At my counselor’s the other day, my wife and I were going over how life has been for us lately. We described our time as I’ve been coming out of my latest depressive cycle and entering into my manic time. Our counselor’s ears perked to increased attention. Apparently the words “manic” and “depression” when used so close together are magical words which signal the need for further exploration (not just one of my favorite Jimi Hendrix songs).
As a part of life with a writer, we’d rather gotten used to the cycle. Bipolar Disorder runs in both of our family lines. We’ve both lived with a bipolar parent and that condition plays out in a variety of different ways. Thing is, I straddle a weird nexus with this as being unhealthy mentally is embraced in the artistic community (we LOVE the image of the eccentric writer), a source of embarrassment in the black community, and something to be ashamed of in the church** community.
It’s not the first time the notion of “getting medicated” has come up in my life. It took me a long time to drop the resistance to going to a counselor, but I still hesitate at the possibility of being medicated. I’m lumping this under the category “fear of getting fixed”:
1. “Novelists are damaged people, and writing is how they repair their psyches.” ~ David Morrell. That quote holds a lot of truth to many writers. I’ve always had this quiet notion (lie) that I’d never be a great writer because I wasn’t cracked enough in the head, one of those mad geniuses. Maybe it’s part of the romanticized ideas of what it means to be a writer, but I’ve always lived with my demons, letting them play out on the page. And I’ve thought that “getting fixed” would lead to the ruin of the stories I write. Here’s the analogy I’ve used: the best comedians work from a place of pain. What happens to their comedy when they have found some measure of healing?
2. Drugged out zombie. Now I’ve not been one to take drugs of any sort in the first place. I think our culture is quick on the trigger to medicate itself as is. That being said, I’ve been doubly scared that drugs that would “stabilize” me would also hinder my creativity. My big fear is that my mind would function as if it was moving through mud, and I’d be unable to string two thoughts together.
All of this angst-ridden noodling is done under the long shadow of how some in the church community tend to approach issues of mental health.**** Far too many times, any sort of mental issue, for example, depression, is met with an attitude that the sufferer demonstrates a lack of faith or has some other sort of failing in their spiritual walk. The “treatment” as it were amounts to reading the Bible and praying. Diseases of the mind somehow can’t be treated on a physical basis, as opposed to a toothache or having cancer.
Spiritually speaking, the problems should be confronted on three fronts: as a spiritual problem, an emotional problem, and a biological problem (spirit, mind/heart, and body). It’s like whenever we deal with the issues of mental health, we only address one area when all three have to be addressed to find wholeness. For example, as a thought experiment, think of how a past wound done to us can turn into unforgiveness and bitterness thus becoming a spiritual stronghold in your body. Who knows how this might throw off your brain chemistry. Don’t get me wrong, this is an oversimplification of things, but hopefully you see where I’m going with that.
This is me just getting mentally prepared for taking the assessment. We’re not there yet, and I’m a long way from having a “label” to deal with (and even then, that label wouldn’t be my identity, just part of who I am). It’s just what I’m thinking about. There is wholeness to be had. God created me as a creative person and I will continue to create. I will always have stories to tell.
*I almost went with “I’m Not Crazy, I’m a Christian”, but I think I’ll save that for a different kind of blog post.
**I’m defining “church” as American Evangelicals, as that’s been the majority of my experience. I’d worry about offending them, but the “take two verses and call me in the morning” crowd doesn’t read me.
***I could say the same for hip hop artists who have their muse in the cauldron of pain and poverty of their life on the streets … and then what happens to them once they’ve made it big and gotten rich.
****When I wrote my blog Male Pattern Depression, I was deluged with e-mails from guys who felt like this was something they couldn’t talk about this publicly. I was fascinated by some of the discussion on my Facebook page leading up to me writing this blog post.
May 3 – 5, 2013. Indianapolis, IN
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