Mental health, medication, and creativity

So, apparently (read: according to my wife), it’s a Thing (read: trending a bit on Twitter) to claim that untreated mental illness is a font for creativity.

Holy wow.

Okay. To be fair, sometimes it very well may be. There are those whose art IS their mental illness, or more precisely their illness is the inspiration for their art. For these folks, I suppose, it’s reasonable to assume treating the illness may hamper their art. Would Stephen King write the horrors he does if he were medicated to cope with his nightmares? (Is that even possible?!) I mean, obviously, until he ran out of the memory of any not-yet-written nightmares … but after?

A frequent example is Van Gogh … no idea why. For one, in some respects he WAS medicated. Not well, but he was. And even modern meds … well … in some ways there’s no difference between using opium and using Xanax besides the side-effects. But never mind that he blows the argument that way, which can be counter argued that booze and getting high aren’t medicating, how about the fact he painted such beauty and life in spite of his “tortured soul”? I’m pretty sure his depression didn’t create his work, it just cut it off at the age of 30.

My wife, is less creative unmedicated. Without meds she can not write. She’s also arguably not a functional adult or even a strictly function hominid lifeform, but she can’t write for her anxiety issues.

Me? I can’t actually say. I mean if my oestrogen levels sink below some threshold it triggers depression (this is a woman thing … cis/trans doesn’t matter … men suffer similarly for low testosterone … fun fact for the day) so I suppose my HRT is medication for depression, but my depression is far more complex than that. I don’t medicate, though. Not really because I l’m afraid I couldn’t write without depression. If I’m depressed I avoid writing, after all … partly because it goes in dark directions and I’m not into goth fic so generally hate what I write, but also because I can’t seem to get the motivation and focus to. But when depression isn’t dragging me down I quite enjoy writing. So, arguably, meds would be a Good Idea. I just look at the side effects of anti-depressants and figure I’d rather cope because they would make me depressed.

I’m not going to take a side in the argument. There shouldn’t be sides, nor should there be an argument. Mostly, I think, the ‘illness is art’ are quite mad and part of a group I wrote about before who feel Art Must Be Torture! (Load of bollox).

Thing is, we’re all different. Maureen in Ready or Not has very firm opinions on not taking meds for her depression. Because for her they are more torture than benefit. She knows her little sister enough to advise her against them as well because it’s a likely point in commont betwixt the siblings to hate the sensation of being confined to a certain parameter of mood; it’s too suffocating. Now, trial and error with other medicines, other doses, may have been good but she couldn’t tolerate the way they left her feeling until that magical cocktail is discovered. She does actually use medical marijuana for insomnia and her depression it’s later revealed (uh … spoiler alert?)

The flip side of the coin are people “meds are why I’m alive now! Meds are miraculous and everyone should medicate!”

No. As is my wont I’ll stay right here in the realm of reality and rationality. Each human is unique. That uniqueness is important. Nothing works universally. Some people should definitely medicate, some definitely oughtn’t, still others can take it or leave it. Let’s chill and let it go.

My single point of firm belief is that some drugs are over prescribed. Many psychiatrists and psychologists do feel too many GPs will see someone seems stressed or down and give them a psych drug with no further evaluation, no actual attempt at therapy. Some GPs and psychologists alike are a little too happy to give Timmy and Suzy a Ritalin script … even when they don’t need it and thus a creative child becomes a zombie. But this is not a mental illness thing, this is a modern western (especially the for-profit American) medical profession thing and pathologicalising and medicating everything & sundry. So, ultimately, I suppose it comes back to moderation.

It’s amazing. Nothing is good in extremes. Change for the sake of change can be as terrible as holding onto tradition too strongly. Even rights have an interesting point of moderation: your rights and mine should not impede each other. Thus laws against theft, murder, wanton discrimination … these are sensible. Your right to religion shouldn’t impede my right to service BUT my right to service shouldn’t impede the rights of a church or church affiliated service (but that service shouldn’t get anyone’s tax dollars either, it’s only fair after all).

I ramble. If you haven’t caught on to this you’ve not been paying attention. But really, this is one of the internet’s more colossally asinine arguments. Let artists medicate or not. And if an artist may be in danger for their mental illness, let’s recommend they may want to seek help … conversely those suffering for their treatment should be encouraged to cease or reevaluate said therapies. It’s balance, baby.

Goodnight.

P.s. I can’t concentrate to go back over this for proofreading, so hopefully my recent bouts of extreme dyslexia this week won’t have impacted this too badly.

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