The bipolar brain and the creative mind

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Biology 202
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

The bipolar brain and the creative mind

Sarah Eberhardt

"Our hospital was famous and had housed many great poets and singers. Did the hospital specialize in poets and singers, or was it that poets and singers specialized in madness? ... What is it about meter and cadence and rhythm that makes their makers mad?" (1)

The link between madness and creativity is one that has been hotly debated in both medical and literary circles for a long time. The two most common types of mental illness theorized to be an influence on creative people such as writers, artists, and poets were schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (2). However, various studies comparing the characteristics of schizophrenics, bipolars, and writers have concluded that schizophrenics do not share a common thought process with writers (2). In comparison, a study conducted at the University of Iowa declared that while both bipolar patients and writers tended to "sort in large groups... arbitrarily change starting points, or use vague distantly related concepts as categorizing principles" (p 107), the two differed in their abilities to control their thoughts (2). Where the exactly this line of control is located – or indeed if there is a line at all – is the debate in question.

Bipolar disorder, also called manic depression, is a complex and often cruel illness that takes sufferers on a rollercoaster ride of emotional highs and deep depressions. During the mania period, either euphoria or irritability manifest themselves, and sometimes a combination of the two, called "mixed mania"(3). A person in a manic phase can also exhibit symptoms known to physicians as the DIGFAST symptoms: distractibility is heightened; insomnia is present due to increased energy; grandiosity occurs in delusions of godliness or omnipotence; flight of ideas speeds up thought processes; activity is greatly increased; and thoughtlessness results in sexual promiscuity and/or shopping sprees (3).

The other half of bipolar disorder is that which accounts for the great number of suicides among the ranks of bipolar patients: depression (3). Roughly 20% of bipolars committed suicide before effective treatments for the ailment became available (2). Depression is characterized by such symptoms as feelings of exhaustion, sleeping either much more or much less than usual, lowered self-worth, lowered enthusiasm for life, and contemplation of suicide (3). These depressions can last as long as six months to a year. They are frustrating and frightening to deal with, for unlike other forms of depression there is often no cause for the reversal in mood (3). Patients can cycle rapidly through depressive and manic phases, from four times a year to as often as three or four times a day (3).

Manic depression can also be associated with such behavioral problems such as attention deficit disorder (3). Other problems that can appear as a result of the disease are addiction to drugs and alcohol as an attempt to "self-medicate," using depressants like alcohol to slow down the manic thought process or using stimulants such as cocaine to attempt to prolong the sense of euphoria also associated with a manic phase (2). Most frightening of all, the disease has been found to be genetic; if one identical twin is bipolar, the other is 80% likely to suffer from it, whether the two are raised together or apart (4). While some people become violent while they are manic, these are usually patients with a very severe form of bipolar disorder (4). Most artists and writers diagnosed with bipolar disorder have a milder form of the disease, sometimes called hypomania (4). Patients with hypomania are subject to the same symptoms as mania except at a much lower intensity; combined with mild depression, these two result in a condition called cyclothymia, itself a milder form of the fully formed manic-depression that often follows it later in the patient’s life (2).

Artists and writers are often subject to these fluctuations in mood, accompanied by sudden periods of productivity. Nancy C. Andreason, a psychiatrist at the University of Iowa, conducted a study that began in the 1970’s to discover the link between bipolar disorder and writers (4). For the next 15 years she collected data on a group of 30 writers; as of the time of publication of the article, 43% of the writers had been diagnosed with manic depression, as opposed to 10% of the control group (4). More unsettling still, two of the 30 writers in the sample group had committed suicide during the time of the study (4). A similar study found that 33% of artists and writers said that they experienced acute mood swings; this subgroup was made up mainly of poets and novelists (4).

Writers have reported these rapid changes in mood in their own works. As Robert Burns wrote, "Day follows night, and night comes after day, only to curse him with life which gives him no pleasure" (2). William Cowper, a poet who in the 1700’s was thrown into an asylum due to the severity of his illness, describes his depression as if "a thick fog envelops every thing, and at the same time it freezes intensely" (2). Equally compelling are the descriptions of the mania that is twin to this deep depression, the irrational urges and speeding thoughts that wreak havoc on both mind and body of sufferers such as Theodore Roethke: "Suddenly I knew how to enter into the life of everything around me... All of a sudden I knew what it felt like to be a lion. I went into the diner and said to the counter-man, "Bring me a steak. Don’t cook it. Just bring it." So he brought me this raw steak and I started eating it" (2). Yet those who suffered this swiftly flowing madness could describe their experiences so beautifully, as John Ruskin did: "I saw the stars rushing at each other...Nothing was more notable to me through the illness than the nerves... and their power of making colour and sound harmonious as well as intense" (2).

There are lists upon lists of those artists and writers who experienced the glorious highs and lethargic lows of bipolar illness. Virginia Woolf, John Berryman, and Robert Lowell are just a few on a long list of well-known writers (5); Tchaikovsky, van Gogh, and Pollock add composers and painters to the list of bipolar sufferers (6). This extensive documentation of writers’ own experiences with mood fluctuation is highly convincing of the link between bipolar illness and a creative temperament. Combine those writings with the overwhelming results of studies that find a far greater incidence of manic depression among artists and writers than among the general population, and the link is as well-established as a scientific truth can ever be.

This conclusion, however, leaves us with a few very pressing questions. These days, the automatic response to a diagnosis of manic-depression is to medicate the patient (3). While doubtless this creates a calmer life for both the patient and those around him or her, it is often doubtful whether the patient leads a happier life while on medication. As is described by a bipolar teenage girl on lithium: "How can I tell them I LIKE being high? ...I feel dull. I feel robbed of my creativity. I feel robbed of who I am, or rather who I was" (7). From a slightly different perspective, is society better off with these artists and writers medicated? Psychiatist Joseph J. Schildkraut of Harvard Medical School studied the lives of 15 artists in the mid-1900’s; at least four had committed suicide (8). Even with these casualties, Schildkraut maintains, "Yet depression in the artist may be of adaptive value to society at large" (8). How would the literary world have changed without the mad genius of Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, F. Scott Fitzgerald? Is it fair to allow a writer or artist to sacrifice their emotional stability or even their lives for the creation of new art? Where do we draw these lines between the public and the private good?

References


1) Kaysen, Susanna. Girl, Interrupted. Vintage Books: New York, 1993.

2) Jamison, Kay Redfield. Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament. The Free Press: New York, 1993.

3)Medscape article, facts on bipolar disorder

4)An article on the Pendulum website, about the possible links between bipolar disorder and creative personalities

5)A website to support those with bipolar illness, with a list of famous manic-depressives

6)The Serendip webpage, an article entitled "Creativity and Psychopathology"

7)A website to support those with bipolar disorder, with an essay by a teenage girl about her bipolar illness

8)An article posted from the Science News, about the relationship between creativity and bipolar illness

 

 

Comments made prior to 2007

Hello.
I enjoyed the column on bi-polar as it was far more extensive in reference to my own interests. It ended, stating the expression of I believe a sixteen year old girl, who felt robbed of her creativity. I too felt this.. I had lost my ability to create completely, after going on Litium/Eskalith. However, recently, after going through an extreme depression lasting from November until June, I found a new doctor. I keep trying till i find one who works WITH ME not THE Pharmecutical Companies. I am taking currently in addition to my lithium, Lamictal. When adjusted, very slowly and with patient involvement telling the doctor how they feel prior to increasing dosage as suggested by the pharm. reps. which damn near killed me, I found the right dose (again.. myself, then new doctor). If tense, something can be added, that isn't addictive .. etc. but I found that after two days.. TWO days, of being on the lamictal at only .25 mg. I began my third novel..five years in the making.!
I am still writing and nearing completion within year. I am completely functioning, and have only had a few issues, as it has been seven years since I felt like this.. prior to getting sick.. It has been like a dream come true. Do I like taking Meds? NO!!! Do I trust the government or Pharm Companies?? No! BUTTT.. I could not go on suffering through depressions that would have eventually Completely ended my ability to create.................as well as to breathe..let alone really live, and completely the way I always used to feel, and LOVE.. without major Emotion breakdowns and traumas. Please let your readers know, not to give up. Until Spiritually we find a way, OR perhaps Tom Cruise could take a few of us on, and bring us to Scientology Ville, for a month o fun and fixin. or whatever. Prove it, and I'll get off my meds.

till then. thank you and God Bless ... Melissa Marie Morgan, 16 July 2005

 

 

That is a hideous proposition - that we should weight the greater good of the artist's potential creativity against their health and also allow them to think that what they experienced as manic was a better state of life. Why not let all heroin addicts remain as such so that they can still feel good and perhaps create better? That is Hitlerian in it's immaturity and cruelty ... Elana Carello-Rabiner, 30 September 2007

Comments

Redcar's picture

Here to feel one with my brethren

My memory is affected and I am finding it difficult to study
But I did well for 15 years.
Have to rise in my career after every episode and this time too I will
I used to paint so well but now there is no desire

Jamie Clayton's picture

Just a few of my own words

I am a 40yr old mother I live in Trussville, Al , and I am Bipolar (my son was 5) I am LD, dyslexic,ADD , yes I agree with all my groups and experience not personally that B.P. Are difficult to maintain a relationship and sometimes it's not oh poor Frank... It's just Frank Go.. We have high risk of taken our lives, Drugs, sex, and money ruins.. but we also can be they most understanding, judgmental friend you have yes no judge and judge because (it is what I have been hospitalized twice.oh my husband was addicted to pills and killed In a car wreak when my son was 5. I keep my crap together he'll no, but my issue I stay up 4nights straight. Etc.. So IM WRITING BOOK ;)

Serendip Visitor's picture

i'm a musician with bi

i'm a musician with bi polarity. for all those people out there saying it's wrong to let these people be who they are and be creative, even if it means they may die from it, i think you'll find most bi polar people have a love hate relationship with the disorder. as much as i wish it could go away sometimes, i think if it went away totally it would be worse. i know i've heard many say their creativity is lost or their drive gets lost and they in turn don't create as much or at all. i think the key thing is finding it early and learning how to work with it than fight it. personally i think my perfectionist way of being and slight OCD tendencies, may spring from bi polarity. i have a drive to be the best at what i do or at least one of the best. i don't like failing, if something interests me need to do it well and know as much as i can about it. i also like to organize things according to logical rules. however i find most people cannot pick up on these reasons, i usually have to explain it. however they usually agree with me, so i don't know if that's anything to do with OCD or bi polarity or if i'm just right :P it can be a bit much, but i wouldn't want to lose that. it's too much of who i am now to picture my life without it.

also, anyone here TELLING someone what they should do is wrong period. medication is not always the answer and in most cases i'd argue not needed. you have to want to control it. i've found through better diet, exercise, being a musician, etc... have all helped me control it. even just being aware there is a problem can help. you can't change if you don't know you aren't "normal". if you think that's how everyone is, then you think you are fine. once i realized i was not fine, i could begin to track my moods. i began to see patterns, saw what were triggers to me, found things to calm me down, breathing exercises or light meditation, yoga helps too. i do smoke marijuana to help me sleep as i'm also an insomniac, but not i'm not. it also takes the edge of my moods and kinda levels me out while at the same time bringing focus to my creative side. i've heard some bi polar people get worse with marijuana, but i also know it helps a lot too. i think those with a milder form of bi polarity tend to be better with it and those with more severe cases not so much.

i'm no doctor and by no means telling people they SHOULD use it, i just know it helps me and it helps others. this didn't mean to turn into a post about drugs, but the fact that such a useful, relatively harmless plant, that helps so many people with so many things is illegal. i also tried magic mushrooms once and it totally changed my whole perspective on life and myself. i had a really bad trip at first, had a complete break down. i felt like i needed it though. i faced my demons, i felt like i experienced death and came back and saw the world for what it really is, what people really are, and who i really am. it turned into a very good trip in the end. i don't fear death anymore and the suicidal thoughts have dropped a lot. my depression has also calmed down since then. i feel much more at peace now than before i did them. i've read more and more that others feel the same way after a trip.

again, i know it's not for everyone, the point i'm trying to make is that there is no one answer to this problem. everyone is different, therefor treatment cannot all be the same. we like to think that way in our modern world, one cure fits all, one system, one form of education, it's ALL backwards. we need to focus more on educating people and finding ways to detect this earlier in people. depression is growing, and i think it's because i lot of people feel trapped in our way of living. i think bi polarity is the intense frustration with the world and yourself and who others think you should be and the desire to create something outside of it all in hopes to make sense of it all, and/or to express how you feel about everything. but with bi polarity, it's harder i think to make others understand which is maybe why they turn to artistic expression. maybe bi polar people have access to more abstract thinking than most? maybe they have to because regular thinking doesn't do you justice when expressing these feelings. i guess art is a way of trying to make your feelings about the world become a real part of reality in some way, and maybe just get a little closer to changing the world. you literally are if you think about it. if i make a piece of art that has never been done, i have now changed the world in that that piece didn't exist before. but now i created it and it is a part of the universe. it's a way of playing god. you take matter, and change it's form to how you see fit.

anyway, i could talk about this for days but obviously cannot :P some of you may not agree with my self medication, but i can only hope you understand why.

Liz's picture

Dude. Seriously.

I'm a bipolar from a long line on both sides of my family. My father committed suicide about three years ago from the illness. But do I believe that all bipolars should be weighed down with pharmaceuticals? Of course not. Of course, it does hurt the people around us when we suffer from our manias and our depressions, but death and insanity are a part of life. Without extreme personalities like this, society becomes a shrink-wrapped, surreal world.

There may be people who feel they are better off on medications, and I salute them.

But personally, I felt more like killing myself on medication than I did even in my deepest depression. To quote some emo song that was published five-some years ago, "I'd rather feel pain than nothing at all." Without the ups and downs of my illness, life feels like the highway ribbon sprawl of suburbia, dirty and featureless and bordered by a wild that I can neither see nor hear but I can feel.

As a writer, my life would be useless without my illness. My depressions can indeed last months, even years, but on my manias I have finished novels and learned languages. Someday, I may succumb to the low like so many before me, but until then, I can do my best to carry on the manic depressive unstable novelist legacy. We die when it's our time, and sometimes we're the only ones who can hear our own call.

Brandon Mitchell's picture

Let me say first, that i feel

Let me say first, that i feel i am bipolar(medically).
I feel like the highs and lows is what makes for our creativity.
In saying that, medication i feel is putting your mind in handcuffs so to speak.

Serendip Visitor Kelley Van Wagoner's picture

My Bipolar

I have being treated for bipolar since September of 2012 and counseling since July 2012 I take Topramax which seems to help. I had a hysterectomy November 3, 2011 which adds to my uncontrolled moods. I take medication for that. However; I recognize these fight of ideas that are so real that I would want to accomplish in my lifetime, but I am finding that it is just too impossible for me to do that. I am not God, I have no supernatural power to make my creative flight of ideas come to life, but I am sure at some point some of my ideas can happen.
I recently relapsed on Vicdin and on something that I never take called Peracet. I live a Christian lifestyle very intelligent in specific areas of life, yet my mind wants to go, go, go all the time and my body hurts all the time and with no motivation. I pray for Jesus to help me, but the healing hasn't come. Now I pray that he would just come back to the earth and take me, but that won't happen yet, cause he's not ready for me, and the churches aren't perfected yet and everyone hasn't had a chance to hear the Gospel. I feel like I have to do everything. Because I know he is real. But I am getting so wore out that I need sleep, but I can't sleep because of all the demonic activity going on around me where I go to preach the word of God. So what am I supposed to do, people think I am fruit loop blame the medication I am on and don't look at the illness. I recognize all my signs, my highs and my lows. But no one else seems to get it. Where do I go from here?

Joseph Kinzel's picture

Biploar

You sound like a true Christian to me. I to believe in the faith. Evangelism with bipolar is something I am learning from you.
Before becoming diagnosed with bipolar disorder I was a scripture student at an evangelism school....kind of interesting.
I am certified in ministry. I recommend that we both need to look at the gift of faith with bipolar...do we preach, and share with random people? We might be smarter than some here in this little study. I am taking Lamictal. It seems to help keep any
bad spirits away. Thank you Jesus for strength.

Gabbar Singh's picture

bipolar is not your toy

All you unmedicated bipolar folks out there are a burden and a hazard for all those around you. When you fail to respond to the emotional and physical needs of your family, or decide that your responsibility at work is an artificial and foreign constraint that you must cast off because it's interfering with your real purpose, you are leaving a trail of destruction for other folks to clean up. PLEASE TAKE YOUR MEDS!!

Richard  E Arndt 's picture

i suffer Bi polar and im a Guitarest

Now after the meds i dont even what to look at my guitars. they have robed me of what i loved. The Lost feeling for what i use to love to do is Gone. Im i cured? my cure is my new Hell.

Serendip Visitor's picture

I have bipolar and i seem to

I have bipolar and i seem to have lost my creativity, what can I do about this ? I do not take any medication

Armando's picture

lost creativity

before being medicated and now medicated when ever I would hit the wall, I work out. I don't know what it is about running and lifting but it clears my mind and helps me get refocused. some times its a couple days some times its weeks but it always works. also I walk away from what I'm doing when I can just put it away work on something else. being i am a fulltime artist sometimes you just push through it that really sucks but I get paid to meet deadlines.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Mental Disorders

Individuality should be something one strives for, not classified as a mental disorder. It has been proven throughout history that collective socialism is dangerous for society. People in large groups often tend to gravitate towards negative thoughts and tend to push for perverse ideas as they become the whole of one. In other words they tend to think alike. For instance, a friend sees a blue sports car and thinks it's just the most awesome vehicle she has ever seen, she reports this to her "friends" and quite a few like it too. Pretty soon said sports cars profits rise from sales based on opinion.

So no, never think for yourself, of course you need government, and big business and the healthcare industry to do that for you. Why? Because it benefits their pocketbooks. Duh! Hitler got started the same way.

We perpetually as human beings, tend to repeat history, over and over and over again. No one noticed that Hilter wasn't blond, it was completely missed by the majority of society, yet he was supposedly promoting blond hair and blue eyes? He had neither folks! How easily the masses are deceived. No critical, individual thinking skills are expected from the masses. That would be a mental disorder. There was heavy sarcasm dripping off of that last sentence.

Another example of "collective" thinking is found in the DSM in which it had classified homosexuality as a mental disorder, of course their accusations of psychosis changed drastically when the gay rights activists started making an issue of it.

Once again you cannot be an individual unless a majority group tells you so.
Why do you think you are spammed every day on your television sets with tons of commercials? Have you ever
counted how many commercials there are during one show? Now get off your butts and go buy the things that big pharma and the industrialists tell you to. Getting the picture yet? Step out of the idiocy and realize that being and individual does not make you ill.

Individuality vs. Herd Conformity (Erich Fromm), which will you choose?

Serendip Visitor's picture

My story

Bipolar all my life until last year. Im 31 yrs old. I discovered I'm allergic to gluten. I went off it, I,m normal now. No meds for 1 year and no racing mind (unless I eat gluten or wheat products) it would be wise to check out food allergies if u have a prob. I too was an incredible artist and writer and still am. The trade off is fine for me most of the time. Less creative n manic for a more calm n reasonable existence. It is odd feeling well after only knowing what sick is like for so many years. Its as if i have to retrain myself on how i feel about everything because i was so used to having intense multiple, and varying ideas on every issue.Please check out food allergies if ur sick n meds are a mess for u. I was so Sick before last year I had no choice but to look into everything under the sun to get healed. Please don't be offended anyone, I know many people are suffering and do not have any choice but to take meds. Please get back at me if u try the allergy free thing_gluten in particular, I've heard of others with mental health probes that got betterafter eliminating it too.

Serendip Visitor's picture

your story

I am super happy for you and I was glad to see that some people can actually get off medicine. More so that you are able to function and be happy. Thank you for sharing your story. I have heard that taking KEFIR also helps a great deal.

Paul's picture

A poem about manic depressive artists.

What Hidden Thoughts

There was a time when we used to hide from ourselves under glaciers of our frozen creativity.
We used to be so full: artists and I.
We would express and express,
until our satisfied talent granted us rest.
We became depression longing for our old selves as we turned cold as ice from hearts of fire.
Our struggles scraped and molded our new selves for years to come.

We now seek shelter in the shade of mountainous bags under our eyes,
advertising obsession.
It's beautiful how we evoke and project love when it once seemed such a thing was not possible,
that no matter what our distraught souls would deny us.

Many thoughts seem to be predestined.
Try and try as we do for that something of a cognitive caliber,
yet need not since it's our wonder that causes those thoughts only to be noticed.

We once slept well,
now we sleep in metaphors of night under our eyes,
as the only place to keep safe from our sun shining prowess.
We are rendered restless beyond calm.
We glisten with the time of dead thoughts,
deprived of a dream's depth of breath,
bleeding into a sea of whirlpools: our self destruction revolves with every devolving wave,
reflecting the sun's brilliance as the water spirals,
all as our ironic beauty of decay swallowed by the yawns of light years.
We travel through black holes to sleep's satire of consciousness,
and back with dripping eyes of faces worn from a jaw breaking yawn's lust for dreams.
We are poured from gravity’s hands on earth and into the sea.
Only again to fall on the pages of our distant selves,
our cryptic thoughts,
and our restless limbs that find them.

Our hands tremor with what we have not yet done.
At our worst we create our best,
a cliche that's understood when we overcome preconceptions cast over our eyes,
we become merit of the cliche,
as it forms into our own touche.
What is a life if never tested?
What is a person without the predator's eyes of manic survival,
never eluding judgment from a universe of accidents?
What is anything without nothing waiting for it,
the tiger's teeth,
the bird's grace,
and the virtuous face of a prodigious painter,
striving to capture a woman in love.

Art envelops us to feed it's eternity.
We are lost in our paintings and our words,
and our wonder is lost in the night sky.
The universe captures our eyes,
we see pupils of planets as it creates our demise.

What wasn't was before what was,
and we will forever blaze eyes glimmering of every star that is.

Dana Butler's picture

im a huge fan of this poem!

This poem really touched me as an artist and struggling with hypomania. You did a fantastic job and inspires me to keep producing work.

S.Levi's picture

What Hidden Thoughts

Beautiful poem. As an artist who is bi-polar "blessed", the words spoke for me, as my spirit and soul are unable to do at the moment. Thank you. Sandra

EB13's picture

One size does not fit all

It is precisely this type of militant medication-only approach which causes many to not seek help at all or stay in denial about their disorder. Admittedly, they can help many people, but everyone is different, so the “this worked for me or my friend so everyone should do likewise” kind of mentality, however well-meaning can have devastating results. It is why I usually just avoid these types of bulletins and will probably not reveal my condition to anyone other than my most trusted, ever. Why other non-medicated therapies (cognitive, behavioral, meditation, creativity, etc…) are given a back seat are beyond me, especially when medication can lose effectiveness over a long period for some people. It's like giving someone a cane to walk with and then kicking it out from under them. Depending on the seriousness of the injury, I think I would rather learn to walk with a limp if that were possible, figuratively speaking.

Ero_CanIhelp's picture

Spiritual Awakening realization I'm bipolar and a natural artist

I’m a manic depressive bipolar beam of light Don’t try to stop me because I’m more powerful than any negative force. Do not fear what you can not understand for I have embraced love and beauty, I am the solution to the problems of humanity. Dysfunctional in your society but the solution no less lies in my heart and mind. I have surrendered to myself and my mind, to the infinity of my thoughts and ability to create. Material constraints of and in your world have mostly vanished in my mind, and I feel peace overwhelming peace and oneness. I am here now in bliss… I am the future… The path lies in my heart and mind…. Although to you I seem crazy, I’m well aware that it is the other way around, and I need to show you the way. I’ve tried my whole life to adapt to your world but now it’s clear that It’s the majority that needs to adapt to mine. I’m under no false impressions that this will happen immediately but the world needs people to lead by example, and I know I can do this for you. Let me help you, please let me help you. Please believe me do not be afraid of the light, of the letting go of everything you know to be reasonable, because it’s the only way. I don’t expect you to understand and I can’t explain I may be able to show you my light and tell you haw I arrived here but I cannot open the door it will take much time for you to process and a series of events to unfold. I believe a big part of opening the door is biologically based which means it’s possible that some people won’t be capable of following and achieving this enlightenment no matter what the circumstance.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Exactly

You described exactly what I experienced while being "manic". Everyone keeps trying to convince me that my "manic" experience was negative and that I went crazy. It was a gift from God. My consciousness was expanded. I was talking a lot because what I had to say was important. The messages I was receiving were important. I am a writer and during that time, my writing was more clear and concise than it has ever been. I really believe that I was simply a messanger taking dictation...but aren't all writers? Now I am stuck in this psychiatric world where I am being told that I have a chronic illness that requires medication. Bullshit. The psychiatric world hasn't the right definition of Bipolar. Maybe they would learn a thing or two if they took the time to listen to a person that is experiencing a "manic" state before they rush to shun and medicate. I think the term, "Spiritual Emergency" better defines my experience and would you believe my psychiatrist and therapist have never heard of it? Of course they haven't...psychiatry needs a huge overhaul of modernization.

Paul's picture

That type of god complex shit

That type of god complex shit really makes me (a mild possibly moderate manic depressive) want to be medicated.

Nicole's picture

Hi

e-mail me. I really want to talk to you.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Hi mate im in endless

Hi mate im in endless position.Ive got "i think or supose im sure" bipolar disorder because of my bad communications skills.My fuckin mind is going crazy because every day im tryin to be normal but my mind is told me something different.Im working a normal job like electrician for two companies,also i repair computers at customers homes,im doin repairing software/hardware iphones which i buy/sell via ebay.Also last year ive got the idea to repair my car engine,which i make for about 1 month and the result-fully repaired with all thinny settings-changing valves and all things .Before that i was dummy about cars.That i mean-i learn fuckin fast everything which is goin to mania.My hobby is electronics which means everything what are you thinking about and that knowings makes my mind to think differently because the ideas comes i dont know from where.Im talking about innovation ideas,for something which is not present for that present time.Im talking about schemes which i can do by myself.Im tryin some inventor companies but they want too much money for realizate my ideas.Fuuck im scary to make a risk.Pls give me some advice,im surely will analyze what is in your words.Thx
Ps:Sorry about my english,i know,its not very good.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Looking forward to be medicated

I am about to get a diagnostic. I am hoping that Bipolar will be it so I can finally put a name on years of suffering and get the adequate medication. However, I do understand one's choice to go through life without the "help" of pharmacopeia. In my case, being a single mom, I am looking forward to being as normal as I can be.
Be safe!

Serendip Visitor's picture

diagnosis

It was a relief to me when I read Kay Redfield Jamison's book Unqiet Minds. It was like looking into the mirror. Then I found a psych and he confirmed it. I had Bipolar Disorder. For me there is a significant distinction between saying "I am Bipolar" and saying "I have Bipolar Disorder." It is and always has been a part of me but it does not define me. Upon getting the official diagnosis however, I did feel relieved. There was a sense of "I'm not crazy, I just have this disorder." Also when I was first on meds, I had this miraculous feeling of "So this is what it feels like to normal!"

I still struggle with the medication issue and also with self medicating. I prefer to use yoga, acupuncture and herbs to deal with my disorder but sometimes meds are necessary. For me the disorder has a distinct seasonal quality to it. Every autumn I swear I will not let depression enter in but like clockwork it arrives as the days become shorter. The most troublesome aspect to me is my nearly lifelong struggle with insomnia. If I don't take some sort of substance, I am up for days at time, tired but unable to sleep. Despite my seeming weakness of being what some might consider overly emotional, dealing with insomnia takes great strength and for me sometimes practically an Elephant tranquilizer. I've had to deal with this issue since I was literally four years old. When I was younger, I just had the ability to go on very little sleep. I don't think it was healthy even then but I could do it. As I've gotten older it's more difficult. I call it "tired and wired." Being tired and being sleepy are two entirely different things for me. I had to be talked into going on sleep meds but the doctor finally convinced me it's better for sleep with drugs than not to sleep and I believe he was correct. The lack of sleep is very destabilizing, and more so for those of us who are especially sensitive people to begin with.

I wish those of you who have Bipolar Disorder wellness and wish those of you don't, understanding.

Blessings...

BrokenH's picture

This may read as harsh but...

To me personally being medicated did not help. I tried everything from Lithium to Dapakote (The later which is a hot potato for health related law suits)and they all made me feel dead.

The thing is with these medications is most of them effect physical well being in a negative way. If you're gaining or losing a lot of weight, have facial spasms frequently,and need lab work done constantly chances are you're committing health suicide for the trade off of what society terms as a more normal & tranquil mind.

What good is being at mental peace if you are morbidly obese or have a failing liver? Those conditions will make you just as depressed if not more so in the long run.

Another problem is be they legal or not drugs are a temporary fix. Sure you're "all good" on them but can you survive a period of time without them? Why is it you have to take higher & higher dosages to get the same effect? Do any of these "solutions" improve or stabilize your overall fitness? Chances are "no" they do not.

Perhaps in time pharmaceuticals will resolve those nasty 1,001 side effects commercials are forced by law to list off but until then I will fight my own demons with sheer will power.

I'm bi-polar but this does not mean I cannot discern right from wrong or that I am inept at problem solving. While it may hinder me in some ways my disorder does not mean I'm completely powerless & need "magic pills" to function.

If "meds" work for some of you great, more power to you! However do not assume they are the end all be all answer for everyone else.

Serendip Visitor Lynne Forsyth's picture

Bipolar and PROUD!

Thank you for this page, I too found it by accident whilst researching for my dissertation. I was diagnosed with chronic depression for many years and when I eventually had a breakdown was properly diagnosed. i was sent to Art Therapy and counselling etc and now I am in my third year doing a Fine Art Honours degree here in Liverpool. Lithium is awful, I feel dead when I am on the right dose ( I take less to function creatively) my ankles swell up, I get breathless etc and they want to increase my blood levels by almost killing me! No, sorry! You are not on! I am able to write, create project work etc and now I am writing about the incidence of artistic creativity in bipolar people..I know that artists are twice as likely to be bipolar but lecturers are telling me for tyhe past few years it is not correct so I am out to try and proove my point! The artists I am studying show the same traits as I have, collecting, grand schemes when high etc. there simply must be some correlation as when I take the full dose of Lithium...I lose every good bit of my inner self. People always seem to KNOW bipolar better than we do ouselves...rubbish! try living with it before commenting and give us a break please....I love the fact we can chat here, what a great and inciteful page! Thanks to everyone for sharing, peace and creativity folks, love Lynne xx

Serendip Visitor's picture

Medicated Bipolar

I have been on and off meds my whole life. Finally, I thought,I had found the right mix... Zoloft & seroquel. Though my life is more manageable and I feel that I am in control of my mood disorder, mostly, I have totally and completely lost my creativity. I do my best work (oil painting and poetry) when I am on the verge of suicide. Lately I have been having, what i call, Breakthroughs of depression. not as low as usual, but getting there. I miss the mania, but of course only the shitty feeling of loneliness and desperation, that feeling of being locked in a cell where its too dark to find the keys to get out, come. I hate that I have lost so much of my originality and my free spirited self. But i know i cant get off my meds...things only get worse when that happens. I'm having a very difficult time feeling that my medicated life is real. I feel as though I am living in some other world where no one knows who I am, truly am. Not many people who are in good mental health can understand it and feeling judged is so very harsh. I'm being robbed of my true self. I guess I have to weigh the good and bad, and take the lesser of two evils. Good luck to everyone.

Serendip Visitor's picture

interesting

iv only recently discovered that i have bi-polar after 8 years of battling with it,i went round the wrekin just to find this out,i agree with most of the above,when in hypo we can be so much more than usual,but i think the key is where to put the energy an where does it come from?if we knew this then we could keep it going.its funny iv had the manic an depressive sides severly to the point of a mental home for a month followed by 4-5months of severe depression but after that an all the signs they had..drug induced pyhcosis is what they said.obveously the drugs play a part in it but iv diagnosed myself now because of the lack of help from whom they call therselves intelligent?i call them closed minded book readers personally with not a clue or experience in none of it,how could a normal person be of help to any of us? iv not been to them to get diagnosed simply because i dont need to im happy with my decision an i know im right.but to start this drug life,i really dont think its for me,iv read endless diaries and not one seems to be happy with what they are receiving.i have now been in hypo mode for close on two months an in myself iv never felt better mentally,but its seems my body is the problem at the moment and of course im making a few poor judgements when it gets too much,but im holding down my job just about and im in a good frame of creative mind,iv recently learned that i love peotry an im quite good,so is this where i should put the energy? or is there something more important than poetry? i believe there is when i look at the world around me,im not talking about saving the world iv already tryed that one,im thinking along the lines of helping people.im now a care assistant for the elderly im a young lad 22 and iv shocked my family and friends by doing this thanks to this so called disease? and although iv suffered with the depression iv had alot of good times throughout my life.im going on now but the main point of this is,is this really a bad thing?i think if you can take control of it your a weapon and with religion on your side you can only do good things for the world,does anyone share this point of view? leigh

Nicole's picture

hi

i do agree, when you are educated about the disease and know what to expect you can help yourself.

Sheri's picture

Huh... sounds just like...

Me and many other creative Bipolar people I know. Very well written! Thanks for the insight. I created my blog Split in Two - A Bipolar Mind (http://manicbipolardepression.wordpress.com/) specifically because the act of writing alone was what kept me alive during the depressive episodes and inspired during the manic ones.

The balance is better though... and my blog reflects that. Thank you again!

Cheers,

Sheri

Paul Grobstein's picture

The bipolar mind and creativity: connecting conversations II

Very rich conversation.  Many thanks to all for making thoughts available here.  Looking forward to more.  For related thoughts, see  Bipolar Disorder and the Creative Genius, and The Art Instinct: Evolving Creativity, and conversations associated with each.
Anonymous's picture

Thank you!

I stumbled across this site, passing into a depressed state, if it was manic I obviously would have missed it!
I need time to intellectually munch-over this, there are very obvious similarities to my life. What really drew me is the possible explanation I could offer those close to me.
But how do you explain what is happening to you, if often you do not understand it yourself?
I was diagnosed with manic-depression 14 years ago, this being blamed on post-traumatic stress. Since then the diagnosis have been upgraded to BP, and my meds changed. Now I am on Seroquell 200mg, at night. This makes me sleep well, but it does feel there are "gaps". I am incredibly violent when manic, totally creative when not, and lethargic when down.
And still I'm a hell of a likeable person?
Don't know....
Hein

Chris's picture

Individuality

The question is not: "Is it fair to allow a writer or artist to sacrifice their emotional stability or even their lives for the creation of new art?

The true question is: Is it fair to believe that a cookie cutter, one size fits all approach to human beings is realistic or acceptable. Is it fair to allow society to determine what is in my best interest if I pose no threat to anyone but myself. The question is not where do we draw the line between the public and the private good, but where do we draw the line between the public and private interest. I will fight to the death to preserve my right to choose my own heaven or hell. I have tried medication and it dulled my creativity to the point that I had no desire to live. I refuse to be medicated. I will live and die and create my art on my own terms and leave this world, be it by my own hand or not, on my own terms as well. I will not allow society to believe it can allow me to, or prevent me from doing a single thing in my life. I decide what happens in my life, society does not.

As for Elana, she would do well to read one of the cited source materials for this short article, a book called Touched With Fire, by Kay Redfield Jamison. Elana might find that her Hitlerian reference is more in line with her own views than those of the author here. Hitler's view of the mentally ill was the same as his view of Jewish society and their fate under his tyranny was the same.

I would also suggest that Elana read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Individuality is not a privilege your society grants me. It is my right as a human being to live life on my own terms, including whether I choose to be dulled by pharmaceutical drugs or not, regardless of the end result. Unless I pose a direct threat to society, it has no right to make judgments on, or decisions for me. Once you have lost your individuality, life itself is merely a empty and meaningless formality. I'd rather suffer depression and eventual death than lose myself in a muddled fog of pharmacopoeia.

Devan 's picture

If you are an artist, Chris,

If you are an artist, Chris, and painting or drawing without meds or remember the results of working without meds, I'd really like to talk to you. I'm an art historian working on a group of bipolar artists, ca. 1790-1850, and, aside from what one might expect with regard to color and speed of brushstroke, I find other patterns. Anyone who might help, please contact me. I'd be very grateful.

Nicole's picture

hi

i'd like to talk.

Chris's picture

Mania and creativity study

I have recently lost all denial concerning my mood disorder. I am a painter and almost all of my work, both artistic and the damn dishes as well has been done in a self induced or otherwise state of mania. Now after a textbook life of ups downs and eccentric behavior I have fought doing the meds thing for all of the standard reasons. Two months ago I was riding the same old I would rather burn out than fade away line, and for some that may be the way. Now my life has been so ravaged by this disorder and the past few months of depression that I am back on the meds. That life held no joy, no real long lasting joy. Even the highs are worthless to me now for I know I can not trust my oh so convinced mind. I also fear where that hypo-mania might lead, having experienced a couple of full blown manic episodes. So do I give up the art? Maybe. Do I join the masses of ordinary folks? Maybe, but it beats dying penniless and with no meaningful relationships in my life. That is just about as ordinary and my art just is not that great and or marketable for me to sacrifice my life for. If I change my mind I can always go off the meds and ride that roller coaster again at any time. So if you are still doing research I would love to.

Armando's picture

Bi Polar Artist

didn't know if you are still looking. I am a medicated Bi polar artist I have only been on the meds for a couple years. I am starting to be well known, I was an endorsed artist for the army, I have five habitat stamps in the state of nebraska and have won many major bike shows with bikes I have painted. I am a classically rained artist speciallizing in acrylics and in the last couple years switched to airbrushing. if i can help at all i would like to. my disorder has been a huge issue in my life and being in a place where it is managable and can still create is very important to me. if I can help others I would love to. I am in Visalia ca.
armando villarreal

Anonymous's picture

Bipolar Artist Without Medication

Thanks, Armando, for replying. I'm interested in how you might work without medication because I'm writing about 18th century bipolar artists (not on any drugs). In addition to what one might expect -- wilder brushstrokes and brighter color when approaching mania and the reverse with depression -- I've found that these artists, who could draw with anatomical accuracy, might suddenly draw a limb out of proportion. That is, they intended to copy something accurately but seem to have lost a sense of the whole, how one part relates to another. Have you ever had this experience? Also an artist might belabor something such as with a super-focus on one ear, in a portrait, and then leave another section unfinished. If there is any insight you can provide, I'd be grateful to hear it. Many thanks.

armando's picture

bi polar artist

sorry I just stumbled back across this. I actually quit taking my mediactaion not so long ago. I relate with the ear comment my paintings have always been that way I will spend days on parts of it and do just good enough on the rest to finish the painting its kinda odd and I ve always hated that about myself but thats the way it is. anyways here is my email if you would ever like to ask me more and you can look at some of my work at www.myspace.com/mondsterairbrushing or look me up on facebook armando villarreal visalia ca

Serendip Visitor's picture

Interesting, because I have

Interesting, because I have found conversely to you that I find so many more connections when I am a bit manic. I have more a sense of the whole...or at least feel that I do. I certainly leave projects unfinished though. That's the rub. You have the creativity but the disorder can rob you of your ability to achieve completion.

Jazmyne's picture

Non Medicated Artist

Actually, I have found that in my more euphoric states I tend to draw with large sweeping lines and tend to take a less analytical approach to the subject. I draw portraits in charcoal and have a love for the feel of, releasing my demons almost, onto a blank page. When I'm in my more depressed moods but know I need to create something for school I tend to be more precise and very anal, I guess is the best way to describe it, about the proportions. Which sometimes angers me and I have to force myself to be more loose and truly feel out the strokes and just go with the flow of drawing. I'm not sure if you'll read this or if it will even be helpful at all. I am also a drinker, usually of wine and I've found that when I come home in a good mood and am feeling a bit creative things tend to flow out of me with a much more personal force, it's hard to describe these types of things. It's as if my true artist is drawing this masterpiece as opposed to the one that produces only because she has to. I've also found I have two recent examples of where I have felt extremely creative and just let it flow where I left one side of the face completely out of the picture, slowly fading into nothing or one completely hidden in shadow. Even if you don't read this you have given me some food for thought.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Sure...

Live your life bipolar, the hell with everything else. That's an immature choice made by a non medicated mentally ill patient.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Hear hear!

I concur completely and have fought pharma suit icals for years. After all, that was the understood direct cause of my Aunt's suicide, a wonderful woman whom I feel very akin to. So I suffer the lows and enjoy the highs. Actually, I have never named what I have until today, and don't like the label, nor will I announce it to the world. But it seems all these symptoms are mine and it makes me happy to feel myself amongst such an illustrious set of artists. Really, all my favourites. BP's unite!
xxI

Serendip Visitor's picture

meds and suicide

I had an incident where I was put on Effexor and within days I was suicidal and spent a bit of time in what I call "my all inclusive vacation" at a mental health facility. I'm very hesitant with the meds now, except the sleeping pills which I'm out of, which is why I'm online at 3:18 AM. I get a bit churlish at those who criticize the use of them. YOU go days without sleep and then get back to me about the topic.

Paul Grobstein's picture

Living life on one's own terms and medication

"I will live and die and create my art on my own terms and leave this world, be it by my own hand or not, on my own terms as well ... I decide what happens in my life, society does not."

Fair enough.  But why equate "pharmacopiea" with society, or loss of "individuality"? Kay Redfield Jamison, in her An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness, says of her own struggles and dealing with them

"I have often asked myself whether, given the choice, I would choose to have manic-depressive illness. If lithium were not available to me, or didn't work for me, the answer would be a simple no... and it would be an answer laced with terror. But lithium does work for me, and therefore I can afford to pose the question."

Jamison's answer is she would indeed choose to have manic-depressive illness, not despite but because of lithium.  The "pharmacopiea" doesn't cost Jamison her individuality.  It instead makes possible Jamison's continuing exploration and expression of that individuality (of which bipolor disorder is, for her, a significant and valued part).

There are good reasons to be skeptical of "society" with regard to the handling of "emotional stability" (cf. Exploring Depresson), but equally good reasons not to ignore things society makes possible that might be beneficial to one's self.  If the pharmacopiea offers choices in addition to "heaven or hell," why not entertain them as part of the ongoing process of discovering how best "to live life on my own terms"?  

 

Serendip Visitor's picture

Pharmacopiea

I struggle with this issue of "pharmacopiea" as well both within my own mind and with people in my life. I have some people in my life practically insisting I go back on meds and others who are totally against the idea. I am generally in favor of using whatever holistic methods I can to keep me healthy but I am not opposed to using the benefits of pharmacology if needed. It's always a fine balance and frankly a struggle. The meds all have side effects and I tire of those easily. I am not always sure which is worse, the disorder or the treatments available.

Hunter 's picture

Bipolar artist

I am an artist and hopefully will always be such, professionally and as a hobby. I too am offended by Elana's comment- I have seen several great friends lose their lives to heroin addiction and I will tell you for a fact that it is a different story all together, and the other person who was offended was right to add that bipolar is not a choice as is drug use. I have tried the traditional anti-psychotics and anti-depressants, as well as anti-anxiety medication, and there is no way I could ever make decent art on any of it. In fact, art is one of the best cures for depression for me, and not being able to make art because of the medication makes me depressed! It's an endless spiral that would send my life as an artist down the drain completely, and I would imagine that a world full of medicated artists and writers would become a world truly lacking in creativity. Even those artists and writers who aren't bipolar are still expected to live up to the creative standards of those who have traveled through stages of severe depression and mania. It's because of these people and their personal sacrifices that we can have a better understanding of these extremes and therefore everything in life that falls between. Without knowing what these extreme consist of, the artists and writers would not be able to record these feelings, and I know from experience that mundane, anti-psychotic inspired art is truly my worst- I wouldn't show it to anybody.

You're right to assume that bipolar disorder would be difficult to cope with without medication, and you're right- but to say that a medicated life would in turn be a "better state of life" is purely an opinionated statement. With our societal pressures that push so many unnecessary demands on us- get jobs, make money, live the American dream, etc., bipolar disorder does get in the way. But those things are of little importance to me as an artist. I want to experience life as a human should- without feeling sad I cannot understand what it's like to be happy, and visa versa. If you are just touching the verge of these feelings I don't feel like you can have a good understanding and appreciation for life.

Also, I find that referring to things as "Hitlerian" shouldn't be something you should use so freely. Certainly, Hitler would not feel the same way about allowing the "insane" to do their thing as artists or writers for the bettering of society. He wouldn't do anything short of tossing them into concentration camps! When I think about it, the most "Hitlerian" thing that's happened to me has been forced anti-psychotic treatments- a clear violation of my free will as a human. Anyone who believes that I would have a better state of life without the freedom to chose how I feel has a rather skewed view of things.

Anonymous's picture

im pretty sure im bipolar

im pretty sure im bipolar but i need to get a real diagnosis, which hopefully i can get tomorrow. its taken me 4 years to get the courage to even book a doctors appointment.
this is one thing that terrifies me is that ill lose my creativity if i go on medication, so thanks melissa for the advice and ill definately bear this in mind.

as for alana, i actually feel offended by your comment. i feel like youre trying to stigmatise people with bipolar disorder by comparing them to heroin addicts. it is not their fault, it is not a choice, just like people with phobias. it is part of who they are; and so why cant they feel good about it sometimes?

i am grateful for my creativity, and i am grateful my mindset helps with that.
all it needs is a bit of control.

Serendip Visitor's picture

more than, not less than

Sometimes I feel that those of us with the disorder suffer from "more than" rather "less than." We are more sensitive, more attuned in some regards (or at least in some states of being.) As I recently saw in a clip for Temple Grandin, we aren't less than, we are just different. I'm tempted to go on with this line of thought but I'll just leave it at that for now.

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