“The more I am spent, ill, a broken pitcher, by so much more am I an artist – a creative artist . . . this green shoot springing from the roots of the old felled trunk, these are such abstract things that a kind of melancholy remains within us when we think that one could have created life at less cost than creating art” Vincent Van Gogh
With the exception of Anhedonia (which was created during a major depressive episode, or perhaps created the depressive episode itself), the majority of my creative works have been completed during my seasonal hypomanias, April and May or in late fall. Oddly enough these periods are usually the most productive for artists and writers with manic depression. Lucky for me they also happen to fall at the end of the semesters at Emily Carr. I am not saying that I am an artist because I am crazy, I am saying that somehow like the Borg I adapted and was able to use my moods to fuel artistic ventures, as did many great artists.
Possibly one of the most difficult things about treating manic depression is that the drugs can minimize creativity, sometimes even destroy it entirely. If your vocation happens to be a creative one, the possibility of losing your edge in order to maintain your sanity is pretty frightening, and probably one of the big reasons why people quit their meds. And to be perfectly honest, after you see the face of God, who would want to go back to a hum drum existence?
I have self destructed numerous times in the name of art, to the point where I expect it. I wonder sometimes if that is just the way my particular creative process works, or if it is the way my manic depression works, or is it both? I find increasingly that I cannot seperate the illness from myself, as much as others would like me to. It is a part of me, like the air I breathe, and as much as it can be a pain in the ass, I also have a fond respect for it.
In Kay Redfield Jamison’s memoir An Unquiet Mind, she says that in order to defeat a monster, you must first make it beautiful. In my own way, I am trying to do that. I believe madness has a role in human society, I believe that there is a place for us. We were once honoured people who had visions and went into the wilderness and brought back ideas for our community. Now we’re just sick.
There is a way to bring the visions back into the world though, there’s art in all it’s varied forms. Norms might not realize it, but their world is constantly being influenced by madness, by the people who go to hell and back and bring with them some blood, some love, some god. I wish that for every crazyphobic media propaganda about madmen killing people, there was an acknowledgement of the huge contributions to society which the “mentally ill” have made and will always be making.