Mania, Depression, and Creative Genius
Depression is believed to be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. REMERON® Patient Sheet
"Believed" ... um ... we are to take prescription mind-altering pills on faith? Sort of like ingesting Christ's body and blood at Catholic Mass ;-)
Mania refers to behavior that includes profuse and rapidly changing ideas, exaggerated sexuality, extreme gaiety, intense irritability, and decreased sleep.
Depression is used frequently to describe a feeling of sadness. With bipolar disorder, however, the lows of depression are characterized by extreme hopelessness and a feeling of worthlessness accompanied by thoughts of suicide.
Some researchers believe that bipolar disorder is caused by biochemical instability in the transmission of nerve impulses in the brain triggered by an upsetting life experience, substance abuse, lack of sleep, or other excessive stimulation. Bipolar Disorders
During the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Monday I experienced something wild -- a few days of mania followed by a few days of depression, along with paranoid delusions. I sought medical help. They prescribed drugs. The mania, depression, and delusions went away. Did they go away because of the drugs? Would they have gone away anyway? What really caused that wild week to happen? Was it a bad thing?
STANFORD, Calif. — For decades, scientists have known that eminently creative individuals have a much higher rate of manic depression, or bipolar disorder, than does the general population. But few controlled studies have been done to build the link between mental illness and creativity. Now, Stanford researchers Connie Strong and Terence Ketter, MD, have taken the first steps toward exploring the relationship.
Using personality and temperament tests, they found healthy artists to be more similar in personality to individuals with manic depression than to healthy people in the general population. "My hunch is that emotional range, having an emotional broadband, is the bipolar patient’s advantage," said Strong. "It isn’t the only thing going on, but something gives people with manic depression an edge, and I think it’s emotional range." STANFORD RESEARCHERS ESTABLISH LINK BETWEEN CREATIVE GENIUS AND MENTAL ILLNESS
They found that healthy artists are more similar in personality to those with manic depression. Ah, so if you are an artist, and you are "healthy", then it is OK if you exhibit some symptoms of manic depression. Hmmm. Who decides whether a person is an artist? This group was comprised of Stanford graduate students enrolled in prestigious product design, creative writing and fine arts programs. Oh. You are a healthy artist if Stanford admits you to their "prestigious" graduate programs. Well, I went to Duke, does that count? Humph.
It was during that wild week that my self-identity changed and I realized that I am an artist.
I've been a daily writer since 8th grade. On those occasions when I've taken art or photography classes I've created unique and compelling work, according to teachers or peers. But I didn't think of myself as an artist.
After my Father died in November, I set a new goal for myself -- to become a writer. I decided that I would begin writing a novel the following November, giving myself one year to mentally prepare.
Having set that goal, my self-image began to change ...
Instead of rebelling against identities I did not want to claim, I looked at myself as I am, and I looked at the universe as it is, and during that wild week I underwent a series of revelations that wore out my body & my mind and led me into the most fearful day I've ever endured.
On that day I sought medical attention. I was offered hospitalization in a mental health unit and three forms of mind-altering prescription medication: an anti-psychotic (Seroquel -- indicated for the treatment of schizophrenia!), an anti-depressant (Remeron), and an anti-manic (Depakote). The idea of hospitalization scared me even more than my own rampant & uncontrollable thoughts! But I felt like I had no other choice, and no other choice was offered to me.
Spending a long weekend in a mental hospital was quite an experience. I'm not sure that mental hospitals are the best place for people who are suffering from a bipolar episode, though.
Once I had convinced my keepers that I was stabilizing, they sent me on my way. I took a week off from work, spent time with family and friends, and set up a series of weekend getaways -- travel therapy. My 3-day weekend with the Body Electric School was especially therapeutic :-)
During this time I started tapering off the medication. I convinced my doctor that I no longer needed the anti-psychotic. I started taking half-doses of the anti-manic. Then some half-doses of the anti-depressant ... and now I've stopped. That's not all my fault. My HMO has delayed sending me the refills I should have received, and now I'm out of medicine.
The truth is that the manic highs and even the depressive lows contribute some degree of “passion” to one’s personality—or so it seems. While bipolar artists do their best painting and writers produce their best poetry during high or low episodes, they find that medication may leave them feeling quite flat and relatively lacking in emotion. When they get to a point where they fear the loss of their talent, and even their very livelihood, they may decide to stop taking medication in favor of regaining the extremes of emotion that they prefer. Treating Bipolar Disorders
I felt like the medications reduced my anxiety level. They also made me much more sleepy, groggy in the morning, and hungrier. I found it difficult to exercise, sometimes my body felt leaden, and I was definitely putting on weight.
For the first couple of weeks the meds seemed to block me from feeling any unpleasant emotions. As I started cutting back on the meds, I was able to experience a wider range of emotions, including some anxiety, anger, and grief.
Isn't it normal to experience an enormous identity shift after losing a parent? Especially after losing both parents? Perhaps in a different culture we would have understood that I was feeling both liberated and frightened because I no longer had parents to rebel against or comform to. I was feeling guilt for not treating my parents better while they were alive, and fear of my own mortality. These all sound like normal emotions to me ... they came on so strong that I wasn't able to sleep for days, and then the lack of sleep contributed to paranoia and psychosis.
By that time I needed a safe place where I wouldn't feel alone, and something to help me sleep. The hospital provided those things.
But when I read information about bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, I don't think those categories fit me. I had a wild week during which many things happened, but I've recovered from that week and I've integrated it into the story of my life and my self-identity. I'm not nearly so fearful of the emotions and thoughts I had that week. I'm not the sort of person who has difficulty calming down. I don't exhibit manic highs and depressive lows.
I disagree with the categories that have been applied to me.
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