More on Suffering and Creativity

January 22, 2011

I’m reading a fabulous book right now called THE MAGICIANS, which is about a young man who’s recruited to attend a college for magicians. Not magicians as we know them—sleight of hand, illusionists, and all that—but real, honest-to-God, spellcasting magicians.

When our young hero graduates from the magic school, the dean addresses the class and explains why he thinks people become magicians.

As I was reading it, it struck me that it’s very similar to why a lot of people become writers or painters or singers. Changing the word “magician” to “artist,” here’s the dean’s monologue:

I have a little theory I’d like to air here, if I may. What is it that makes you artists? Is it because you are intelligent? Is it because you are brave and good? Is it because you’re special?

Maybe. Who know. But I’ll tell you something: I think you’re artists because you’re unhappy. An artist is strong because he feels pain. He feels the difference between what the world is and what he would make of it. Or what did you think that stuff in chest was? An artist is strong because he hurts more than others. His wound is his strength.

Most people carry that pain around inside them their whole lives, until they kill the pain by other means, or until it kills them. But you, my friends, you found another way: a way to use the pain. To burn it as fuel, for light and warmth. You have learned to break the world that has tried to break you.

Read the rest of this entry »


Suffering’s Role in Creativity

January 17, 2011

I’ve always fancied myself to be a creative person. A reader from a young age, I wrote my first “novel” in the fifth grade. I won prizes for my short stories in high school. I went to graduate school for creative writing, and I write for a living today.

For a long time, though, writing was something I had to do—as Maya Angelou once said, “There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.”—but it wasn’t necessarily something I enjoyed.

You see, I bought into the myth of the suffering artist. I thought great art could only come from a place of pain. I identified heavily with Hemingway when he said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

I conveniently forgot that Hemingway killed himself, which is the most destructive act anyone can ever achieve.

Read the rest of this entry »


Jared Lee Loughner’s Parents: Why Didn’t They Know?

January 13, 2011

In the wake of last weekend’s tragic shooting in Arizona, many people are speculating that the gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, is mentally ill—most likely schizophrenic—based on reports of his antisocial and paranoid behavior.

Many people are also asking why his parents didn’t intervene and get him help for his mental problems, as evidenced by this comment from a recent MSNBC article titled “Ariz. Suspect’s Parents: ‘We Don’t Know Why This Happened’”:

The parents had to have known they had a disturbed man living with them, and it was their responsibility to get him to a doctor who would put him on medicine or hospitalize him. Even if he failed to voluntarily commit himself for treatment, he could have been involuntarily treated. The reports of his behaviors in school and by classmates, “friends” and observers are concrete and undeniable as to the severity of his mental problems! And it’s clear these problems had been going on for some time. The parents were apparently the only ones who failed to see them—it’s called denial. They should feel awful and very, very guilty for responding so irresponsibly to their son’s illness and indications he was a danger to others.

I really don’t know much about the Loughners’ situation, and given that John was never violent, I can’t imagine what they’re feeling right now, but here’s what I can tell you: When John became psychotic, I was the last to know.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sex, Discipline, and Mental Illness

January 6, 2011

No, this isn’t a post about S&M, women in leather cracking whips, or anything like that. It’s about an interesting post I read on a blog called Project M that discusses the link between monogamy and prosperity.

As the United States struggles to emerge from the depths of what many have deemed the “Great Recession,” regaining economic prosperity is an issue that’s top of mind for many. Unfortunately, many of us also have some serious doubts about this country’s ability to recapture its past glory as an unmitigated financial success.

After all, with an education system that places our students far behind those in Asia, it won’t be long before the best and the brightest begin relocating to areas like Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, and Japan. In fact, this “brain drain” has already begun.

My parents have lived in Hong Kong for three years now, and another one of my friends just joined their ranks. Hong Kong’s economy—like the city itself—is vibrant, fast-paced, and exciting. It was far less affected by the downturn than the U.S., and it has recovered much faster.

I won’t be surprised if—just as the U.S. took the superpower mantle from the British after WWII—China, led by Hong Kong, takes it from us now, in the wake of the Great Recession.

But I digress. Back to sex.

Read the rest of this entry »


Top Posts in 2010

January 2, 2011

In case you missed them, these are the blog posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Staying Calm During a Psychiatric Crisis October 2010
2 comments

2

One Marriage. Two Mental Illnesses. September 2010
16 comments

3

About June 2010
6 comments

4

The Martyr Syndrome in Marriages with Mental Illness October 2010
6 comments

5

Love, Mental Illness, and Vulnerability November 2010
7 comments


The “Glamour” of Mental Illness

December 29, 2010

New research conducted by mentaline.com reveals that approximately 11% of teenagers think mental illness is “fashionable.” Three percent of them have even faked having a mental illness, believing that this would make them “unique,” more like celebrity sufferers, or “just cool.”

Of those teens who’ve faked illness, the most popular choices are:

  • Eating disorders – 22%
  • Self-harming – 17%
  • Addiction – 13%
  • Depression – 12%
  • Bipolar Disorder– 9%

As someone who’s suffered from both an eating disorder and depression, whose husband has bipolar disorder, and whose sister has overcome self-harming, I’m fascinated by this data. In a way, I can even relate to these kids.

But the funny thing about mental illness is that, while it may look cool or glamorous from the outside, when you’re trapped inside it, it’s the least glamorous thing you could ever imagine.

Read the rest of this entry »


Christmas Chez Whistler

December 25, 2010

John and I married in 2006, so this is our fifth Christmas as a married couple. It’s also our third time spending Christmas by ourselves.

The first year we were married, we couldn’t leave the States to go to Canada due to Green Card issues. We were living in Boston at the time, and we spent the holiday on Martha’s Vineyard at a quaint, old inn.

It was my first Christmas without my family, and I had a hard time with it. Although we went to Christmas Eve mass in an adorable church, had a lovely holiday brunch, and saw a cadre of wild turkeys while touring the island, I cried when I spoke with my family on the phone—I missed them so much.

Two years later, John had his breakdown. He came out of the hospital on December 15, and I just didn’t feel comfortable going anywhere. (I’m glad I listened to my intuition on that. He was definitely psychotic again by Christmas Eve, and he ended up checking back into the hospital on New Year’s Eve.) He also was happy to stay put, as Christmas with his mother (who was an alcoholic) was always stressful for him. I still missed my family, but that year I was more focused on John, so there were no tears when I spoke with them on the phone.

Last year, we made it up to Canada. I’m grateful for that, because it was my grandmother’s last Christmas. She passed away in July.

This year, we were all set to go home for the holidays, but my appendicitis got in the way. I was having contractions for a couple days after the surgery, so it wasn’t just my weakness that convinced us not fly anywhere, but also concern for the baby. I’m not even disappointed that we’re not in Canada today.

Of course, it would have been nice to be with the family, but I suppose that after four years, John and I really are our own little family. Mini Whistler has also developed quite the karate kick, so he/she makes sure we don’t forget that baby’s about to make three!

Merry Christmas, everyone!