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Myth or Madness? Mania and the Artistic Genius

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Biology 202
2001 Second Web Report
On Serendip

Myth or Madness? Mania and the Artistic Genius

(A Book Review of Touched With Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D.)

Diana C. Applegate


"And Something's odd - within -
That person that I was -
And this One - do not feel the same -
Could it be Madness - this?"
-Emily Dickinson


Those of us who enjoy the arts, either as participants or avid fans of the creative process, are very much aware of the so-called "myth of the artist" and other similar stereotypical sketches that link the artistic genius to an inner, emotional world of tumultuous highs, lows, and sheer "madness". Mental illness, particularly manic depression, has somehow become an inseparable part of the successful artist's experience in the romanticized biographies of famous poets, painters, and musicians of our time. In her book, Touched With Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison lends some evidence to this widely-recognized cultural myth, and exposes a very convincing relationship between the mood cycles involved with manic depression and the creative process.

Jamison does not assume the reader has any clinical knowledge about manic-depressive illness. She starts from scratch, explaining the condition in traditional scientific terms, and also illuminates manic-depressive illness throughout the book by sharing the poetry and prose of those who lived with it. After thoroughly defining and describing the disease, Jamison presents biographical and scientific evidence suggesting a relationship between manic depression and artistic creativity. In her next chapter, she forges even further ahead, discussing the psychological and biological arguments in support of an overlap between madness and art. Before concluding with a chapter on the problems with, and objections to, the treatment of manic-depressive illness, as well as the ethical concerns surrounding the possible isolation of a gene or genes responsible for the disorder, Jamison devotes an entire chapter to George Gordon, Lord Byron, a famous poet who suffered from manic-depressive illness.

So what exactly is Jamison's evidence? Her biographical sources linking manic-depressive illness and the artistic temperament include personal accounts such as letters and other autobiographical excerpts from the likes of Robert Lowell, Robert Burns, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Schumann, Theodore Roethke, Edgar Allen Poe, Vincent Van Gogh, Lord Byron, and others. In addition, Jamison occasionally analyses the work of these artists, which often describe, in detail, the emotional and intense highs and lows they experienced. The author's scientific discussion of manic-depressive illness allows the reader to recognize the similarities between the artists' accounts of their symptoms and the clinically accepted symptoms of manic depression that are used in diagnosis today. Furthermore, Jamison includes numerical figures which indicate that writers, in particular, have a vastly disproportionate rate of manic-depressive illness as compared to the general population.

Even more compelling is Jamison's discussion of moods as they relate to creative productivity: "Many of the changes in mood, thinking and perception that characterize the mildly manic states - restlessness, ebullience, expansiveness, irritability, grandiosity, quickened and more finely tuned senses, intensity of emotional experiences, diversity of thought, and rapidity of associational processes - are highly characteristic of creative thought as well." (105) She notes that two aspects of thinking, in particular, seem to show up in both creative and hypomanic thought: "fluency, rapidity, and flexibility of thought on the one hand, and the ability to combine ideas or categories of thought in order to form new and original connection on the other." (105)

Manic-depressive illness, of course, is a mood disorder, and those afflicted with the condition experience alarming variations in mood, ranging from energetic, euphoric highs to melancholy, listless lows. Some have suspected that the melancholic periods experienced by so many artists are key in determining why, if at all, they are possibly more attuned to the subtleties of human emotion and experience. However, Jamison argues that one must pay equally close attention to the manic phase of the disorder, and that, perhaps, it is even more crucial to understand and appreciate the interplay between these two interacting cyclic stages or phases of manic-depressive disorder and how they relate to one another when assessing how mood may affect creative output. For example, the birth of new ideas often takes place during the manic phases, but the refinement of such thoughts may occur during the artist's melancholic periods. The creative process requires a certain amount of emotional involvement as well as a more logical perspective in order to put the new ideas into practice. Jamison also relates creative productivity to the cyclic nature of the seasons and months of the year, mapping mood cycles on top of natural cycles with very interesting results.

What interested me in particular was Jamison's discussion of treating manic-depressive illness, and the resistance that artists may have to drug therapy. Those who experience such a range of highs and lows often become accustomed to them, and do not wish to give them up. Furthermore, if artists are more productive during a certain phase of the illness, they fear that medication will change that. And, in some cases, it does. Lithium, one of the more commonly prescribed drugs to regulate the manic's highs and lows, often has the effect of making the transition from one mood to the next a lot less pronounced. The stability that the drug offers to patients can make them feel almost lifeless in comparison to the dramatic mood swings experienced during manic-depressive illness. However, Jamison stresses that manic-depressive illness can end in suicide if not treated, and, of course, there are many creative and productive people in the world who do not experience the symptoms of manic depression. Therefore, it is still possible to create, even when undergoing drug treatment. Changes in productivity levels will vary from person to person.

Jamison's Touched With Fire is highly relevant to this course, and our continuing discussion of whether or not the brain really equals behavior. The author does not discuss manic-depressive illness in neurobiological terms. However, she draws a parallel between the behavioral characteristics of manic-depressive illness, and those experienced during the creative process. Earlier in the course, a few students objected to the brain=behavior idea by saying, "What about creativity?" Jamison's book does not provide us with any answers, but it raises several new and interesting questions. If the behavioral characteristics of the creative process are similar to those of a genetic, neurobiologically-related disorder, then it is conceivable that creativity arises from the interaction of certain neurons in the brain. Nevertheless, creativity is still very much a puzzle for neurobiologists and psychologists alike, and further study is needed in order to come to any definitive conclusions.

I recommend this book to artists and scientists alike, and appreciate the way that Jamison connects these two, often very separate, realms of study in an engaging manner. She presents an overwhelming amount of serious evidence in support of her hypothesis. I felt that the chapter focusing on Lord Byron was a little unnecessary and out-of-place, but his case study did reinforce many of her ideas regarding manic-depressive illness and the creative process, and also fit in with her discussion of the disease as genetically-based. Jamison focuses her investigation on famous artists perhaps because they are of interest to the general public, and their biographies have often already been written fairly well. However, she points out that it is difficult to diagnose retrospectively. I would be interested in finding out whether or not there have been similar studies done on less famous groups of artists, where success might be defined by awards they have won so far as opposed to a posthumously-created legacy.


Related WWW Links

1) A Brief Bio on Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison , on the Random House Reader's Club Website

2) Live from Lincoln Center: Interview with Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison , on the Lincoln Center Backstage Website

3)"Research explains lithium's dual anti-manic/anti-depressive effect" , on the University of Wisconsin - Madison Website



Continuing conversation
(to contribute your own observations/thoughts, post a comment below)

10/25/2005, from a Reader on the Web

is sensitivity also part of this too? i have been considered a manic depressive since i was 12, but sent to doctors and psychologists and therapists etc, whom i flet didn't really understand the extent of what was 'wrong' with me. (i'm now nearly 30) i have grown to realise for myself that i have an extremely high sensitivity to all things. for example, i'm a musician whom also composes music, and i hear the actual note (perfect pitch) and 'feel' it in my gut. i also hear the notes of people if you can get what i mean, and have to hold my breathe whilst walking past certain strangers to try not to 'pick up' their frequencies because i get overwhelmed by their energy (normally not a pleasant energy). i can sense things like if someone has been cruel, if someone is capable of violent acts, also if someone has empathy etc. i'm sure being so sensitive a person is what originally led me to try to take my own life when i was 17, because i felt the agony of our world so intensly that i didn't think i could live with it. i must go now


Additional comments made prior to 2007
I have been researching artistic temperament for a couple years now. I have not read the above mentioned book..but feel I am a candidate. I have been diagnosed with cyclothymia...and am currently on prozac..and I hate it. It seems the more I get into my art..the worse my condition seems to get, almost like it feeds on it. I would most eagerly be involved in some sort of process that could help me lead a more normal life with out the aid of medidation. This condition seems to be ruining any chance of my being successful in business ... Reader on the web, 3 September 2006


Howard Pritchartt's picture

manic behavior creative thought vs irrational thoughts

I am 58 years old and realize and admit that I am not the picture of mental health or Dr. Phil. What I have read here describes me to a "T". I would not wish my life on my worst enemy but would not trade one day of it. In my past I suffered from debilitating bouts of depression. In adolescence and during a horrible marriage. Depression is now a thing of the past for me but when I become stressed or angry I have noticed (as do most outside observers) that I go into these manic episodes with my brain going into overdrive and then the afterburners kick in. During the initial phase I am quite entertaining as I could do a stand up comic routine as my sense of humor seems to develop and delivered by spontaneous remarks or by improvisational actions and lines I use with the timing and delivery of a professional comedian. I am self employed in the oil & gas industry and have always been successful and considered an expert in my field. When the mania stage I have recognized opportunities that have been very lucrative and solved problems that others thought were impossible and achieved by obsessing all possible choices in achieving to accomplish when all attempts by others have failed. I have never taken a creative writing course of any kind. Looking back I must admit as do all who know me that I am living proof that life is stranger than fiction. I am asked if not begged at least once a week to write my memoirs or biography of the events and experiences I have had. As I do not have the required knowledge or ability to attach the dialog to the character I wrote two plays and they went viral via e-mails and have been encouraged by many to get them published and create similar works and published for the public to enjoy.

There are definite negative aspects of my mania if the condition goes unchecked and manifests to the point where it can become counter productive. To the outside observer I am perceived to be on drugs as my mouth makes attempts to keep pace with a brain in high gear producing ideas in rapid fire. At this point I appear irrational, delusional, high on drugs, mentally unstable, narcissistic, grandiose and credibility becomes a casualty of my character which so far has always been restored by the results of my efforts of the tasks when completed always with positive results to everyone's surprise.

After achieving my goal or task I am mentally and physically exhausted due to sleep deprivation and lack of proper nutrition which results in a crash or period of decompression returning to a calmer, more sedate and rational behavior and speech pattern.

I have finally reached a point in my life where I am financially secure and plan to make an effort to do what so many have encouraged me to pursue in the literary field. I realize that my success in this endeavor is a long shot but I feel an attempt should be made even if the results are negative in order to leave this life without the regret of what may have been.

Will some please give me a definition or an example of a normal person?

Serendip Visitor's picture


ive been checking out english artist michael fitzgerald at saatchi online

Polymatthew's picture


My mother used to take me to child psycs- I was too busy playing all the time with the rubber dinosaurs.

I have decided to give up caffeine I hard thing to do for a wannabe writer...
I have become aware of my condition after blasting my boss for failing to act on a workplace bullying incident (physical in nature) that happened two years ago and then RE-HIRING the guy that attacked me - I was Ghandi-like in response to every affront but internalised too much I think.
I always have been a bit of a soft cock so I am hoping I can maintain my composure after acting out from here on in.
This only happened a week ago - I self diagnosed (GO GOGGLE and WIKIPEDIA)- but seem to become near-catatonic at times.
If I ever had a crushing low as high as this high has been i would be forced to see a doctor even through I have it embedded in me that I would never commit self harm I tell myself that if the world was to burn out after aeons and I be the only observer left in the cosmos I would sit there and just meditate and that pain is just something you feel when YOUR ALIVE i seem to find a sort of joy in emotional pain past a certain point a feel waves of emotion like a violins notes just equisite .

venting done...
Non Lithium based suggestions:
Meditation for mania
Nurture a running internal dialogue even if you have to talk to yourself
Cut out caffiene and any sort of stimulant
If you cant sleep lay in bed and try meditative techniques or just REST
Try to deal with difficult people quickly or not at all
BE MINDFUL (of the living force)

That is all.

(out from the closet INTO MARNIA)

JDevlin's picture

I wanted to just share a

I wanted to just share a little bit from my own personal experience:

I believe that my mania is a gift. But it's more like a gift that comes with a stern "Use at Your Own Risk" label on it.

I suspect it has something to do with abstract reasoning. When I'm manic, eventually something will "click" and make a little more sense. Some thought that I had about something I read or learned in school. Then it's like this thought connects to other thoughts or concepts and blooms outwards and develops into a deeper understanding of the concept as a whole and how it relates to other concepts. It's like my mental imagery becomes more real, more colorful, and the understanding that results is so absorbing and profound. It's like I get to look at the "bigger picture" and see how it "all makes sense" that way.

I can employ language in a much more powerful way to paint the mental imagery in my mind with words. Some people only hear "rambly tangent rambly tangent" and I hate to say it but it's usually people who just kind of aren't that bright or whatever. But there's certain people who I can talk to and communicate with and I can't really explain what happens but it just "clicks" for them too. I'll explain something that my mind is currently processing and I see their eyes light up and they just "get it". It's like I'm using my words to give their mind the same mental image that I'm seeing in mine. Usually these are academic types or people that like to spend a lot of time learning about things.

I can't really explain it any better than it's like just a state of seeing things and how they connect a lot more clearly. I get a better sense of "rightness" or "wrongness" of certain ideas and beliefs I have as well. It's like I develop a more accurate internal gauge of my degree of confidence in something that I'm thinking and when I know I'm right, I'm usually right. Certain personality types hate it because they only hear the "I'm right" parts and not the fact that almost every statement I make about a certain topic comes along with a qualifier that reflects the degree of accuracy of the statement I'm making. Like "It might be the case that..." or "I'm not really sure but..." or "I suspect that..." or "I don't really understand it but...". They only hear the parts where I'm saying something is strictly correct or "I'm right..." and they don't see that those instances are actually few and far between, and of course I'd be open to debate but you have to show me how it makes better sense another way.

My most recent experience with mania changed my life. I was in a tumultuous relationship and couldn't really put my finger on what the problem was, or how all the little instances of certain problems connected to the bigger picture as a whole. Suddenly the world got a lot more colorful, and it "all made sense". I developed a deep understanding of this person in a way that connected all the dots and spent about a week going through periods of crying without realizing it because it was like I finally saw her and figured out why things were the way they were and how it all connected to her childhood trauma. My empathy was heightened x100 and I felt so deeply compassionate that sometimes the waterworks would come on and I just couldn't stop it.

The unfortunate effect of this is that it made certain patterns of denial a lot more obvious. I was acutely tuned in to her behavior, language, and body language in a way that allowed me to predict the hidden meaning behind certain things she says and does and what she was trying to elicit from me. I couldn't play the game anymore. The best way I can explain it is she became like the "uncanny valley"; she was doing and saying things that looked very human but weren't because they weren't being employed the way most people would do it. It wasn't real anymore. But I saw it and now I can't unsee it.

I did sit down and talk to her, and I even wrote a short story/poem about her to try and paint the picture of her I had in my mind. She cried uncontrollably and said I was right, that I understood her better than anyone she's ever met. She dissociated for two days, disappeared in her room and isolated and when she came back she was deeper in denial than ever. I think I scared her and she thought she just had to try harder to convince me things were okay. But it was the uncanny valley. The harder she tries, the more "off" it looks to me because it's there now and it won't go away because I know it's not real.

I'm grateful because if it wasn't for my mania, I wouldn't have been able to figure this out. I'm leaving her. The fantasy life she's constructed is the only way she can be happy. But I can't play along anymore. I think she's passed the point of no return where it would just hurt too much to go back and start trying to sort things out.

She is an imagining of what a 4-year old girl once thought a grown up was supposed to look like. She scribbles herself in pencil and colors it in with crayon. She writes "Mommy" above her head and draws a smile on her face. Smudges her life in finger paint on the walls of her room where she never has to feel guilty or ashamed.

But she's too afraid now and she won't come out. She built up this fantasy to protect herself and it's the only way she can feel love and not afraid anymore. She needs it or I think she would literally fall apart. Now that I've seen it, I see the paint flaking off the walls and I can't stay in this room anymore. It's beautiful and pure but it's so tragic and fucked up I have to block it out now because every time I let myself feel it I can't stop crying. I have SO much compassion for her but she'll never know it because the only way she can feel it is if I play "House" with her and I can't anymore.

But I know now that I have a gift and I want to use it for good. I don't know where I'm going from here but I'm more confident now and I think I'm going to study psychology and focus on childhood trauma.

Writing when I'm not manic is sometimes difficult and frustrating. I can repeat the things I thought and felt but they're not as colorful, they're broken and fragmented and just can't do justice to how it would have came out when I was thinking and feeling it.

Boot collins's picture

feel you

was it bpd my friend? I dated a girl w/ bpd.. it had the exact same effect on me that you just describe. I will no longer see the world the way I did before my experience with her. They say theres something that attracts people like us to people like them. So crazy. wrote this poem about it..

blue eyes were red as fire trucks
the moment that that siren struck
her chord in me
i leapt out overboard to see
how deep this ocean floor could be
and horribly its coral sting
how morbidly this mortal dream can swing beneath the floral scheme.

its like you spend your life looking for something deep.. and when you finally find wish you never had.. i dont think we're crazy.. i think we just look harder than most.

JDevlin's picture

Her behavior is very

Her behavior is very characteristic of it yes, although there's never been an "official diagnosis".

I was framing things in terms of her childhood abuse. She was sexually abused by her father as a child, starting from age 4 till she ran away from home at 14 or 15. The initial incident she told her mother, but the father denied it and said he caught her doing something naughty and sexual with her brother and she was just trying to get out of trouble for it. So the mother went into denial and she ended up getting punished for it instead of getting help.

Ive read that this is common in individuals with BPD and like I said, her behavior is very characteristic of it. Most notably the unpredictability in moods. One minute she could be throwing a passive little temper tantrum over something, sulking around slamming things and glowering at the floor; the next minute she'll be madly in love and flying on cloud 9.

Also that she reacts very disproportionately to the slightest perceived wrong. But she does it passive aggressively like, she'll go bad mouth me to whoever will listen and say some really hurtful stuff.

The way she reacts to blame, shame, and guilt is what really drove it home for me. I'll catch her in a lie about something that is definitely wrong on her behalf, but blaming her for it triggers a tantrum and she'll do whatever she has to to get "out of trouble". She had to do this when she was a kid because back then, getting in trouble meant an attack could be coming and she had to do whatever it took to get out of it and protect herself. But now she's carried that into adulthood and it means she doesn't take accountability for anything she does that is actually wrong, thus never learns from her own behavior patterns and lacks the ability to self-correct.

Blaming her harder is something I learned the hard way doesn't work. Before I understood this I thought that if I could just logic my way through her excuses eventually she'd admit she was wrong and apologize like a normal person would and wouldn't do it anymore. Eventually I would win the logic battles and I'd be left with her just dissociating and staring at the wall with nothing to say. I even used to say she was acting like a "scorned child" before I put the pieces together and realized that emotionally she still is a child trying to protect herself from getting hurt. Doesn't matter if she actually is in the wrong because her brain is literally not wired that way. She wasn't raised according to standard cultural norms about reward and punishment. Punishment and getting in trouble to her is wired together with getting violated in the worst imaginable way.

I thought if i showed her how mad she was making me or hurt i was she'd get it and stop the nonsense. But if I get mad she just gets mad right back and blames me for getting mad. Then she will do something to passively retaliate like slandering me to my own family or to her friends or "forgetting" something important we had to do.

It was a beautiful and tragic experience to finally understand it all during a hypo-manic period where my empathy was heightened enormously. I stopped being so mad at her and I wept for her instead. I was also grieving the same way I was when my best friend died because it made mr realize I had to let her go. I can't save her and she brought me into her life for the same reasons as any other man and thinking that I'm the special knight in shining armor that will rescue her is merely wishful thinking on my behalf. She brought me her to rescue her in the first place so I'm actually only hurting her by trying to save her because she's all grown up now and she needs to learn that she can rescue herself if she wants to.

Now she hates me though. That's the hardest part. She hates me. She thinks that all my anger over the things she's done means I've been abusing her because she doesn't understand what anger really is or what it's for. She only understands it the way her dad used it so angry people look like abusers to her because she doesn't connect it with her own behavior.

What makes that so hard is that I wish she could understand how compassionate I really am. I can't talk or write or even think about it for too long without weeping because I understand it deeply and empathetically and I grieve for her. That's part of the reason I dragged out the end so long because I thought if she understood that it hurts me too because I love her so much and I understand about as well as any human being that didn't actually experience it ever could, then shed at the very least know how much I love her. It always just ends with me angry again though and we're right back where we started.

I signed a lease last week I'm moving out June 15th. All I can really do is just be neutral to the point of almost being invisible and it's nearly impossible sometimes. But knowing it's whats best for her is what keeps me strong and helps me grow as a person too. My love is not a snake oil, it will not fix anyone of all that ails them. At the very least, I'm grateful that I've learned so much. If it wasn't for the way my mania jacks up the volume knob on my empathy to 11, I don't think it'd be this way. I'd probably hate her too, and I'm glad that I don't.

Serendip Visitor's picture

This is called clang

This is called clang association. I am a devout maniac and have pushed passionately towards the precipice of a rather serpentine star struck yarn spun on the gum drop moon. Looms over the days doorstep. Forcep cocked and blazoing like burnished brozne the tumultuous tirade breaking backs like backpacks react to stimuli both foreign and soveriegn.

BlackPolarBear's picture


The poem is very beautiful. My heart ached and tears filled my eyes as I read it.

Spencer's picture

The price to be paid

I am a guy, 57 yrs old. I was a music teacher, pastor, technical writer, and now am stuck at the end doing nothing more meaningful than to be selling tools to "men who enjoy their crafts" (figure that one out (grin)).

I cry at movies and great instrumental music. I sing and perform. I have lost two great careers, one wife and am about to loose another wife. When I am unto myself I write a lot of poetry and music. I revel in the creativity of it. My mind moves quickly to make associations and bring ideas together. I have a fast wit though it is often not understood. I have been on meds three times and hated it every time. It was always to please someone else (wives). For them, they could not help nurture the creativity. All I heard about was how I did everything wrong. I will admit I was probably self-absorbed. I would rather die than ever go on the meds again. The world, basically, wants art but does not want artists. That is the core of it for now.

This page would be far more meaningful if the author participated in this blog. Otherwise, this is nothing more than cathartic whining.

HP Bryce's picture

Fertility of the mind

I have always been a creative person. I have had a temporary split from what society calls sanity. During that period of my life the only thing I became more creative with was poetry. That is a subject I have never been good with before my split or after my return.

Minnow's picture

Check out

Check out (choice theory) for some interesting ideas on this subject.

Iasina's picture

Creativity of your own Mental Illness

Regardless of what you say I tend to have my own beliefs about creativity and mental illness. I have manic depression, bipolar or what ever you want to call it and i have had the pleasure of experiencing this for many years. The more meds I took the worse I became. On the meds I tried to commit suicide many times when I hit the lows. I got off the meds and I love my highs and lows because I CREATE THEM FOR A REASON THEY ARE MINE AND THEY BELONG TO ME> not once have i attempted suicide off the meds like you suggest. On the meds YES.
If I were to take my life tomorrow I would sooner do this off meds rather than on them. This is called me taking responsibility for me and my bipolar that I created because i am a creative artist also. I use my moods, no my moods useme to work me to inspire me each day. I am not afraod of my moods any more and believe me they do get bad. You finding are false and subjective. There is no concrete brain test to prove bipolar exists or for any other mental health condition. The psychiatric system is a self fulfilling prophecy deluded that your the chemical balance in your brain is being corrected when there is no scientific proof that an inbalance exists in the first place. I am so glad I am off the litihum. The people i meet who are on this med are isolated in a world of their own unable to be interact with people. What will you do when new scientific evidence is found in the future to show that Litihum causes brain damage. Not to worry because the psychiatrist will tell you that the brain damage is the pre-existing bipolar problem. I do not see myself as having a superior level of creativity because I have bipolar. People without the condition have the same level of creativity. It annoys me when you make out you are helping people with your book when in fact you could be doing people more harm. I have much more creativity off the meds....your book is not balanced it is in favour pills pills and more pills.

Clarissa's picture

Creativity, cruelty and mental illness

I have read both Touched with Fire and Unquiet Mind (the latter being a personal account of Jamison's personal experiences as a manic depressive). I found Touched with Fire to be very helpful: it validated the experience that many creative people struggle with their mental health. Unquiet Mind convinced me of the stranglehold that the psychopharmaceutical industry have over the treatment of people with apparent mental illnesses. Being a manic depressive professional soloist (a singer), I have found the usual treatment for someone like me to be depressingly one-ended, as you are encouraged to accept that because you have a mental illness you have to come to terms with a life of limitations - not least because of the depersonalising effect of so many of the drugs used to stabilise your highs and lows. I have also discovered that while there is plenty of cant regarding the mental health of many dead musicians, poets and artists, there is nothing on the web for those of us still living with these conditions: and still struggling with them. The stigma created by ignorance, prejudice and deliberate lack of care is truly causing as much suffering as the illness causes by itself. So, those of you reading this; I've set up a site that deals specifically with the issues of manic depression and being a performing musician. It is completely anonymous, and you are welcome to leave comments and contact me. Have a look on

X Clarissa Smidt X

tommy's picture

I am someone without any

I am someone without any education or training who tries to compose music, write poetry, and also experiment with various visual mediums. I struggle to call myself an artist, but I am my most creative when I feel an unnatural loosening of reality. It is extremely subtle, and I struggle to describe it. But essentially, I notice my senses go into overdrive and I become attuned to the random and left-of-center ideas I would usually dismiss in the blink of an eye. I feel my mind is capable of focusing these ideas for a brief moment so that I can capture them in a medium, be it music or whatever. I live for these unpredictable and sadly rarer moments in my life, because they offer me a holiday from the mundane existence I otherwise live. Sadly, there is without a doubt a major correlation between these moments and the severe shifting of my moods. I don't find the creative process is ever the same. I certainly couldn't say 'the birth of new ideas often takes place during the manic phases'. There is no pattern for me. I can create under the burden of black, or when I am free as a bird. But what I do find is when I am creative, there will have been a significant shift in my temperament prior to the creative process. I don't know why I am even writing this.

Theresa Lockwood's picture

Creativity = mental illness...What?

I have seen so many articles of this confusion of creativity being a mental illness. And who said so. I will not for a second give this person reconciliation to claim that he was right to even say such things. Just because someone came up with this recognized behavior is mental illness( to mearly make a name ofr ones self is highly unacceptable. HOw come it is when there is some uniqueness in the accpeted mjority around us. This genocide thinking around us that theres only one type of person. And the rest thought to be wrong. These ways of today is coined by the ideas in our history as what it is to be moralistaclaly right and perfect. So why is it that the rest are amde to feel who they are is wrong. So they don't seem to fit in, into the unthinking world. They go around knowing they are different from the rest of the people who do not see, while you seem to see things differently or deeper. These peple won't hear you. They go on with thier superficial materialistic life around you. And they almost apear as systematic and robotic to you. They can't understand your emotions, your poetry, your paintings, your deep thirst for knowledge. And they claim you have gone mad or manic. Psychiatrist feeling important trying to make a name for themsleves seem to label and brand these people to ananlyze you. Because they placed themsles in these postions of control. Buy what they have accepted to be knowledge which is not really real knowledge at all. And then they seem to give you apill to convince you your thinking is wrong and its all in you and its this chemical emablnce because you passing enough or to littel dopamines.
These people usually obtain a greater understnading and knowledge because they see more. And the thing is. Those who see things more and more deeply. The reality is as they grow closer to the realiztion of things around them ..There is littel to be happy about. Psychiatrist believe that all things and prsblems and reactions to emtions exist onyl in the malfunction of the body within yourself. And t them this can be all corrected if people with this so called mental illness would take thier pills.
Thus killing and making what they call normal and destroying what Cod has designed. And killing your creative tool of the brain to use what makes you. You.
In a more mello conscience state. We receive knowledge and information. In a so called manic state of mind. It performs the action to express it. Which according to psychologist, "assertiveness" is one of those manic states. Basically these people where swoopeed into an accult of an agnostic doctrine to destory the evidence of the idea of life and God and the rleation to a maker.
Illiminating Creativity...on this note, clearly observed. They are the religeon of death. And they can't put together why the world is spirling into chaos.
What these people have labeled manic depressive/bipolor. Is natural design. Wich has different varification according to "their" unseeing mind. What that is.
These ideas came from religeous disputes and doctrines of idealist and a war over who is write, and the ignorance accepted by them. Lets tell you where this movement to stop creative people came from. The people with post modern(modernism) doctrines. And the refute agaisnt change and artists deemed to be witchcraft. And ignorance making judgement agaisnt people like from the reformation speaking agasint them because they claimerd t be deeper thinkers. and have the truth. Denying where that truth is. Its not the Geniuses that were the problem ..It was the wanna be one. Catholics promoting ..To deny your emotions and feelings though mortification ..then the war agaisnt that practice to stop it. The DSM has recording of people who claim they have a mission are emntally ill. Those who claim a relationship to a diety or God is delusional.eople who claimed to be persecuted. (usually those coming out of relgious socirites..Because they are ..Are just lablee and nevr listneed to as delusional or paranoid or other. Thus attameting to end all this by labotomy in pills. Ita lla I big war about beliefs and power. Today theri not allowed to kill those people. They just put them on pills and instituionalize them. In the act these victems will probaly be driven mad or lost and confused. And yet some will survive. Why do they want to die. Look at the world we live in. And people will continue to write about it. to create poetry and paint. They will mourn , be depressed, and express. They will be driven to suicide. Because who wantsd to be oppressed under the dead. Who refuse to accept life and knowledge. WHo refuses to listen, who stands there and lets you know everything that is expressed through your charachter has to be stopped and destroyed.

wolfycat's picture

creative mood swings

I am an artist and singer and write poetry. Some of my darkest days was where I produced some of my personal best works.

Personally, I believe if one can control and accept that there will be dark days along with the good and just committ to hang on then there is no reason to take mood/mind altering drugs. If someone is trying to end themselves then they do need help, but before they are bombarded with altering drugs they should try to talk this out with a good therapist/counselor.

The major One who keeps me is The Lord, bottom line-period.

I've had MANY bad, depressive days, but I've learned to hang on and realize that without the winter one would never see the spring.

Minnow's picture

God is my Answer

I have been diagosed with MD for over 25 years. On lithium for most of those years. Had kidney issues from the drug. Went on antidepressants and dove into a depression for 2 1/2 years. The last year in bed most of the day. It was horrible. Have recently went off all antidepressant meds and am feeling alive again. God delivered from the hell on 5/11/10 and got me out of bed in the mornings on 5/25/10. I am exuberant and feel life intensely but what is wrong with that? I do focus on balance to keep from spiraling but, with God's direction, I am a whole person as He created me to be. It is important, for me, to trust God, to listen to His quiet still voice and His promptings for living a full and purposeful life. THANK YOU, LORD, FOR RELEASING ME FROM THE DOOM THE WORLD ATTEMPTED TO CONVINCE ME WAS THE ONLY WAY !! Blessings to all who are experiencing the full life of MD.
(When the waves crash over my face, I promise I will keep on going. --In Him I find my strength. Ps 28:1)

Pavel's picture

YES (Re: God is my answer)

Yes, dear friend. When i was naming some "real cures" for MD people, today with my friend, i forgot to list this one: "God", yes and i keep all my fingers crossed for the people who are trying to find their "balance" via God. I am not a Chrictian nor Budhist etc.. I say i have developped (i am developing) my own religion, but it only means that i believe in God.

You know what i told to myself at one of those "dark" nights. This is, Pavel, just a light imprint, just a faint ecoct of the pain that He must have be bearing. At those moments i feel closer to God and i imagine that, somehow, i am here, in strong pain to help Him.

This works as well as it stopped me from serious thoughts of the suicide.

And only you who know Depressions (the big letter D is not wrote coincidently) know very well that sometimes it is not your "head" what is dragging you out of the bed upstairs to the attic and it is not your "hand", what is pulling the rope round your neck exactly).

I, also, bless all the "missunderstood" beings among us!
Keep fighting!


PS. For all of you, curious what me and Michele "developped", "today", here is the list:

* meditation
* LOVE (people who really LOVE you, accept you fully and never send you to any "doctor")
* writting (a fresh new idea for me)

* physical work / sport
* discipline, talking about alcohol & drugs
* humility & submission to death (which is the hardest, i see, as far as we are having be scared to death daily by this world)

* God - no comments :)

Anonymous's picture

ADD/ADHD medicine-do they stifle creativity?

I am looking into the relationship between drugs such as Adderal used for ADD treatment, and their positive or negative affect on you think that studies have been run looking at these issues? I know that some anti-depressants can have this effect, but what about these ADD/ADHD drugs. Does anyone know about this issue? thanks, mcg

Anonymous's picture

ADD meds & creativity

My son was diagnosed with ADD and was put on Ridolin, before that he was extremely creative! Built and made all sorts of things, and above his age appropriate ability for sure. As I think back, all of his building and creativity did seem to stop when he was on the Ridolin, though the Ridolin did help him imensly with behaviour and marks in school.
I am an artist with anxiety and depression, though I am thinking I may be manic and am a little concerned that if I am put on meds for it that I may lose my creativity as well.

Reana's picture

Creativity and ADD Meds

I don't know about any studies that have been run, but I doubt that any conclusive studies have been done. The problem is that most anti-depressants build up in your body so that someone on anti-depressants is on an effective dose all of the time. The medications used to treat ADD/ADHD last under eight hours effectively and follow a standard distribution curve. Personally as someone who has ADD and is bipolar I strongly suspect they do. All of that distractability, the rapid loosely connected thoughts, the decreased inhabitation in ideas can lead to intense creativity in the right circumstances. By the increased ability to focus on one thing at a time and decreased environmental reactiveness I am sure you lose some of that creative potential. You gain a great deal of ability to get things done though. And its creative potential not creativity so by being on meds you lose a lot of not very useful daydreaming and gain the ability to focus on what you want to focus on. Hopefully that was of help.