about Lamictal. They want me to take it. I read all the clinical stuff i want to know from an actual person though. Thanks

Jim's picture

re: what is Lamictal

Lamotrigine ('Lamictal' = trade / manufacturers name) tends to work well in preventing swings to depression. but it's not an antidepressant, which are not generally appropriate for bi polar as they tends to induce rapid cycling (this happened to me after being on Citalopram for a long time) - it's an anitconvulsant, originally designed to prevent epileptic seizures. a by product of it, so to speak, is it also works as a 'mood stabiliser'. there are a number of anti-convulsants used to treat bi polar. i take lamotrigine, it's been working for me. my mood swings were so bad i was close to losing my job. lamotrigine was the first treatment i was put on, and later, as mania was still quite bad, i was given the anti-psychotic quetiapine. anti psychotic drugs are not a scary as the name implies; if you want me to write about my experience of them then do say so.

Diana's picture


Hi Jim,

How long have you been on lamictal? I was on it before and felt better mood wise but a little blocked creatively. I also felt flat and I was only on 25 mg. Maybe I am just used to the emotional intensity my illness provides. I can't stand the thought of losing my creativity. I stopped taking lamictal after about 4 or 5 months. Most people tell me to give it more time, at least a year. Any advice?

Robert Allen's picture

I have never taken meds

I am so terrified of not being able to write anymore can anyone on meds tell me the truth. Will I lose it! Where can we post poetry.

F FEAR  whats to fear now ive seen it all ITS A LIFESTYLE B's picture



Anonymous's picture

Meds & writing

I read your post and started sobbing. Yes, I am taking meds. I have not written in a very long time. The stuff I've written so far is in essence: dribble. I gave up my passion for my own sake, BP was destroying other aspects of my life: family, work, health, etc. I have no poetry left in me. I committed literal suicide so to speak.

Jim's picture

Re: I have never taken meds

Hi, I started on Lamotrigine and later, Quetiapine following my diagnosis. I can say that in my experience so far it has not had any adverse effect on my creative endeavours, in fact the opposite. In my case, the main problem was depression though mania was a big factor. The mood stabiliser levelled off the depression and the anti-psychotic keeps the mania in check, though i am not totally mania free, at the moment i tend to rapid cycle. So i tend to have more energy to do more work, leading to more confidence, and coupled with the fact that i am a lot better than i was, i am enjoying myself more. that i think is VERY important to free yourself up for creative work. There have been studies, one of which I remember concentrated on manic depressive painters. I think they were given lithium, and most of them actually did more work/painting, a few of them did less, and some just stayed the same.
it's up to you - with the results of the study in mind, i think the benefits are there to be tasted.

Anonymous's picture


Well i never thought i would come across something that made me feel a little less mad. Having an unbalanced brain such as myself you tend to think that you are alone in this and you are going mad! I now know that its not the case. I suffer from mood swings like you would never believe. Some days i love my life, people around me and my creative streak and other days i feel as though my world is closing in and i get irrational thoughts as the panic takes over and cripples me. It takes me ages to get over this empty feeling then like someone has swicthed a swicth, im back on top of the world again cursed to have another episode in the next few weeks. I have had this problem since i was a child but it has got so much worse. Now my brain has its own life and decides to scare the crap out of me every couple of days. I am trying to get published as i love to write childrens short stories (fantasy) but i cant concerntrate and focus myself. Its been a problem for a while as i have been sitting on my books for years but have never had the courage to send them off. If i dont do it now i never will, ill percrastinate till the next great idea enters my head!! So to all Bipolar sufferers. I think that we have a gift in some ways, it makes us more creative then others and we should do something with it. If we stick together and help each other it will make life that little bit easier. MWAH xx

Fernando's picture

The connection between art and "insanity"

One amazing factor is the dopamine system. I have been following up the studies being done right now about the comparison between the artistic talents and those afflicted with bipolar. I am a poet so naturally this illness affects my creative talent as well as my ability to love. Researchers gathered people who were in "healthy" relationships and those who were outside of one. They found bipolar's dopamine system becomes almost instantly and potently activated when shown a picture of their current/former love. It dumped about 25-35% more serotonin and dopamine then those of stable condition. Even more disturbing was the effects after the initial rush had passed. Some turned radically violent, nostalgic, or panicked briefly. Post interview would find 3 in 5 affected had an artistic talent and felt their disorder greatly impacted their work. Perhaps there is something contributed to the prolonged exposure of such chemical malfunction? Medication, from first hand experience, kills. You cannot heal or cope if the thing supposed to be making you better makes you want to self-terminate. Haven't found a psyc either willing to say what he thinks rather than repeat, "So what do you think?" Though it sucks to have, would you replace your talent and emotional content for a "regular" life?

Anonymous's picture

Dr. Jamison states a 3rd

Dr. Jamison states a 3rd unknown factor or mystery, which may link creativity and manic depression together. My thoughts too ascend toward spirituality and the Divine Being of God. I often wonder, and tend to believe, to have a sensitive brain with all the wonderous gifts which accompany it, indeed is a gift from God. The real trick is being able to manage the severity of eposides of rapid cycling, and the trama of severe depressions and mania's or and hypomania's. yet, it doesn't extingish the ardent love for life and experimenting in it,and adventuring through it. Even in painfull episodes, attempting to focus energy on learning from it seems helpful and productive.
In this mode of existence of creativity and bipolarity- Life is Sublime and extraordinary! We have lots of help, thanks to Doctors like Jamison and Goldberg. So we are even blessed with experts to help us navagate through the suffering part of this bipolar experience. I thank the Divine Providence and Goodness of God for this help. There is so much life and energy to utilize in this mode of Being, lets remember! Constantly trying to improve ourselfs, ever mindful of affecting the lifes of others.

Josie Prescillia's picture

Bipolar Disorder

Yet I still wonder if there really is a connection or link between bipolar disorder and artists....

Jim's picture

Re: Bipolar Disorder

i don't think it means 'having bipolar makes you more likely to become an artist', which i think is the misconception here (though i'm not saying you have misconstrued it, i am just speaking generally). it's just there seems to be a high prevelance of the illness in those types, that is, those who have been studied. retrospective analyses have concluded that beethoven, for example, may have been bipolar, or exhibited bi polar behaviours. well, er yes of course he did. you've got to account for a possible bias in the studies and so on. are we looking for a link? have we looked for bipolar in prominent businessmen? we'd probably find it if we did.

Wes's picture

bipolar in businessmen hmmmm

good point. i started 3 businesses. talk about risk taking. but isnt designing a business a creative pursuit? i bet we would find more bipolar business start-ups, but fewer "prominent" businesspeople capable of surviving their lows to maintain a growing profit. my 3 businesses failed, i worked at them manically, and ended up in an institution doing artwork