Posts Tagged ‘suicide’

Burning Brightly Until You Burn Out

13/08/2014

Anyone who knows me knows that I normally do not discuss celebrities, their lives, gossip and the other things that fill the supermarket tabloids. When conversations turn to those topics my blood pressure rises markedly and I either try to change the topic, or drop out of the discussion until there is something worth talking about; the lives of others not being something that I am interested in wasting time discussing. For the most part I try to live my life along the lines of a quote by a former First Lady of the United States of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt. She said, “great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” The main thrust of this being that there are far more important things that I can, and should be doing rather than wasting my life concerning myself with what someone I’m never going to meet is doing with their life. Sometimes, however, fame intersects with our lives in ways that we cannot help but have a greater connection with than would ordinarily happen, as is the case when someone we admire suddenly dies or is stricken with an illness and suffers terribly, under the watchful eye of the media.
WilliamsandDawber

Such is the case of Robin Williams, a man that many of us were introduced to on a sitcom back in the 1970s called “Happy Days” as “Mork, from Ork”; a role that would become the starring role in the television show “Mork and Mindy” starring his co-star, Pam Dawber. There, for the first time, we were introduced to the manic energy that was – that always shall be – Robin Williams … and we laughed. We laughed, and Robin Williams became a hit, a star … a great success, suffering behind the scenes, when the prying eyes of the cameras were not there to capture the tears of the laughing clown. Pagliacci had taken his curtain call for the final act.

Exeunt Stage Left, pursued by bear.

The recent suicide of comic genius Robin Williams may have as a great shock to many, but it was less of one to others; it is still a tremendous tragedy regardless of which camp you fall into. Like many people, I found out about the death of Williams through a friend of mine on Facebook, but had no idea at the time that he had taken his own life. My first thought, however, knowing that Robin Williams had lived with bipolar disorder for much of his adult life, and had battled severe depressive episodes, as well as addictions, led me to think that there was a very strong likelihood that suicide was going to be the cause of death. Shortly after posting my reply to the original post I read an actual news source referring to the “alleged suicide” and my heart fell; yet another creative genius had fallen victim to the disease of bipolar disorder: the bleakness of depression had robbed them of their joy and they had chosen a permanent solution for what was truly a temporary problem.

Mental illness is not uncommon among creative individuals, and it certainly hasn’t skipped the ranks of the comedic greats, many of whom have battled bipolar disorder, depression, and various other neuroses, which are often what fuels their acts and makes them so enjoyable for the rest of us to watch. The manic energy of Robin Williams gave his comedy an edge that was not seen anywhere else: he would literally walk out onto the stage not knowing what he was going to do until he opened his mouth … and then, magic happened. His brain operated faster than that of the mere mortal, he worked at a level that would astound anyone trying to keep up, so they didn’t try to keep up, they just sat back and allowed the genius that was Robin Williams to wash over them, to overwhelm them with his brilliance, to illuminate them with his wit, and to brighten their lives with what he had to offer … and then … it was over.

But Robin Williams wasn’t alone: others have had similar paths. Richard Jeni, a comedian with a dark, sardonic sense of humour, was also afflicted with bipolar disorder and, unfortunately, took his life in 2007. Lenny Bruce, one of the ground-breakers in modern comedy, died of an acute morphine overdose, on August 3, 1966 after being hounded by the legal system for his use of obscenities in his act (he received a full gubernatorial pardon after his death … I’m sure that made everything better in the eyes of the state). Richard Pryor, John Belushi, Ray Combs, … there are more that could be added to the list, but that’s the point, isn’t it? There are more … there are always going to be more, unless the root problem is dealt with, and even then, there will probably still be more, for the problem is, mental illness may ultimately cause some of us to take our lives, it is also an important component of the creative energy that people want to see. Ah, yes … therein lies the rub. If you take away the pain, if you cure the blackness of the depressions, do you steal away the creative energy as well?

Bipolar disorder was also known as Manic Depressive Disorder because of the nature of the illness. Aristotle wrote that the element of Mania (described as “hyperthymia”) as being responsible for the heightened mental gifts of artists, writers, poets, and all creative minds of the time. Given the number of highly talented individuals who are perfectly healthy and lead well balanced lives we know that it is not necessary to have a mental illness to be creative. However, researchers have demonstrated that given the relatively small size of creative communities compared to individuals who consider themselves to be non-creative, affective disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder occur at much higher rates than they do throughout the non-creative population. This is demonstrated in the writings of Kay Redfield Jamison, who is both a Clinical Psychologist and Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and an author of several books including Touched With Fire, in which she examines the world of creativity and mental illness. Jamison shows clear connections between the creative worlds of composers and writers and that of bipolar disorder and depression. As someone living with bipolar disorder I cannot help but see those same connections between these comedians, many of whom have also been diagnosed either with bipolar disorder or with depression, and their work. As much as someone with this illness may despise it, a realization emerges that it is also what feeds our creative life (or at least it is part of that process, a part that cannot be separated from the whole): we either develop a grudging respect for the illness or a respectful fear for it, but we never become pleased to see it; there is never a time when we are buddy-buddy with the mental illness in our lives.

WilliamsSadThe problem arises when we grow complacent about the illness. Mental illnesses can kill, as we sadly saw with the tragic passing of Robin Williams, but they do not have to: they can, and should be managed, but this is where things get difficult for those of us who rely on that creative energy that flows from the fires of the mental illness … fires that can burn too bright … fires that can burn us, engulf us … kill us. The fires of creativity, for some, come out of manic episodes, which is extraordinarily dangerous as full-blown mania can be absolutely out of control: they are usually accompanied by symptoms such as grandiose thinking, making great plans and not finishing any of them, working without the need for sleep for days on end, fast talking, loss of emotional control, lowered inhibitions, sexual promiscuity, risk taking, and being easily distracted (among several others). Full-blown mania usually results in the individual ending up in the hospital, receiving heavy sedation until the episode finally breaks. People have actually died from manic episodes as a result from an acute lack of sleep as the disease can cause people to remain awake for more than 72 hours, after which the person can literally die of exhaustion. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the most productive type of energy that one can work under, for fairly obvious reasons. If you cannot stay still long enough to write down the idea that has popped into your mind it really isn’t that much use to you to have been inspired in the first place.

There is, on the other hand, a sub-type of bipolar disorder that is much more conducive to creativity than full blown mania, which occurs in Bipolar type I, and that is Bipolar type II, which is defined by someone having experienced an episode of hypo-mania. Unlike full-blown mania, hypo-mania is not as severe, not as reckless in its severity, and the person afflicted with it is not as likely to end up in the hospital as the result of the episode. This is the type of Bipolar disorder that I’ve been living with for about twenty years, and I couldn’t imagine living without it, even though it has sometimes made me want to die, for I know my creative life is inexorably tied to the cycles that I experience. The energy that comes from the cycles is something that I am able to channel into my work on a daily basis, but the true hypo-manic episode is fairly rare … and that is by design: if they were allowed to appear more frequently the extreme depressive episodes would appear more frequently as well. Thanks to the treatment that I receive my episodes are reduced, but the creative energy is still present, and that is something that I wish someone like Robin Williams could have found for himself.

I’m not ashamed to say that I see a psychiatrist. I’ve been seeing him since I began treatment for depression, back in 1999. I was improperly diagnosed as having unipolar depression at first, which isn’t uncommon when it comes to this illness; it often takes 10 years to properly diagnose bipolar disorder. Consider this: people with bipolar disorder don’t usually go to their doctor when they are felling “up” or manic, they go when they feel down in the dumps, depressed. The doctors see the symptoms of depression, ask a few questions and diagnose a depressive illness: but that’s only half of the picture. Antidepressants can often send the person with bipolar disorder into a faster ride on the Roller-coaster-from-hell, so much so that many psychiatrists do not prescribe antidepressants at all for patients with bipolar disorder, even when they are in a depressive phase of the illness. The medications used to treat bipolar II are varied, but it has been found that a cocktail of novel antiepileptics and second generation antipsychotics (several of which also have antidepressant properties) are sufficient in balancing out an individuals mood.

When I see my psychiatrist the first thing he asks me is “how is your writing”? He knows that the best predictor for my mental health is how I’ve been working over the past month. If I’ve been composing and/or writing: I’m doing well. If not: Danger Will Robinson, Danger! I can take a day or two off every now and then, and that’s fine, but if I go a week without writing … that’s not good. If I went a month: that would be a MASSIVE call for help, and I might not have even seen it myself until I brought it up at appointment. The point is, I am very much about what I do: I am a composer because I compose. It is what I do, it is who I am. Similarly, I am a writer because it is what I do (when I have time, usually if I’m not composing). I’d love to take the time to sit down and work on my novel, but I have too many pieces I have to compose … so … I have to work out some sort of compromise (I still have to figure out how to not sleep at all … I’m working on it … a future post, perhaps).

The important thing about seeing my psychiatrist is that we’ve developed a great rapport and, more than anything, he understands the importance of my work in my life. It would be possible to completely eradicate the bothersome symptoms associated with the bipolar disorder in my life: all that would take would be more medication. When I began my treatment, in 1999, we tried doing just that, but the problem was it stopped me from being me: I couldn’t hear music. The music in my head stopped playing and I couldn’t stand to hear it at all … I didn’t want to live, and didn’t want to take that medication. Surprisingly, my doctor understood, and a new protocol was established. Lower doses of a different medication (after some experimenting), and we arrived at my present “cocktail” of three medications: two mood stabilizers (two antiepileptics) and an extremely low dose of a second generation antipsychotic, which serves as a “major tranquillizer” to “quiet the monkey chatter” in my head at night. It works. Well. But, it doesn’t stop my moods from cycling, it just rounds off the sharpness off the corners so that it doesn’t hurt as much when I bump into them.

To say that depression doesn’t still affect me would be a lie, it does; it visits far more than I’d like, but the episodes do not last nearly as long as they did before I began treatment. What used to last weeks or months now last hours or days, though they can be just as severe and dark. Fortunately, I was also able to participate in a program of psychiatric rehabilitation at the Royal Ottawa Hospital, here in Ottawa, that provided me with an abundance of tools for dealing with my depressive episodes from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to Symptom Self Management. I can’t help but wonder how those groups might have assisted a person like Robin Williams to learn some valuable tools to help him cope with his inner demons. Of course, a few years ago a dear friend of mine from high school also lost her battle with depression and chose to end her life, chose to solve a temporary problem with a permanent solution. She left this world on December 6, 2006, and it shocks me that it was so many years ago … the pain of being notified of her death stings me to this day … I don’t know if anyone would go through with suicide if they really knew how much pain it would cause those who would be notified of their deaths.

Let’s be straight here: I did not know Robin Williams, but felt as though I did through his work. A dear friend of mine, however, did commit suicide, and I still feel the pain of her death. I still hurt when I think of the things I’d love to share with her … and I still have her email address in my contact list, and her phone number in my (new) phone. She took her life almost eight years ago, but it feels like yesterday, and when I think about how senseless her death was, how much life she had in her, it grieves me tremendously, but I know that she was in a great deal of pain because of the depression that she suffered from and also because of a chronic pain condition called fibromyalgia. When you think of the emotional distress that Robin Williams was experiencing over the last few months the difficult thing to ask is why he didn’t seek help. A man with his resources could have certainly accessed any mental health services in the United States, and yet, he seemingly chose to suffer in silence and die alone.

Mental illness can be a terrifyingly isolating disease to suffer with, especially when you think you’re going through it alone, and people living in the public eye may not feel it is so easy to access the same services that everyone else is able to when they aren’t being watched by the paparazzi 24 hours a day. At the same time, I find it difficult to imagine someone of William’s personality sitting in a room full of people trying to get help for his mental illness … but that’s the point, in seeking help you have to be just that, an ordinary, average person. When I sat through my groups in the hospital I wasn’t there as a composer or writer, I was there as a person with an illness, seeking their expertise: I NEEDED their help, and I received it. The great irony, I suppose, is that when he needed the help of others the most, when in his darkest hour, that’s when Robin Williams should have relied on his fame to get himself the help he needed; instead, alas, he listened to the darkness. I will always remember Robin Williams for the light that he brought into this world, for the laughter that he gave us, and the tears … the tears of joy. But I will also cherish the darker Robin, the Robin Williams of One Hour Photo, in which he did not play for the laughs, he instead explored a darker side of life; we know understand, all too well, that he was well acquainted with the darker side of life.WilliamsGlad

Everything that I’ve heard since his death has painted a picture of a man who was exceeding generous and kind, both professionally and personally; Robin Williams was not only funny, he was a genuinely amazing person both on and off the screen, and that is good to know. It is always heartbreaking to hear that someone you admired in life turned out to be a selfish jerk once they’ve died and everyone starts talking about them. This is why I do not write about celebrities ordinarily, or gossip, as a rule. I only chose to write about Robin Williams and his suicide as a vehicle to discuss the issue of mental illness, in the hopes that it might help others who happen to find themselves in a desperate state, others thinking of hurting themselves.

Please: suicide is not a way out, it is not a solution. Depression is not a permanent state of affairs, depression ends: it always does. Sometimes it seems like it goes on forever, but trust me, it WILL END! Please: if you are feeling suicidal contact 911 or the Suicide Prevention Hotline (America / Canada) or, if you have one, call your doctor. They are not there to judge you, they are there to help you, and they will.

Carpe Diem.

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… and the beat goes on …

25/07/2014

When your life revolves around music, as mine does, it becomes quite easy to live what may be termed an “insulated” life – a life that is, in many ways, unconnected with the realities that the rest of the world deals with on a regular basis for the simple reason that while music may be important to me (and to everyone else who creates music), and the rarefied individuals who are able to partake of the joys of contemporary “art music”, the realities of life (though some might argue, correctly, I might add, that this is not how life should be) – but war, and the political machinations behind the scenes that ultimately, inexorably, lead to wars and genocides, as well as the various crimes and misdemeanours which the Talking Heads on the News seem so pleased to be bringing into our homes every night, promptly at 6pm (except when they want to interrupt Judge Judy at 4pm) – all of these seem to conspire together to make me feel that  what I am doing with my life seems quite insignificant. At least, that may be how I start to feel when my mood takes one of the many downward spirals that are closely associated with an illness that I have been living with for many years – it began to manifest itself while I was in high school, thirty years ago. The illness is not uncommon among composers, it seems: some of the greatest musical geniuses have been afflicted with this disease, including Robert Schumann, Hector Berlioz, George Frederick Handel, and perhaps even Ludwig van Beethoven (cf. Touched with Fire by Kay Redfield Jamison) – so I count myself among great company when I say “I have Bipolar Disorder. I have Bipolar Affective Disorder, Type II, and I’m not ashamed – at all – because of it, so don’t bother making notes or copying and pasting this, to use against me at some point in the future: I’ve gone on record on a number of occasions – this is not a “coming out” for me, but thank you for caring.

I also have to remember, and this is important, that when my mood turns away from the sunny pursuits of life my feelings are liars: my feelings want me to succomb to their taunts and prevarications, that I may abandon hope, cast aside all that I’ve accomplished, and surrender to the Sirenic calls coming from the depths of Hades. The lies will, eventually, cause you to take everything that is important and kill it, but you cannot allow those voices to be heard for very long lest they force your mood into a deeper darkness than it had been in before the day began. Depression is pernicious, evil and, above all else, it does not discriminate: anyone is susceptible to it, regardless of their social standing or moral character. It does not matter whether you are a “good person” or an asshole, 1 in 5 people will become depressed at some point in their lives. You have a much greater chance of becoming depressed – at some point in life – than of ever winning the Lottery.

I have tickets for the Lottery this weekend.

In all seriousness, I could be angry at the fact that I have a mental illness (that is, after all, what Bipolar disorder is), but that’s not how I feel about it and I’m going to tell you why (this would be a pretty lame article if I didn’t, right? – never mind): I know, for a fact, that my creative life has been tremendously enhanced as a result of this illness. It has made aspects of my life more difficult and yes, it has caused some intense suffering, but the abilities that I’ve gained – the ability to see things with an increased clarity, to feel things at a greater depth (yes, I’m a man that cries – a lot, at times – sometimes over the silliest things, but it is only because I feel something that touches me tremendously), and to experience things in a way that just does not make sense to others. Just as I try not to eat junk food, I try not to listen to “noise” – in whatever form it may inhabit (I’m not making a specific statement regarding any particular genre of music as I’ve listened to, and enjoyed, everything from Ska to avant garde jazz [which can be WAY out there]; I’m referring to … crap. There, I said it: musical crap. It exists, you’ve heard it, that’s all I’m saying.). When listening to music it goes beyond simply “hearing” the music, it is something that enters through the entire body: there’s a piece of music by Beethoven, for example, that I just adore, the first movement of his 6th Symphony (among many other pieces), also known as the Pastorale. It is an achingly beautiful composition, but lately I find that I rarely listen to recordings of the piece when I leave the house: instead of using my Mp3 player and having the sounds of traffic interspersed with my recording I close my eyes (once I’m on the bus … walking with my eyes closed has tended to cause me more pain than I’m already experiencing as a result of the fibromyalgia … more in a future article) which allows me to drown out everything around me, and let the “orchestra of my mind” take up the symphony. It is a performance replete with every nuance and gesture that the composition deserves, without sounding overly sentimental … and I don’t have to pause the performance if I don’t want to, while changing buses, or waiting for the train – I just listen, in my mind, and experience my own private concert. I can, and do, do this with several of my favourite pieces, and have been “practicing” pieces that I’m playing on the guitar by “playing” them in my mind while waiting at the bus stop, playing the left hand fingering on the strap of my satchel, every note ringing in my mind as clearly as though I were playing on the best guitar in the world.

When you are listening to music in your mind (or, perhaps I should say, hearing music in your head) you are living the music at a deeper level than if you are only using your ears. Another term for this type of “deep listening” is audiation. Audiation is, in its essence, “ear imagination” – being able to imagine  sound(s) in your ear. It is a particularly important talent for composers who can, literally, compose in their heads if (and this is one of those big “ifs”) they can hear what they want to put down on the paper without having to refer to an instrument. In this sense, I’ve been very lucky in that this is how I’ve been composing virtually from day one. I never compose at a piano or on the guitar, though I may play something after I’ve written it down, I write things down as I hear it, or after hearing it in my head. That’s just the way I’ve always worked, and it has always worked well for me, so I’m not about to change things up now. Regardless of how I may be feeling I understand now that the most important thing for me is the process: writing, composing, putting things down on paper – or on the screen – filling those empty spaces – is a process, and if you are not dedicated to the process, even when things seem to be going badly, you will fail. Failure is not an option. Failure – failing – is part of life, and we learn our greatest lessons from our failures, our mistakes, our massive f*@$ Ups – they make us who we are as adults. Anyone that says they haven’t failed is a liar, and someone dealing with intense insecurity issues. They shouldn’t be trusted.

I have failed. Actually, one of my biggest failures, in university, ended up being one of the best things to happen to my musical education, and turned out to be a tremendous experience that I wouldn’t have had if I had succeeded: I had been carrying a double major – composition AND performance (psychotic? no, just bipolar), and I was failed on my 4th year recital, which I did in my 3rd year (which was actually my 2nd year at the school … confusing, perhaps … but don’t worry, it isn’t important). Anyway, I needed a C+ to pass the recital and received a C. I received an “A” from one jury member, a “B” from another, and an “F” from the third member … he really hated the piece that I’d composed, and he told me so – and he gave me a mark to fail me, even though two-thirds of the jury had given me marks that were more than passing marks. BUT … failing that 6 credit course was a blessing! To make up those credits (they wouldn’t count towards my degree – and – since they wouldn’t count, the C wouldn’t figure into my GPA! It was as though I hadn’t even taken the course!) I was able to take a Special Research Project with my composition teacher and a Graduate Studies course in Schenkerian Analysis – and I received top marks in both courses, graduating Magna Cum Laude. So, failing was an opportunity to learn, an opportunity to grow – and an opportunity to grow some humility. Nobody is perfect.

Our greatest perfection lies in the recognition of our imperfections. It is only when we are able to look into ourselves and see the ugliness looking back that we are equipped to deal with it, to look back and, instead of cringing,  look the ugliness in the eye and declare, “I know you; I recognize you … I’m going to change you.” On the occasions that I do take the time to listen to the Talking Heads who seem so intent on invading my space every evening at 6pm I am astounded at the level of frivolity that accompanies what they deign worthy of being called “News” – certain “human interest” stories (Man Bites Dog: Dog Gets Rabies … etc.) that seem to be just two steps beyond the inane level. At the same time, it makes me wonder, how much more some of these people need the beauty of music in their lives. Perhaps it isn’t such a frivolous existence after all, not when you consider how much music can bring people together, if only for the few moments the piece is being played, there is total equality for (my) music does not judge. There is no race in music, there is no religion, no strife, no violent struggle against right or wrong (and if there is, there are no casualties!), and there hatred, only the joyful noise that celebrates the love of life in all of its glory.

So, with all the glory of life and music, why is it I want to die every now and then?

Bipolar Disorder, otherwise known as “Manic Depressive Disorder” is, in many ways, the best and the worst of what you could ask for (not that anyone would ask for a mental illness). Type II of this illness indicates that the individual does not experience a full-blown manic episode, which may often end up resulting in a stay in the hospital. Mania is a serious thing, not something to be joked about, and definitely NOT something that you want to experience. I’ve seen people during a manic episode and it is not pretty. I am lucky (yes, I said it) in that I only (only) experience hypomanic episodes. “Hypomania” is, quite literally, a “small” mania. I like to compare the two like this: Mania is like someone running down the street, naked, singing Black Sabbath songs … while twirling a parasol. Hypomania is watching the person experiencing the manic episode and saying to yourself, “that looks like a lot of fun, but … I think I’d choose the Beatles instead … and no parisal” – but – the person with hypomania does NOT go through with it, that’s the difference. Hypomania, when I experience it (not very often – perhaps a few times per month, if I’m unlucky) makes me feel as though everything is running in triple-fast-forward; all of my senses are in overdrive, and it feels as though my entire body is “thrumming” with energy, that I could, quite literally, lift off the ground just by thinking about it – or by taking a small step into the air. Unfortunately, these episodes do not usually result in a great amount of creative lucre – I am usually too easily distracted by … anything … to harness the energies of the episode and create something. On the rare occasion that I experience a “switch” into hypomania while I’m already at work on a piece … oh my … that can be an incredible session and produce amazing results, or crap. Yes, sometimes this has happened and the next time I looked at my work I ended up deleted several hour’s of work because … it was CRAP! But, that happens. Part of the maturing process as an artist, and particularly as a composer, is being able to look at what you’re writing and recognize when something is worth keeping and something is not (I’m not talking about false modesty here, “oh, nothing I write is worth saving” – that’s a load of crap – if you believe that, become a garbage person, not an artist).

Most of my creative energies come from a place that is between hypomania and the depressions that I experience, though they (thankfully) don’t last very long (usually), thanks to the medications I take. When I’m working it is as though my mood reaches some form of artificial “stasis”, blocking out everything including the pain from the constant migraine that I’ve been living with since high school. As long as the music is flowing (that which I’m hearing in my head) it is possible to maintain this “cone of creativity”, but – once I stop my composing session for the day … the tsunami washes over me with overwhelming force.

So, the struggle continues, and when I make the mistake of listening to the Talking Heads I allow myself to question what value there is to putting a bunch of black notes on paper, making marks and lines that may never be played or heard by others – in my lifetime. I have to remind myself that composing is not really about the “here and now” (or the “hear and now”), but rather about an investment into the cultural future of our species. Yes, that sounds incredibly grandiose, but think about it for a moment, how many manuscripts of Bach may have been lost because of the manner in which he composed and how the finished scores were transmitted, stored, and etc.? Beethoven? Mozart? Several, for each, and that is a tragedy. Contemporary composers face similar issues, even (and especially) when writing music that creates scores on the computer, but when we produce music, even if it is not performed in our lifetime, it exists, and will be around for future generations of performers looking for “something new” from a particular generation. Composers are adding drops into a giant time capsule for future generations to open and enjoy. That’s why I’ve always said “you do not become a composer of contemporary classical music to become rich”.

I have to remind myself that Depression is a liar, and it’s very good at it as well. Depression will tell you that you’re a failure, that you haven’t achieved anything, and that you’re never going to achieve anything. Do Not Listen to it’s voice. Depression is something that can be, should be, and must be battled – at all costs. Do not fall into the lie that “I can beat this” on your own, that’s one of the lies Depression uses to entrap its victims into its cycle of defeat, desolation, and disintegration (of self). Depression cannot bear the light of day, the sound of laughter, the smile of another, or the touch of a loved one. Depression must be treated as the dangerous serial killer that it is: if you or a friend/relative are experiencing a serious depressive episode PLEASE seek help from a qualified medical professional. If you have been considering harming yourself IN ANY WAY, PLEASE call the Emergency Services (911 in Canada & U.S.) and call for help immediately (a Canadian resource). There is nothing to be ashamed of, this is an illness that must be taken seriously before it takes another victim. There’s no point feeding the dragon when we have weapons that have been forged in flames to defeat it.

While Bipolar disorder is an illness that leads some people to take their lives, it does have a silver lining in that it has been shown to enhance the creativity of the afflicted. One might say, in closing, it is a bitter pill to swallow, but I wouldn’t change it if I could: I’ve never known another way as far as my creativity goes; how could I be sure I could compose without this Mercurial, Psychotic Muse paying me her regular visits? It is a chance, thank you very much, that I would not take. For now, and forever, I shall remain the CrazyComposer – thank you, thank you very much … and the beat … and the beat goes on … and on … and on.

No, what’s YOUR problem?

17/06/2010

Stigma by the Numbers
People with mental illnesses face many battles as they try to cope with the various illnesses trying to take over their lives, not the least of these is the stigma of having to live with something that they have absolutely no control over. Think about how unfair it is to be judged for something that you have nothing to do with: it’s like being called a bad person by virtue of your skin colour or your sex. While we obviously try to not tolerate these prejudices in an ‘enlightened’ society, they nevertheless continue to take place every day. People with mental illnesses face the harsh judgements of people who have medieval understandings of the realities of the illnesses and their treatments.

We see this lack of knowledge when we hear people speak so carelessly about mental illness: how someone is ‘depressed’ because their team lost, or someone has a ‘split-personality’ and must be schizophrenic. What they don’t realize is that true depression is a serious illness that can, if left untreated, lead to death, and that schizophrenia has absolutely nothing to do with ‘split personalities’; that is a myth perpetuated by bad movies and an ill-informed media.How Misunderstood Mental Illness is in America

When dealing with issues such as suicidal ideation or serious suicidal states it must be made clear that these acts are not done merely to attract the attention of others. When someone only wants the attention of others they will ‘grandstand’, declaring their intentions in such a way as to attract that attention, usually before an actual or serious attempt is made. However, an attempt at suicide, regardless of whether it fails or not, is a call for help that should never be ignored.

Stigma can only be defeated when we answer ignorance with reason, demonstrating that people with mental illnesses have as much to contribute to society as anyone else.