In light of the recent seriousness on my blog and in the world at large (Japan, Libya), it’s time to focus for a moment on the positive. Not only is Kentucky in the Final Four, but also bipolar disorder, a form of March Madness all its own, has a benefit, namely mania, or what’s called “hypomania”—a mild form of mania—mania during its first act, at least, during the first scene of the first act. (It’s often down-hill from there.)
But, good God, that first burst of energy and enthusiasm is intoxicating, and one of the reasons so many with bipolar disorder are unwilling to compliantly take medication, drugs that would even out those moods—not only eliminating the lowest of the lows, but also amputating the highest of the highs.
It does feel good to feel good, at least for a while, until it starts feeling bad and weird and crazy. Then the picture darkens quickly.
But mania can be connected with another benefit, the ultimate gift for some—namely increased creativity. Though artistic output can increase in depressed moods, as well, a mood in the gutter is less likely to inspire creativity than an elevated one.
Not a lot is understood about this. No one knows for sure why so many with this diagnosis also happen to be über creative, but there seems to be a link.
For example, a number of writers, including Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Ernest Hemingway were believed to have suffered from the illness, as was artist Vincent Van Gogh and composer Ludwig Van Beethoven. Edgar Allan Poe once wrote:
Men have called me mad but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence—whether much that is glorious—whether all that is profound—does not spring from disease of thought—from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.
(For a great book on this link between manic-depression and creativity, take a look at Kay Redfield Jamison’s Touched with Fire.)
Although I’m far from an artistic genius, I have had my moments of creative output, at least bursts of something akin to creativity both visually and verbally—writing poems like this:
psychosis and human growththe earth is melting beneath us and we are becoming fish everything is in reverse and we are moving backward through time i want to stop this process of unbecoming
And drawing pieces like this:
So here in Kentucky, though we may be mad about our Cats this March, this Kat(hryn), in particular, is not always, only, and forever sad about her bouts with bipolar disorder.
To say I’ve learned a lot would be an understatement. I’ve grown because of this illness. I’ve broadened my horizons, built a deep and enduring empathy for those who are marginalized my illness, set aside by poverty, shaken but not broken.
March may be about a mania, of sorts, but this March, in particular, I’m grateful to have lived and loved and learned from the rigors of my own (at times) glorious madness!