Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I wanted to complete a thought I had after reading another blog post (written by Suicidal No More: Choosing to Live with Schizophrenia). This fellow blogger discusses an interesting topic. Is there a link between mental illness and creativity? My documentary contains information that supports this claim. I do this so that others will see positivity in mental illness and understand that art is therapy. Still, I remain both fascinated and confused by the subject matter. 

Far before my brother developed schizophrenia, I noticed that I was different from others and in many ways. I was highly empathetic towards total strangers. I would lock myself in my room and draw while listening to classical music for hours (before the age of 12). I had maybe one friend. I would not look others in the eye when they tried to speak to me. I analyzed everything and when I spoke my mind, others would look at me like I was an alien. The only person who I ever felt comfortable expressing my thoughts with was my father. He is also eccentric but I love him for that. I'd like to think that he encouraged me to speak my mind, no matter how strange it seemed. 

It is much more clear to me now that my brother and I share the same sensitivity to the outside world. I also think deep down that his sensitivity may be linked to his mental illness. Since there is so much we don't know about mental illness, I do not feel bold in making this statement. It is a feeling I have, not based on science but on intuition. I know my brother better than anyone and I have yet to experience the same sensitivity in another human being. In my case, many people ask me how I draw so well. I tell them it is my sensitivity to details. The same details that haunt my thoughts. When I drive past road kill, I almost feel like crying. That poor animal was just trying to cross a road which we paved through their habitat, in search of food. There it lies, pressed into the pavement, crushed. I once tried to save a fly from drowning in a puddle of water in my bathroom. If I see someone who may be overweight and eating bad foods, I will feel so bad for them because in my mind, they are feeding some sort of pain. Yes, this all seems odd, but I have come to terms with my thoughts and simply base it on my high sensitivity. 

In the past, I could not conform or fit in and this bothered me to no end. I thought, if only I was accepted by others, I would be truly happy. As an adult, I embrace the fact that I am different and try to encourage others to do the same, just like my father once did for me. The "Gaining Insight" campaign exists because the empathy I feel for my brother is too much to handle at times. Art allows me to focus or channel my pain.

In response to the blog post I mentioned earlier, here is what I wrote in the comment section:

This is a topic I ponder almost daily. I think that what you are describing is a stigma. Even though, mental illness does not lead to more or less creativity. The other stigma causes society to believe that people with mental illness are monsters, dangerous, the list goes on. Anyway, I can only give you my experience. I am what you may call an artist. I hate the label because in my mind, we all have the ability to express ourselves. Society rules and standards force the average joe to keep his/her "different" thoughts to one's self. I am a painter and creative director so most people assume that I must be creative. Art is a tool I have used for years. I use it to speak since I am very shy but have lots of thoughts. It allows me to control and inspire an audience. Creativity also makes me happy. When I am not creative, I am sad because I think too much. I can best compare it to a hunger I must satisfy. The only known mental illness I seem to have is possibly OCD (I plan to see a therapist soon) and slight depression. But OCD can cause anxiety and depression. I will say that I owe much of my creativity to my odd thoughts and desire to challenge the norm. I know these thoughts are odd since others tell me so. I don't think they are odd, but just different from the norm. I have been called weird more times than I can count. I believe that innovation, creation, expression and invention exist because we challenge what is normal. I thrive on this philosophy. I do agree with you that individuals such as Van Gogh or Sylvia Plath can be sensationalized because of their mental illness. But I tend to think that their art stood out because they were expressing such obvious pain. I mention both of them in my documentary which I hope to show you when it is done. Their art was their therapy. I think people choose art as expression since that is a personal therapy that can not be replaced by a doctor or pill. Lastly, there is a history of mental illness in my family. I often wonder if this has contributed to my creativity biologically. I like to think it has. I am very sensitive like my brother and weird like my dad. So, unfortunately, my story tends to support the idea that creativity and mental illness may be linked. I could go on and on. My thoughts race sometimes so my writing may sound all over the place and points may be lost. Take care!

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