Extreme Thinking and Moods Are The Death of Creativity
You probably have heard that many of the world’s most creative people often had some sort of mental illness.
While I can see some truth in this viewpoint, I offer a different opinion: In nearly every case, a person with mental illness experiences some form of extreme thinking, a black-and-white viewpoint. Let’s profile bipolar disorder and depression right now to see what I’m talking about.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by mood swings, sleep disruption, and extreme behaviors. These mood swings can include irritability, energetic happiness, impulsive and erratic behavior, deep depression, anger, or even agitated confusion. None of these states is healthy over the long term, yet this is the world of a person with bipolar disorder.
Bipolar I is the most extreme and dangerous form. A person with Bipolar I behaves in life-threatening waysdriving dangerously, abusing illegal drugs, and performing other acts of self-harmspends recklessly, shows dramatic behavior changes, has disrupted sleep, and has strong mood swings. Bipolar II is similar except the level of danger and risk to self and others is generally lower. Cyclothymia is even one step milder with little risk of anything truly dangerous, but is still disruptive to the person’s life.
Many people with bipolar say that they really like their unmedicated manic state. They feel so alive, energetic, and creative. They have endless ideas and the motivation to keep them flowing. They feel there’s nothing they can’t do. While a person in a manic state may feel full of life, this is absolutely unsustainable. Nobody truly can have endless energy with little sleep and random eating habits.
In a manic state, a person may forgo or limit most other necessities aside from their passion of the moment. This could include family time, work, exercise, relaxation, hobbies, housekeeping, grocery shopping or shopping for other necessities, cooking, etc. The ideas may be flowing strongly, but what good are they if the person becomes too exhausted to act on them?
Major depressive disorder has hallmark symptoms including strong feelings of sadness, despair, emptiness, and sometimes anger. This burden is so heavy, a depressed person’s pain shows in his or her behavior and thinking patterns. Nothing ever seems to go right; they don’t feel happy enough to be social; they sleep too much so they miss out on exercise. While they may have periods or moments of happiness, the bulk of their emotion is marked by depression.
Several famous painters, authors, and actors have done their most memorable work while living through depressive episodes. But their bodies and minds were burdened with a smothering blanket of despair and loneliness. The depressed mind is often so scrambled that thoughts and feelings don’t come out clearly. How can true creativity flourish in this environment?