Magical, Manic Melancholia

by Jennifer Isenhart

Disclaimer: This article discusses things that may trigger someone sensitive to its material, please read at your own risk.

My Own Magical, Manic Melancholia :

As a child I wrote many stories and I created magical scenes through art.

I was inspired, at a very young age, by the movie “Mary Poppins” to draw elaborate scenes I could jump into another world through.

As a younger creative, was I escaping something back then?

I was about seven when I realized I had depression and remember vividly not wanting to be alive anymore. I realized then that I was odd. There was something not right about me. Other kids seemed so free and to make friends easily. They seemed “happy” and I seemed to be the outsider…even with my friends.

If someone made fun of me, I struggled to have a retort. My words would come out wrong. My words would be misunderstood and then challenged and I couldn’t find the right words to defend myself. So, I was picked on and I learned to pick on others in the process, which I regret terribly. Unfortunately, the saying “hurt people hurt people” is right on par.

I felt I was inferior, though. I knew that I was strange.

Through the years this knowing of something being wrong with me, but not knowing what it really was and how to fix it made me withdraw more and more.

I am certain working 2-3 jobs 6-7 days a week while being a single mom didn’t help me be less reclusive.

I have gone to counseling on and off through the years. Unfortunately, though desperately needed, counseling has often been too expensive for me to keep up with.

Over the years I was medicated, and I am currently medicated for depression. Being diagnosed as bipolar 2 by one psychiatrist and having severe depression plus anxiety disorder by another.

Sure…I can contribute my depression to severe abuse as a child, brutal head trauma at the age of twelve, but genetically, I got the short-end of the stick when it comes to mental illness/depression. I am literally pre-dispositioned to be mentally ill.

I have noticed that creating and writing are ways of telling others that you are tormented by not saying it verbally because speaking out loud is scary. You may not get the words out correctly. So, creatives say it and medicate ourselves through our art, whether that be singing, writing, drawing, whatever.

It’s no news that art is a therapy. It’s not even news that creatives are often depressed or mentally ill. We have kind of always known that notion through creatives such as Hemingway and Van Gogh, but it got me to thinking…

Had there been studies? What are the statistics? What kinds of mental illness are tied to creatives?

Find out what I have found out down below…

Medicated:

I have found I am most creative without my antidepressants, but I am much less tolerable as a human without my antidepressants. I am much more suicidal without my antidepressants. I cry so much more. I feel so much more. I ridicule more. I am just miserable and I make others miserable, too. So, I stay medicated these days, taking two different antidepressants and taking the hit to my creativity.

So, yeah, I am much less productive creatively, but much easier to endure. Even if I choose to stay reclusive, I still have family members had home I’d prefer to stay stable for as I have seen the effects of me untreated on people I care about the most and would prefer to not continue down that path.

I have chosen not to medicate with illicit drugs, but in my art community, and many creative communities, I have seen many creatives tap into illicit drug use. I have first hand seen how illicit drug use has stolen away truly, great people. People born small, beautiful, and perfect to this world just like you and I were. So, I do not choose this as a coping mechanism. I choose not to lose myself that way.

However, don’t let whatever impression you may have of me elude you, I have had alcoholic episodes where I have made a habit of drinking alone and drinking myself to sleep.

Alcoholism runs heavily in my family. I have seen my family live many, many years abusing alcohol and still be good humans. I have also unfortunately seen their decline into dementia and cirrhosis.

I have luckily been able to pull myself out of it as I was noticing its progression and my decent.

One of my fortunate traits has been that I am able to figure out what changes my body has adopted, when they started to occur, and what it could be correlated to. If I notice a change, like my depression worsening, I am able, usually as caffeine is still an exception, to realize what is making it worse and change it before it takes me down with it.

It’s heartbreaking to see wondrous creatives fade into a different person just to evade their feelings through illicit drug use or alcoholism, but that’s just it, entirely…this is why we are here. Creatives feel. Creatives have feelings. They have deep, tangible, turbulent, unrelenting feelings.


If you or someone you know struggles with substance abuse, please find some information to help here:

SAMHSA


Statistics:

I went to various sources online in my venture to find the answers to how connected mental illness and creativity are.

This is what I found in my search.

Some studies focused on artists and writers confirm that artists and writers are 20 times more likely to struggle with bipolar disorder and 10 times more likely to have depression, according to an article published by https://www.artshub.com.au/ .

As I said above, I was diagnosed as bipolar 2 by one psychiatrist whom had spent 10 minutes with me in the hospital. This established that this psychiatrist felt I have small to moderate highs (no mania) and extreme lows (seriously severe depression) and I was obviously prone to suicidal ideation. I don’t argue this, just must note that he spent 10 whole minutes with me.

Apparently, in the Arts hub article, bipolar disorder only affects 1% of the general population. However, they also state that several studies found that artists/creatives have between 5%-40%(huge gap) of having bipolar disorder and if they had milder bipolar cycles, these creatives were affected up to 70%.

In the case of regular, old, run-of-the mill major depression, the general population rate is about 5%, but the rate among artists and writers in the various studies were between 15% and 50% (another huge gap).

I was diagnosed by a psychiatrist as having major depression and anxiety disorder. I saw this psychiatrist monthly and if I remember correctly, the sessions were at least a half an hour. It wasn’t for counseling, so I think it was shorter than a therapy session. These sessions were more to evaluate and medicate.

The Arts Hub article also stated that both bipolar disorders and major depressive disorders were associated with high suicide rates and that artists were 18 times more likely to commit suicide.

Not only does mental illness run high in my family, but completed suicide runs high in my family as well. I have lost uncles, aunts, and cousins to suicide.


I keep the suicide prevention hotline number in my phone and the link on my computer at all times just in case I need it.

Please use the resource if you need it. I know it’s hard to remember when you are deep in your depression, but you really are valuable.

/https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/


According to Billboard.com a survey based on nearly 1,500 independent musicians by Swedish-based digital distribution platform Record Union found 73% of the population had struggled with negative mental health issues, especially depression and anxiety.

This survey apparently went on to say those musicians aged 18-25, the numbers were even worse, with 80% of respondents in that age range having experienced negative mental health effects stemming from their music careers.  

In the Record Union survey, of those who said they had suffered from symptoms of mental illness, only 39% (and only 33% of those aged 18-25) said they had sought out treatment for their symptoms. Of that same group, 51% said they had self-medicated, the majority with alcohol and drugs. 

In my search, schizophrenia did pop up here and there in the creative community, it seems bipolar disorders, depression, and anxiety remain a consistent problem for most creatives.

I honestly was surprised that in my findings, borderline personality didn’t display a prevalence in creatives, but borderline is quite often misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder.

Final Thoughts…

So, I think we can conclude in the studies and surveys above, that there is a connection between mental illness and creativity.

I am sure that there are various other studies and surveys that have different findings, but we’ve, at the very least, found that there is a connection between being creative and battling mental illness.

So…I guess, we could say, in most beauty, there is pain.

To find out more about the connections and creative minds, I have placed some videos and articles down below for you to dive into.

Thanks for reading!

…and more…

What does our government say on the correlation? Follow this link:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9533970/

To find out who some of the famous creatives with mental illness were/are, follow this link:

There is a fantastic psychiatric conference on the “Library of Congress” youtube channel on creatives and mental illness. You can see it here:

…and another great conference on creativity and the brain…

For a psychology article on schizophrenia and creativity , follow this link:

www.psychologytoday.com

…and since Johnny Depp is a hot topic right now, here’s a conference on creativity and madness with Johnny Depp…

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