Monday, December 13, 2010
CREATIVE GENIUS AND MENTAL ILLNESS
As a child, I often wondered what attracted me to the arts. I remember filling pages upon pages of sketchbooks in the comfort of my solitude (well, alone my bedroom). I was often teased for listening to classical music starting at the age of 12 but didn't really care. Other times, I would beg my parents to take me to theatrical plays. It was evident that my wandering mind could not be tamed by TV or video games. Instead, I would conjure up some sort of script or variety show which my siblings to bring to life. And yes, I have been called WEIRD more times that I can count.
One task I always find difficult is trying to turn my mind OFF. To this day, I still have this intense need to create at ALL times (sewing, painting, directing, drawing, designing (interior/graphic/textile), the list goes on). Some may view creativity as a blessing but trust me, it can be a curse. If I sit for too long, I feel like I am a failure...unproductive. As soon as I saw a genetic link between mental illness and my family, I began to understand why my own mind would not rest.
While researching for a documentary, I have yet to finish, I discovered how many artists are haunted by the same genetic link to mental illness. I understand their need to release pain/creativity through various forms of art. As soon as my brother became ill and fear of the unknown was looming, I turned to art & design to make my mind calm again. You can see/hear the result here. David Bowie (one of my idols) has stated that there is a strong link to mental illness within his family. The following are a few facts to support this claim:
“David’s mother, Peggy, a former cinema usher, was more colorful. According to several reliable witnesses and institutional records, there was more than a streak of mental instability in her family. Bowie’s Aunt Una suffered from clinical depression and schizophrenia, underwent electric shock treatment and died in her late 30s. A second aunt, Vivienne, suffered a schizophrenic attack, and a third, Nora, was lobotomized in an effort to cure what her mother described as ‘bad nerves’.
Unfortunately, the family “condition”, as it was known, was again at work. In his mid-20s, Terry, David's half brother, was diagnosed as a manic depressive and schizophrenic, and was eventually institutionalized. One snowy morning in January 1985, he climbed over the wall of a psychiatric hospital in Surrey and walked to the nearby station, where he lay down on the track directly in the path of the oncoming London express train.
Terry was 47. David didn’t attend the funeral but sent a wreath of roses and a card which read: “You’ve seen more things than we could imagine but all these moments will be lost, like tears washed away by the rain. God bless you - David.”
Eight years later Bowie admitted: “It scared me. I felt my own mind was in question. I often wondered how near the line I was going - how far I should push myself.” Ziggy and the other characters, he explained, had been “alternative egos”, a form of madness through which he had meant to preserve his sanity. David Bowie never crossed the divide into mental illness. But he shared a number of the quirks shown by his maternal family. He would suddenly burst into tears, for example, and was said to have had a particularly active imagination. One family friend told me that, as a four or five-year-old, David had phoned to summon the local ambulance one night, and successfully persuaded the operator that he was “dying”.
That Bowie was conscious of his heritage seems obvious from the number of songs he wrote touching on lunacy or schizophrenia. Of the Oh! You Pretty Things lyrics, Bowie said: “I hadn’t been to an analyst - my parents went, my brothers and sisters and my aunts and uncles and cousins, they did that. They ended up in a much worse state. I thought I’d write my problems out.”
I am in no way trying to comparing my artistic talents to that of Bowie but think it is interesting how creativity may be genetically linked to mental illness. When it comes to the illness, I guess I will always wonder why statistics chose my brother instead of me. If I could take even part of this from him, I would.
Monday, December 6, 2010
NAMI's Monthly Stigma Buster alerted me of the following:
Fox Television's Emmy-winning musical comedy, Glee, stepped into stigma for its November 16 episode, entitled "The Substitute", which mocked and trivialized bipolar disorder--and included imaginary violence as humor.
Actress Gwyneth Paltrow, as substitute teacher Holly Holliday, played Mary Todd Lincoln- wife of Abraham Lincoln- as part of a history lesson. In the video link (above), the short scene begins at the 39:10 minute mark. The transcript and dialogue reads:
Holly Holliday is standing at the front of class room dressed in 19th century clothing, lecturing to a high school class.
Holly Holliday: Mary Todd Lincoln in the house! My husband was probably gay and I'm bipolar, which makes me yell things like [pointing to a teapot], 'That teapot is spreading lies about me! Or, that can't be my baby because I don't love it! [throws imaginary baby over shoulder]
Mr. Schuester knocks on the door and asks Holly Holliday to speak with him for a moment.
Holly Holliday: Guys, practice your bipolar rants. See, history can be fun!
Please contact Fox TV and the director of the episode to express disappointment with the scene. Mental illness is not a joke. Would the show have included a scene that played AIDS or cancer for laughs?
Glee has enormous power to influence young people who constitute much of the show's audience-and for whom suicide is the third-leading cause of death. Ask the show to make amends by producing episodes that deal with mental illness accurately and compassionately and include themes of recovery.
Fox TV: Email address for comments on shows
Ryan Murphy (Glee creator, director, writer): Ryan Murphy Productions 5555 Melrose Ave Chevalier Bldg. Los Angeles, CA 90038 Phone: 323-956-5000 Fax: 323-862-2121
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
EXPLOITER OR STIGMA FIGHTER?
What should one think of a doctor who opts to treat his patients in front of America instead of in the privacy of his office? I wonder how a doctor could throw ethics and confidentiality out the window in order to increase ratings. Of course, I am talking about the now famous, Dr. Drew Pinsky.
I first heard about Dr. Drew while watching MTV's "Loveline" (the show began in 1983 but still airs on radio). Back in the 90's Dr. Drew used his expertise to answer questions from America's youth. These questions usually centered around relationships, sexuality, drug addiction, etc. I found the show to be interesting because complete strangers would divulge their personal issues for everyone to hear. I guess you could say it was the beginning of reality TV for me. However, it wasn't until "Celebrity Rehab" hit the air waves that I really began to pay attention.
"Celebrity Rehab" began around the time my brother was being immersed into a sea of his own psychiatrists, case managers, nurses, doctors, therapists, etc. I found myself watching because part of me wondered what it must be like for my brother to work on his own recovery one on one with a psychiatrist. But, the other part of me couldn't stop questioning Dr. Drew's motives for the show. Was he exploiting these celebrities to increase his own celebrity? Or was he really trying to show America that it was OK to seek treatment? Stigma is one of the main reasons why individuals will avoid treatment. The media has done a very good job of exploiting mental illness so it is only natural to deny that you may need professional help. In a way, I was glad that finally, someone was showing America first hand, that mental health should never be viewed as black and white. You can't just slap on a band aid and hope for the best. There are far too many layers for a doctor to pull away in order to deal with the root of a mental health issue.
The problem with our society is that we view mental illness as a weakness or flaw when in fact it takes lots of courage, many years of treatment and a deep personal discovery in order to reach recovery. At times, some of these real life situations are a matter of life and death. But it is good for those who are "unaware" to understand the severity of these cases. This will inspire understanding and empathy.
Dr. Drew recently said in an interview that people question his motives since the show falls under the category of "reality TV". In hind sight, he thinks he should have styled the show as a documentary. Maybe then, the "stigma" surrounding reality TV wouldn't cloud judgment or cause people to question his motives. These are small yet necessary steps towards acceptance. The more we discuss these issues the better we will become at combating exploitative media. Freedom of speech needs to be used as a tool to educate, not as a tool for the media to shove fear and horror down our throats. Just another reason why I won't watch the news. Always consumed with the negative. We must surround ourselves with positivity in order to inspire positivity.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
I had no idea that a little post on my employer's blog would call attention from those around the globe. If interested, check out this link for my boss' take on my little project. The comments just remind me that these illnesses can impact individuals of any creed, race, etc.
On another positive note, my brother has been out of the hospital for almost a year now. It may have taken a while to reach stability, but he has come a long way. It may sound odd, but last week was the first time he actually talked to me and ASKED ME questions for a change:) He hasn't really talked to any of his siblings in almost 12 months. I hope people do not take these little things for granted with their own loved ones. With most other illnesses, you may always wonder the outcome, but you rarely loose your connections with the person when he/she is right there in front of you. It is almost like the person is gone emotionally but there physically. Like a walking coma. I cherish these few moments of solace with my brother. It makes me feel like he is at peace and that is more important than anything. Hope to be back soon with some more meaningful and thought provoking blog posts.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
One of my favorite authors, J.D. Salinger, has passed away at the age of 91. I fell in love with his book "Catcher in the Rye" after reading it in 8th or 9th grade. So much so that I read it a second time years later.
""Catcher" presents the world as an ever-so-unfair struggle between the goodness of young people and the corruption of elders, a message that only intensified with the oncoming generation gap."
The following quote, from the book, describes the main character beautifully as well as the title:
"I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around - nobody big, I mean - except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy."
Looking back now, I think my obsession with this book stemmed from my fascination with childhood innocence. I have always felt this need to protect children from the harsh realities of adulthood. If I really want to dig deeper, I could say that my childhood experience with family feuding may have caused me to recoil from any confrontation at all costs. We can not choose the environments we grow up in but parents must realize that their actions can have lasting effects on a child's future. Now I am not saying you should shelter a child from every bad thing in the world, but some children are more sensitive than others. I feel it is my duty to protect my brother from his illness since I can't bear to see him in pain. We often say that Josh may have always been unequip to handle the harsh realities of adulthood. Now that he is burdened with a chronic illness, I would do anything to bring him back to the days when life was so easy for him, as a child. When he first got ill, he often made comments about life being much easier and enjoyable and a kid.
I am not a therapist, but being subjected to fights within the family/in-laws as a child was something I NEVER had any control of. As an adult, if I loose control, I have a very difficult time adjusting. I wonder if this stems from my childhood or the fact that I analyze everything:) I am not angry at my parents because the majority of the time, they were wonderful and supportive. The only issue I had was that they involved the children in their confrontation even though it had nothing to do with us. When you develop a great sensitivity to confrontation, those early experiences can never be erased. Maybe this is why I won't judge a serial killer or someone whose actions may have been triggered by an extremely abusive upbringing. We must remember that every effect has a cause.
What's ironic about "Catcher in the Rye" is how one man, with schizophrenia (an illness that robs someone of reality), felt that this book gave him reason to kill John Lennon.
"The cult of "Catcher" turned tragic in December 1980 when crazed Beatles fan Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon, citing Salinger's novel as an inspiration and stating that "this extraordinary book holds many answers."
At the time of the murder, Chapman was clearly unmedicated and unaware of his troubled mind. He has been in prison since 1981 after he changed his plea from insanity to guilty. Some believe that his illness may have resulted from his troubled childhood. Chapman was very sensitive to the anger his parents had towards each other. The physical abuse may have intruded upon his normal development. As a result, he escaped to a fantasy world. I wonder if Chapman became obsessed with Holden Caufield's character since he too was looking for someone to protect him.
I thank J.D. Salinger for his contributions to the literary world. He will never be forgotten. I will end with one of my favorite quotes:
"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." –Pablo Picasso
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Thursday, January 7, 2010
"Howard Stern sidekick and "Beer League" star Artie Lange was hospitalized this weekend after a suicide attempt at his Hoboken apartment, according to the New York Post. Sources tell the paper the bulbous funnyman stabbed himself nine times, including three deep wounds. A bloodied Lange was discovered by his mother Saturday morning. The 42-year-old has battled addiction in the past and has been absent from Stern's show on Sirius radio for over a month."
This was not Artie's first suicide attempt. If you listen to the show, you know that Artie is obviously dealing with a mental illness and I commend him for seeking help from a therapist recently (something that took years). I often thought that the death of his father caused much of his drug addiction but I have come to realize that, like myself, his inability to deal with his father's death may result from the illness itself. I see now how so many creative people are dealing with obsessive thoughts and other mental issues. There is a sensitivity there that you can't shake and it often is the reason for your creativity and pain. I understand this struggle very well. I am trying to improve on my own mental health but it is something that you tend to daily. I truly hope Artie is OK and my heart goes out to him and his supportive and loving family. They have also been through a great deal over the years. When I read how his mother discovered him while delivering food (she made with love), I thought of my own mother and how she has done so much for my brother. Thank you mom!