Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Video: On Creativity and Mood Disorders

This video was taped the afternoon of Johns Hopkins’s Mood Disorders Symposium, right after I heard Kay Redfield Jamison speak on the topic of creativity and mood disorders. Given my tumultuous week at that time, I literally wept at parts of her presentation. Here is what I learned.

  • valerie

    This makes me ponder something that I once brought up to my therapist: Are all artists mentally ill? Or are all mentally ill artists?

  • valerie

    I guess that was already touched upon a few blogs back and I hadn’t read that one yet. Valerie

  • Margaret Balyeat

    Valerie: Dr. Jamison-Redfield wrote another book after An Unquiet Mind called “Touched With Fire” She addresses the issue of creative people and mental illness(especially bipolar disorder) in this one. It’s a very readable book and gives the reader SOME idea of how many famous artists writers and politocal leaders are among our ranks. Hippocrates himself (The “Father of Medicine” ) also wrote about it in a famous article known today as “Hippocrates’s Lament.” It’s more difficult to find than “Touched By Fire”, but when my pdoc gave me a copy I was astounded to realize how many hundreds of years bipolar disorder has been around! If you can find it, ot’s also worth a look. Basically what he is “lamenting” is that so many opf “the best and the brightest” are plagued with bipolar disorder and/or depression (Known as “melancholia” in his time)

  • Larry Parker

    Eloquent and soul-baring as always. I can see the wisdom (and yes, weariness) of your “crashing,” as you put it, from last week’s roller-coaster.
    I guess I have more respect than love for Dr. Jamison; my own touchstone work in that regard would be Styron’s “Darkness Visible.” But Kay Jamison and you are right — there is no point in modern society to be a dissolute Fitzgerald or Hemingway type, drinking absinthe in Paris to soothe a pain too painful to describe in one’s writing.
    (Or an Edna St. Vincent Millay, burning the candle at both ends for a brighter, shorter flame. Folks, trust me on this one — buy a two-wick candle at your favorite gift store instead …)
    PS — One might note the poem I have just put up on my social networking page is on point to this discussion — Dorothy Parker’s “Resume.”

  • Kevin

    I don’t know how you do these videos. Like this one, you cover terribly painful territory allowing people to see you in such a rough and vulnerable place and time. Not a hint of self-pity or ‘look at me, look at me’. Your gift is different but no less valuable than Dr. Jamison’s.
    She’s done so much to heighten public awareness, alter views within the medical community, and the rest. However, I’ve not seen her or anyone for that matter (I assume there are a few others out there)who pushes the video record button letting people into your life, as you pass along helpful information. More importantly, people are learning so much from the norverbals that offer depth and nuance of experience not to be found in books.
    You are gutsy.
    Abrupt shift…ever spend time with horses ? Last two days I was hanging out in a horse stable. No way to describe the experience. Reason I mention it—–horses offer an extraordinary way to regain emotional balance. Just being with them. Yesterday, just about every horse was turned away from the opening of their stalls as I entered. Gradually, each one in their own way, not only approached me but rested their neck and neck on my right shoulder and dropped the weight onto my arm. Left arm went around their necks, as I keep a heartbeat type pat on their neck/upper back. It was like meeting up with long lost brothers. No way to describe the healing and energy shifts happening as we leaned our heads together. I spoke what was coming through me and what seemed to be coming through them. We agreed people are way too much, drive us nutso, and were so thankful for the unexpected gift.
    There’s solid stuff written about ‘equine assisted psychotherapy for depression, anxiety, bipolar disease, schizophrenia, etc.

  • JohnD

    Therese –
    Thank you for this beautiful video and statement. Your gentle, measured, unassuming discussion is all the more powerful for being so honest and direct. You’ve mentioned this blog as a kind of ministry, and the videos are the most moving speech of faith I’ve ever heard. You refer in this talk to the “grace” of certain states in hypomania. Though I’m not bipolar (at least no one has ever diagnosed me as such), I’ve had many treasured moments of that touch of grace suddenly opening the spiritual world in ways I had never imagined. Experiencing this video brings me close to those special times.

  • John McManamy

    Hey, Therese. Great video. I faced a lot of the same dilemmas you faced. Bottom line: All the creativity in the world won’t do me a bit of good if I’ve lost control of my brain. If my brain doesn’t boot up in the morning – no writing from me. If my brain is revving too hard – no writing from me. If I feel I want to wring the life out of the entire world – no writing from me. If I get obsessed over something or someone I hate or desire – no writing from me.
    Oops – too much writing from me. Please pass the Despondex … :)

  • Your Name

    I appreciate all these statements,i never knew why people who have
    bipolar disorders have caused too much disappointments and frustrations not only upon themselves but to those who love them.
    Thank you Lord for you are the Great Healer.

  • SuzanneWA

    I agree there’s a certain “grace” in hypomania. But one time, when I “accidentally” mentioned to my therapist, that “I felt ONE with the Universe,” she gunned me down, and said “No one feels that way.” She, obviously, has never been bipolar! A month later, I was in a psychiatric hospital.
    It’s the little things in a hypomania that catch your attention. Spirituality is heightened, and you are soooo aware of light, color, birds singing, flowers blooming, people being friendly, ideas racing through your head that only YOU can decipher. YES – the “crash” can be an enormous descent into our own personal Hell, and I fervently hope that your’s doesn’t last long. You look in so much despair, I cry for you…
    I AM more creative in a full-blown manic episode. My first nervous breakdown (1968), I could capture a person in charcoal, so that their personality shown through. I could play the piano, something I hadn’t done in 15 years. I interacted and helped other people, with Jesus’ words. I, too, was afraid I would lose my creative bent if I took medication; that’s what I was told by my peers on the ward. And, for a time, it DID feel that way.
    But – I am more mature now, and have had bipolar for 40 years – how does that seem possible??!! My last hospitalization was in 1977, and, though I’ve had a few mini-episodes, the staff at the local Community Mental Health clinic have kept me out of the hospital – praise God! My creativity is different these days. I still feel the “rush” of anticipation when I begin a project of freelance writing or mystery shopping. The medications do their job – so I can do mine!
    Your sister in Christ,

  • Your Name

    All my life I suffered from depression, I always tell people I’m parenoid-sqcitzoid, tri-polar, manic depressive. But I didn’t start getting treatment for depression until 2000 when I almost died of liver disease. I was suppose to, the doctors looked confused, but anyways I always thought if I stopped self medicating I wouldn’t be as creative than without. And I always loved to dance, but couldn’t until the 4th shot of wild turkey. But luckily I had stopped drinking hard liquior 2 years before I fell ill. If I hadn’t have stopped my excessive drinking and drug use I wouldn’t have been able to be writing you today. And now I’m living for the Lord, but I know I have a long ways to go. I’m just so thankful I’m still here for my children. The doctors now have gotten me on adhd medicine and it does help me to concentrate better, but I’m still missing something. I guess it just takes time. I almost forgot to write on here that I write poetry and draw. My drawings are very abstract, if their not abstract I have to look at something, and then I feel like its playgerism. I hope that’s right. My coloring book I want to make would be called for Krazies and Kids. Yor picture could be anything you want it to be. Sorry if so long and drawn out, but can’t you tell
    am alone alot, and like it.

  • cb

    I am a dancer and I teach dance classes — that’s not redundant, not everyone can teach — and I have performed as a dancer since I was in high school, all without ever needing alcohol to spur me on. I don’t drink. I am bipolar and I think I’ve experienced more extended manic cycles than I have depressive cycles but I also believe that a depressive element actually co-exists with my mania. At any rate, over 20 years ago while living in OK and undiagnosed, I sometimes awoke in the middle of the night and with mania urging me to write, I would outfit the very cold garage (middle of winter) with a foot stool to sit on, a foot-stool to hold the manual typewriter and I would type poems there in the freakin’ freezing space that served as my venue for creative spurts. I’m thankful that I am now diagnosed and that I am living in temperate California, still creative, still dancing.

  • Lilas Conuts

    I’ve been diagnosed only 2 years ago; I’m still stuggling with the idea of medication and the effects it could have on my writting so I take it on and off
    Being medicated is being another strange and unknown me

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