Shawn Maxam explains how being “normal” with the aid of medication has taken away the advantages of being Bipolar.
Creativity – like human life itself – begins in darkness.
ARCHIVED POST: Originally written summer 2011
The collapse of my talent bridge has been catastrophic ever since I have gone baseline (aka psychologically normal) because of the daily medications I take for survival. As an artist, of the mentally unhinged persuasion, you can either die a physical death or a metaphysical death where your creative inspiration goes kaput.
I have spoken to many individuals like myself who struggle with mental illness and who are now in a “stable” place. There are many side-effects to taking psychotropic drugs yet the a major side-effect that is rarely discussed is the lost of your creative self. I’m not arguing that only sleeping for two hours a day while spending the other twenty-two writing a whole book of poetry or composing an album worth of songs is healthy or sustainable. But problematic as though these artistic marathons of activity may be they do become the norm and the daily reality for the bipolar artist. The inability to access the well that watered your artistic ambitions especially when your art is what defines you is very jarring to your sense of self. It’s akin to the photographer who loses his sight or the composer who loses his hearing. I would argue the medication induced loss is far more traumatic because technically one is still in possession of the tools that were used to create the art you dearly love.
The list of artists with some form of mental illness who have lost their lives (mainly by their own hands) is long. Here are just a few:
David Foster Wallace
Vincent Van Gogh
Paul Hunter Thompson
I haven’t written a poem into four plus months. I haven’t played guitar and composed a song in over half a year. I have scripts for short films that need my attention. I am still getting use to actually having to work at being creative. My faucet of ideas is barely leaking anymore. The only reassuring aspect of this whole ordeal is that I know I am not the first and won’t be the last bipolar artist to have to confront this issue. If you’re in a similar boat as I am in how do you deal with the stop-gap in your creative juices flowing?
Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament a book by Kay Redfield Jamison discusses the issue of mental illness and creativity with interesting clarity. I highly recommend it.
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