Recently I was asked to discuss the connection between Bipolar disorder and creativity. The blogger wanted me to link some famous people and choose the writers that influence me that had some level of mental illness. Creativity and famous people will most likely turn into a series where we see creative people in history and the present dealing with a mental illness,
How Mental Illness & Bipolar Disorder Connects to Creativity
If you research the subject, there is a real link between mental illness and creativity. In my research, on the issue, the links are as creative as the people themselves. The truth is many who have a mental illness like Bipolar Disorder, have been known to have a creative side. Even those artists that go undiagnosed have at some level issues with mental illness. I have always thought that my creativity, as it is, comes from my struggles with Bipolar One.
Today I thought it would be great to list some of the more famous writers and artists that have a history of the Bipolar disorder and mental illnesses in general.
Edgar Allan Poe
It seems fitting to talk about the greatest inspiration in my writing first. If you have ever read one of Poe’s poetry, short stories, or really anything he wrote you can see that he was a real genius.
Though Poe never saw a diagnosis with a mental illness, he was a heavy drinker, and he had issues suicidal thoughts. Poe often discussed death in his work, and my favorite from Poe’s poem will always be “The Raven” where he talks about death. Poe certainly knew the dark depths of depression and that darkness haunted him. My favorite short story (detective work) will always be “The Purloined Letter.” The truth when I studied the man himself I see many similarities in my own life as a writer. It is why I honor Poe in my work by using his name in my pen name.
Another influential writer in my own life Hemingway had a long history of mental illness. Hemingway, known at the time as the most celebrated American Writer, but had his demons he was fighting over the course of his life. Hemingway was known to be very manic at times in his life, and depressed. Those closest to the writer say that he was manic-depressant (Bipolar) his whole life.
His creative genius was apparent in everything he wrote. My favorite novel from Hemingway will always be “A Farewell to Arms,” and Hemingway wrote about influences in his own life experiences as an ambulance driver in World War I.
If you know nothing about Hemingway, then it might surprise you that he committed suicide on July 2, 1961. Hemingway had a long history of suicide attempts and hospital visits in his adult life. It goes to show that even the most creative of us a susceptible to the darkness and suicidal thoughts.
Sylvia Plath is another influential writer that I turn to so that I can get inspiration from her amazing poetry. Like the other writers on this list, Plath had a history of being clinically depressed and had been hospitalized many times in her life.
The poet also made several suicide attempts over the course of her life and succeeded in 1963. If you have not read any of her work, “Ariel” is a fantastic piece of poetry that shows the darkness that Plath felt during her life and why she turned to suicide. Plath was a creative genius, but like so many on this list, her mental illness eventually consumed her.
Unlike the others on this list, I know the artist Ezra Pound’s work but little about his mental illness history. Pound’s diagnosis in his life Narcissistic Personality Disorder which influenced his creative work and political views over the course of his life. Some believe that Pound also had schizophrenia, but many debates about the validity of this have happened for many years in both directions.
Ezra Pound is another example of creative genius, and mental illness can collide over the course of a life and have positive and negative connotations.
Leo Tolstoy is a compelling creative artist that explored his depression in his original creative works. If you have a chance, please read Tolstoy’s work– A Confession for a look at his own experiences.OWhat is impressive is that like most of us, Tolstoy spends a lot of time contemplating and examining his depression. I know for me writing my memoir and part of the focus being my depression I examine the many facets of who I am as a writer and someone who is dealing with a mental illness.
Okay so maybe this is the wrong time to put Rowling on the list as many of the others on this list are dead, but Rowling will always be my favorite modern writer. I grew up with the Harry Potter series and he works will still be influential in my life– Rowling also has a history of depression and suicidal thoughts.
Rowling makes this list because she has been open and vocal about her struggles with mental illness in her life, at the same time she has been influential in the fighting of her depression. Not just a creative genius, Rowling is also a fantastic human being and advocate.
The End Thoughts
This post has been great, and I have more to tell in the future about other influential creative artists who advocate (not those who use their mental illness for their means to gain fame), and I will be putting out more of these in the future. I want to show creative people using their craft for good and to help end the stigma. I hope you like the series and you see that you can succeed even with a mental illness. At the same time, there is the other side where we as a society have lost creative geniuses because of the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Stay strong.
Always Keep Fighting (AKF)
James Edgar Skye
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Poe image from Poetry Foundation
Hemingway Image: Google
Sylvia Plath, Ezra Pound, Leo Tolstoy images from http://airshipdaily.com/blog/022620145-writers-mental-illness
Rowling picture from Google.