After all, don’t these mood disorders bring creativity? Aren’t those touched with the divine fire of art also touched with madness? That’s what people say anyways. They say that people like Van Gogh were so creative and meaningful because of the madness they suffered, that somehow the depression and mania brought about superhuman visions of beauty that they could capture in word, paint, or music.
Those touched with fire suffered the madness and brought forth jewels of art that transcended the ordinary and brought a bit of heaven to the earth.
While I never claim to be a great writer or some sort of word Van Gogh, I do identify as a creative person. I started with poetry, and those verses and lines still run through my veins. I still long to write well, to tap into the inspiration that brings great work. I long to do well with my creativity.
I used to rely on my fits of brain spinning, mind racing, chaotic thought to inspire my creative side. I used to wait with hope for the manic seasons to bring the muse, ignite the spark, and fan into flame my words. My manic side brought with it new thoughts, creative words, and fits of energy (often in sleepless nights) where I could dream big dreams and write with beauty. I could take the words buried deep in my chest and spew them onto a page, spinning new webs of words and thoughts, things I could be proud of.
So with these experiences and thoughts running through my brain, was it any wonder that I was afraid to start my medication?
One big rumor that floats around mental illness is that medication will kill your creativity. That it will silence the muse, take away the spark, destroy the work. It’s as if we creative types who suffer from mood disorders, depression, anxiety, and other mental illness somehow have to depend on our sickness to tap into our creativity. At least that’s the rumor.
Is it true?
So, is it true? Is my creativity linked to my madness, my illness? Will medication kill it, fundamentally changing who I believe God has made me to be?
Well, let me tell you about how my creativity has been since I have started the (what I believe to be) right medications. See, it takes a while to figure out the right combo of pills to help with bipolar mood disorders. And, I’m not going to lie here, my creativity has suffered in the journey to get to the current medications. There have been times when my brain has been in a fog, and I just can’t think clearly to write. There have been times when I felt that I would never think creatively again, never write again, that I just didn’t have it in my without my mania to tap into the muse.
But that was a lie.
Here I am, writing. Here I am working on a book outline. Here I am being creative.
Things are different for sure. I mean, I don’t have those fits of inspiration. Instead, I have to sit down and work for the ideas at times. Sure, sometimes I catch the muse at random times, sparking some quick work. But for the most part, I have to show up, ass in chair, and make myself write. I have to use my creativity like a muscle, stretching it, working it, strengthening it. I am not allowed to skate by with moments of brilliance. Instead I have to dig out my ideas, work for the words, choose to craft what I say.
I am still creative, it’s just different now. In some ways harder, in some ways easier. Either way, now I have the resolve to finish the projects I start, the gumption to see it through to the end, even after whatever inspiration has faded.
I know other people have had different experiences with medications altering their creativity. Unfortunately, if we want to be healthy, that is something we have to risk. But from what I have seen in my own life when we keep going in our treatment, and find the right medications for us makes us less dependent on the mania, the madness, and more in control of our creativity. Sure, we may have to work for our art, but isn’t that simply the nature of real art?
The spark changes.
So now my muse has changed. I’m not held captive by inspiration, waiting for that spark to get things going. I’m not stuck with small bursts of creative energy followed by weeks of depression. Yes, it is a different kind of creativity, but it’s still creativity that flows in my veins. I’m not changed to the point that my words are silenced. Instead, I am learning to be a healthy creative, tap into my muse when I want to and working hard at my art.
This is the way creativity is supposed to be, not the unhealthy cycle of madness that I used to rely on.
I’m not going to say it’s easy to learn this new kind of creativity. It’s hard to change old ways. But I am learning, trusting that the spark of creativity is still there. The ideas may not come all at once in the inspiration of mania, but the ideas are still there, waiting to be discovered and worked out of their hiding places.
I am still a creative person. I’m also becoming a healthy person. The two are not at odds with each other. It’s a lie to believe that for the mentally ill the divine spark of inspiration is linked with their madness. That lie has kept artists (like me) in their sickness, never pursuing health. The honest truth is that the madness is hell. It is torment, sickness, and a fire that consumes a person down to the bones. The fires of madness bring death when left unchecked. The fires of creativity bring life when they are stoked.
So I will feed the fires of creativity, knowing that my illness will not consume me. I will take my medications and learn to work for my creativity. I won’t let the lie of madness fed creativity be my undoing.