This is a common problem for many people, the outside world, as it can be referred to, feels that if you are intelligent or creative, then you can’t be mentally ill. The stigma is that those who are mentally ill commit crimes and cause trouble.
If you look down through history some of the greatest minds have been or are mentally ill. Famous authors, musician, painters, doctors, etc. It seems that the creative mind feeds off its self. These disorders fuel the brain, whether it is depression, mania, hallucinations or anxiety, each plays a part in shaping who we are and bringing our gifts to light. Recently Carrie Fisher passed away, a great voice for bringing Mental Illness to light. She had an amazing gift and used it to bring joy to others through her movies and understanding through her work to fight the stigma of these illnesses.
I wish I could explain how it all works, but the one thing I can agree with, is what Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys spoke of in a 2002 interview. *In 2002, he spoke of how the disorder affects his creativity, explaining: "I haven't been able to write anything for three years. I think I need the demons in order to write, but the demons have gone. It bothers me a lot. I've tried and tried, but I just can't seem to find a melody.* There is a lot of truth in what he says, our brains are meant to work a certain way for us and to change that, changes who we are.
I’ve been hospitalized a few times and what I learned there or was told was that I was too intelligent! I was to analytical! I became friends with the art therapist, she would push me to do things differently, to not analyze, to do something that I haven’t done before. It was a great challenge for me because it’s not who I am. It is a quandary we often find ourselves in and not one that we can answer or control.
While I will admit it is a nuisance at times, it helps me to be the best I can be at my craft – writing and photography. I believe it is the complexity of my brain that allows me to do these things, to craft stories, to see things in nature that others may not see and share that through my photography. Would I want it to be different? That’s actually a hard question to answer, while yes to be without my illness would be great, no more medications, doctor visits, no mood swings and all the things that go along with it, however, I wouldn’t be ME. I curse this illness most days, but it is because of it that I am able to do what I do. My brain, while many would see it as not working correctly, I feel works just fine. Yes, I have challenges, but doesn’t everyone?
The thing is, beyond all the talk, stigma and misunderstanding, there is the knowledge that we are gifted because we are fighting harder than we ever thought we would be able to and that in itself is worth bragging about. So, be creative, be loud, be funny and let the world know that this is what Mental Illness looks like.