Honoring Van Gogh—Are Creativity and Madness Linked?

Honoring Van Gogh—Are Creativity and Madness Linked?

We are all familiar with the story of the “tortured artist” but is there a unique creative force in the mood swings of bipolar disorder?

By the time I was sixteen years old, I had convinced myself that I was a creative genius. I knew nothing yet of bipolar disorder, but the budding manias of my teenage years had flowered into an obsessive pursuit of literary greatness. Inspired by poets like William Blake and Emily Dickinson, I wrote constantly, often into the early morning hours. After writing page after page in my journals, I shoved the pieces of paper into my very own secret box.

When I think about those years, and then the eventual tumultuous years of my early twenties, I often ask myself: Was such intense creativity the result of madness? Or was madness the result of creativity? I ask the same question when I consider the lives and creative contributions made by the many great poets, writers, musicians, and artists who may have had bipolar disorder.

 

Read the rest of my article at https://www.bphope.com/blog/world-bipolar-day-honoring-van-gogh-are-creativity-and-madness-linked/.

Agitated Despair: Mixed Episodes and Bipolar Disorder

Agitated Despair: Mixed Episodes and Bipolar Disorder

A bipolar mixed episode is a uniquely confusing experience and can result in a state of extreme agitation and despair, but you can prevent this by recognizing early signs of a coming episode.

I sat at dusk, my arms around my knees, at the junction of a turbulent and muddy river and the slow, dark water of an ocean inlet. As I sat at the convergence of two vastly different and yet similar things, my mind, too, found itself at its own convergence. Somehow, two moods-vastly different and yet somehow similar-had merged into something terrifying, feverish, and inexplicably sad.

Hours earlier, when I was overflowing with love and grandiose dreams, I spent several hundred dollars on gourmet cookies and bouquets of roses and lilies to hand out to friends. Later, as day turned into evening, mania and depression blended together into the unique and startling pain of a bipolar mixed episode….

Read more at https://www.bphope.com/blog/agitated-despair-mixed-episodes-and-bipolar-disorder/

Bipolar Mania, Hypomania and the Desire to Escape

Bipolar Mania, Hypomania and the Desire to Escape
Knowing the early signs of mania, such as a desire to escape, can help to avoid it spiraling into planning elaborate getaways.The hallmark symptom of my coming mania is an overwhelming urge to escape.

For me, the lure of mania has often brought with it the lure of escape. At the beginning, when my mind first starts to quicken with the electric thrill of hypomania, I do not talk of escape. But, as my energy intensifies and a segment of my mind separates itself from the structure, logic, and rules of everyday existence, my plans for escape begin. As I lose the rhythm that usually governs a human life, sleep becomes unimportant, eating becomes unnecessary, and—my ultimate warning sign of an upcoming mania—the idea of escape takes over.

When I was first struggling with my bipolar diagnosis, the manic desire to escape often meant that I would try to go to France. I wanted to rock-climb the giant boulders of Fontainebleau. I wanted touch the gilded walls of Versailles. I wanted to sit under the Eiffel Tower in the moonlight. But, for many years now, escaping from reality usually means that I will try to find a way to run away into the wilderness.

Read more on bphope.com: https://www.bphope.com/blog/mania-hypomania-and-the-bipolar-desire-to-escape/

Setting the Rules for Your ‘Bipolar Calendar’ as the Seasons Change

Setting the Rules for Your ‘Bipolar Calendar’ as the Seasons Change

Every year, the returning sunlight marks the coming of my most dangerous season, and so begins my preparation for another bipolar spring.

I have my very own bipolar calendar. And it is nearly always the same. Every spring, like clockwork, the sun returns to southern Alaska with an unnecessary force, and with it comes the manic eruptions that signal the end of the comforting darkness of winter.

Read more at https://www.bphope.com/blog/learning-to-set-the-rules-for-your-bipolar-calendar-as-the-seasons-change/

 

The River I Flee to When My Mind Tries to Kill Me

The River I Flee to When My Mind Tries to Kill Me

During my depressive bipolar cycles, a river is what remains in my mind. Always. The sea, now that you can forget — the way the wind ruffles the surface or falls calm like a lake — but a river is what remains after my memory of it has seemingly passed, even after my imagination stops adorning it with riffles and dark wet holes and oxbow lakes. It lingers.

I am an Alaskan woman in love with a river. I love the muskeg along the banks of that river, the crooked black spruce that struggle for the sky but always fail, their bark wet with the effort, their limbs broken from the start by their own soggy roots. In Alaska, muskeg means a river is nearby. In the case of my very own river, the Delta Clearwater, it means it is flowing, slow and cold and spring-fed, somewhere beneath the tundra at my feet, and somewhere beneath where my grandparents built my family’s rickety old cabin….

A previous blog post of mine has been published on The Mighty. You can read more of it here: https://themighty.com/2018/01/suicidal-delta-clearwater-river-helps-me/

The Bipolar Trickster: Smiling in the Face of It

The Bipolar Trickster: Smiling in the Face of It

Do you ever trick people into thinking you are OK?

Individuals with bipolar disorder quickly learn how to become tricksters—because the truth is simply not polite.

I leaned to the left in the photograph, laughing as I held a puppy on the bow of a green riverboat. I was smiling my slightly crooked smile, and in the background—in a dark sky above black spruce trees—were two bright arcs of a double rainbow. A puppy, a smile, a rainbow—all three were the unmistakable symbols of pure and perfect happiness.

Little did the photographer, or anyone else, know that it was all a trick. Despite the props in that photograph, despite being surrounded by joy and backlit by rainbows, the sky was still dark.

Read the rest of my article at https://www.bphope.com/blog/the-bipolar-trickster-smiling-in-the-face-of-it/.

Working with Bipolar Disorder: Choosing Your Profession

Working with Bipolar Disorder: Choosing Your Profession

Many years ago, I skipped the exit on the highway that led to my job and just kept going. I drove south, and while my inner monologue rose to a frenetic pitch, I decided that I would live as a jobless poet in the Alaskan countryside. After several hours of driving, and as reality set in, I turned around. The next day, when I finally showed up to work, I no longer had a job.

For me, and for anyone with bipolar disorder, simply showing up to work can be the greatest challenge. During the early days of my career, I was just too unstable to fit into the structure of an 8-to-5 job. My life was like a rollercoaster, and every day was unpredictable, so how could I fit the mold of a predictable schedule, with the predictable everyday requirements of a job?

Later, as time passed and I began to stabilize, I found that the structure of a daily, 8-to-5 job was just what I needed. I still need it. I go to bed at the same time every night and I wake up at the same time each morning. I pull myself up and out of bed at 5:00 a.m. every single day and, even if I am cycling through the mood swings of bipolar, I pull on a suit jacket and skirt out of the closet, and I go to work. 

I did not enjoy going to work every day at my previous job. Even though I made six figures a year and held a high-status position, I was bored and unchallenged. As time went on, I realized that it was not just structure that I needed. I needed something to be passionate about.

Why do I go to work every day? I go to work because I have a job that allows me to be creative. I go to work because I am passionate about what I create, and the changes that I can make in people’s lives. At work, I get to write. I get to create, and like so many individuals with bipolar disorder, being creative is a fundamental part of who I am. Even though we face great challenges in the workplace because of our passion and sensitivity, we can use those feelings to motivate us to get up every day and go to work—but only if we choose our careers carefully.