Is Bipolar Disorder Genius or Madness?

Down through history, creative minds like Beethoven, Van Gough, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Wolf, Mark Twain and Charles Dickens have struggled with Madness and their creative genius.

What unique quality do these famous people share?

YES, you’re right!

These creative geniuses experienced the highs and lows of manic depression, now called bipolar disorder.

CELEBS: Stephen Fry, Carrie Fisher, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Tim Burton, Robert Downey Jnr

Are  they blessed or cursed with the creative mania of bipolar?

I, too was touched with Madness …

In 2005- 2006 I relished the euphoria, the sheer rush of a manic high. When I wasn’t healing the living or telepathically communing with the dead, I dreamed pitch-black dreams with voices compelling me to fulfill my destiny. I created my memoir, Me and Her: A Memoir of Madness. A teacher’s journey through madness, mayhem and mania.

When I was manic, I obsessed with famous vivacious people: Jim Carey and Robin Williams … and wrote about my fantasy of meeting my heroes in ME & HER: a Memoir of Madness … On a real-life family trip to the USA, that’s all I envisaged.

My Obsessive Compulsion …

Was to connect with Allison Dubois, the real-life star behind TV show MEDIUM. Allison is a psychic Medium and criminal profiler … author of ghostly memoir, ‘Never Say Goodbye“.

I developed a psychic connection with my psychologist 

I Double guessed my psychologist, Yann’s life ventures. Where and how he’d spend his next holidays. My enraptured mania infected Yann too. He revealed how he couldn’t stop laughing after he’d spoken to me. Yann sought a psychologist to overcome his hypomania.

I’m NOT calling myself a genius,  NOT at All! … But my drive to write compels me to scribble down story lines and characters buzzing in my head. Incredibly, my insatiable urge to write only kick-started AFTER I developed bipolar disorder in 2005. Each day I attribute my writing compulsion to the creative drive within me.

In 2005, my mad half, HER was born.”

To read the first #20 pages of ME & HER: a Memoir of Madness for *Free* … CLICK HERE

NEWSFLASH** NEWSFLASH**

Today I brainstormed and scribbled down the final chapters of my sequel, ME & HIM: a Guide to Recovery, my latest memoir, my work in progress. This creative flood broke through an emotional blockage I had writing my latest saga with my Recovery journey with bipolar disorder, overflowing into fresh plans for my fiction writing.

Do you think there’s link between bipolar disorder and creativity?

Is bipolar disorder a creative ability or disability?

Do you think all Writers & Creatives become a little ‘hypo’ when they ride a wave of creativity?

Have you ever experienced a FLOOD of creativity?

I’m so thankful I can now curb any over-excitability by  utilizing my Wellness Tools and Balance myself very quickly BEFORE any hypo-mania takes hold:)

Please show your support with a Comment, a LIKE or a TWEET… Thanks 🙂

PS This Blog was edited KT.

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12 comments to Is Bipolar Disorder Genius or Madness?

  • I think most creative people are very in touch with emotions and feelings, we see the tragedy and euphoric possibilities in everyday situations. Although Bipolar is a diagnosable disorder, which wouldn’t affect all creatives. And I do have friends that are managing their own bipolar with medications etc, that are not at all creative, they’re more analytical (and fantastically organised for everyone).
    And I’m a big fan of the theory that there’s lots of different types of genius and you can be a creative genius (or maybe I’m clinging to that because I’m not going to top the crowds in IQ tests).
    Good luck with your new project!

  • Thanks Charmaine, for dropping by with your opinions … I agree with everything you’re saying.
    I just wanted to pose questions and get people to think & respond.
    You’re Right not everyone with bipolar disorder is creative … but I bet the percentages are higher than the average population.
    I’ve noticed amongst my Writer friends a higher than average rate of Bipolar. Interesting.
    Bipolar has such a bad rap in society … Just wanted to give Bipolar a positive spin … Karen 🙂

  • Hello Karen

    You know me well so you will not be surprised to see me respond to your question :0)

    I am not sure why but I have always been reticent to attach the label ‘genius’ to people who have bipolar disorder. Yet I have experienced the massive flows of creativity you speak of (in my case linked to massive flows of energy) even though I have never been delusional. I must also tell you that the medication that is finally helping me with the deadly lows of my bipolar type 2 has ‘killed’ my intellectual creativity. I have no ideas – my brain feels like a desert. My … what shall I call it …. ‘physical’ creativity is still intact and I use it in craft projects. I do have a gift (or a curse) for tapping into people’s emotions and what I would call the Great Universal. My experiences in the latter have brought me to ask cheekily whether Paul on the road to Damascus was delusional and Joan of Arc was schizophrenic …Dangerous stuff and I realise I could be burnt at the stake or stoned for uttering such heretical questions!! The writer in me cries in desolation though :0(

    My creativity is nothing compared to my son’s who also has bipolar type 2: he is both a gifted musician, lyrics writer, producer, singer AND graphic designer, illustrator, cinema critic. I have seen him suddenly grab a piece of paper and write a whole song in one go as if ‘channelling’ it from somewhere.

    That intense creativity ‘costs’ though and both my son and I have had to learn to treat it with the respect it requires. You can’t abuse it or it will abuse you!

    Perhaps I should add that my father has bipolar type 1 and even though I have seen him literally taken away in a straight jacket by the men in white coats, he has never shown any sign of creativity as we normally understand it. He does though have a highly developed sense of empathy with what he calls ‘the little people’, those who have very little in life.

    I am not sure I have contributed to your debate nor answered your question. All I feel entitled to talk about is my own and my family’s experience.

    I hope this helps. Keep up the great work :0)

    Gabrielle xx

  • I don’t know what I have, but I’m not normal. 🙂 I’m a compulsive talker who gets on people’s nerves by cutting them off when they’re speaking. I try not to, but they don’t understand that I can actually hear what they’re saying while I’m talking. I know, I know, it’s still very rude. I can watch TV, write on my computer, and read at the same time. That’s about the only time I’m quiet.

    I never get writer’s block because my mind races ahead of me all the time. I have too many stories just fighting to get out. When I’m on my daily bush walk, I write my next chapter or two. Sometimes I think I should take a little recorder, so I don’t forget my ideas. The surrounding bushland always inspires me, though everything around me does. I’ve had extreme stress in my life and I think that is a definite plus to help writers with inspiration and understanding their characters.

    Writers with Bipolar have both the stress and the ecstasy, so they can add their own experiences and feeling to their work. Readers seem to enjoy stories that have highs, lows, tragedy, humour and drama. If a writer experiences any of these things, they have the resources to be extremely creative authors.

    I don’t have Bipolar, but I have quite a few people very close to me that do. They are all loyal, loving, obsessive compulsive, sometimes moody, but extremely determined and very creative people. Oh, they are also very generous. I nearly forgot that.

    Just my humble opinion though, but I wish I had a phsyc to diagnose me. LOL. I’d love to know what I have. Maybe tourettes? 🙂

  • Thanks Gabrielle, for sharing yours and your family’s personal experiences with Bipolar.
    I find the whole spectrum of Bipolar, intensely intriguing.
    Especially where creativity and madness overlap.
    Creativity comes in many forms, encompassing empathy, spiritual connectedness and originality.
    I was diagnosed with bipolar 2 in 2005 and within months of mania and madness it up-scaled to bipolar 1.
    I’ve recovered from bipolar (or manage it well). I enjoy high energy levels and the compulsion to write … Karen 🙂

  • Thanks Patricia, for sharing what makes you tick and what drives you as a writer. Fascinating.
    Thanks too for sharing your connection and interest in bipolar.

    By the way, my writers block was specific to writing a traumatic section in my new memoir.
    I didn’t want to face it, embrace or write about. Although I knew I should.
    For two months I’d write anything else, kids stories, blogs, magazine stories, eBooks but what I needed to do … all avoidance tactics.
    Today I made a breakthrough in my personal life which translated into freeing me up to write about past and present challenges.
    All will be revealed in ME & HIM: a Guide to Recovery … Karen 🙂

  • Travis

    Hi Karen,
    firstly i have only been diagnosed in the past few months but have suffered for many years.
    I hear exactly what you are saying about the creative side, there is also the down part of this creative side too, the absolute hopelessness that can destroy someone. So Bipolar can bring out creativity in people and the euphoric feeling of that creativity can totally consume your every thoughts, which can enhance the creativity beyond what people could expect of that person.
    I am experiencing the feeling of being normal for the first time in my life, it does feel good not to have a jumbled mind racing all the time. I am missing the consuming creativity but know that with them came the lows. The depressive side could be creative as well but it definetly wasn’t in a good way. The paranoia, the insecurity and loneliness that the depression creates is all to consuming also. So having Bipolar can create creativity on both sides of the scale in my opinion.
    Like I said earlier I am only new to learning about this and trying to manage it, I have been lucky that my meds have noticeable worked and had no real side affects. Unless of course the mellowing of the creativity counts as a side affect.
    I like to write, anaylise things, cook and build creative things i wouldnt normaly do, the taming of my moods and mind has had an affect on these and I personally would like to continue them without the extreme emotional turmoil which comes with Bipolar too.
    I hope that all made sense, I still doubt myself alot, the ingrain low self esteem still hasnt subsided quite yet.
    Anyway loved the article it definetly is worth the read and does pose alot of questions.

  • hi Travis,
    Thanks for sharing your personal journey with Bipolar and the effect on your creativity. Glad to hear you’re becoming more stable and recovering well.
    You might like to download my FREE eBook *Top 30 Tools for Wellness*
    Please Follow this link.http://www.karentyrrell.com/free-ebook-30-tools-mental-wellness/ … cheers, Karen 🙂

  • Megan

    Kay Redfield Jamison captured this topic expertly and beautifully in 1993…This topic threw me back into Touched with Fire today, to pay homage to a bipolar novice and leading scholarly voice within the madness vs genius debate.

  • Hi Megan, Lovely to “meet” you. I read “Touched with Fire” after I fully accepted my diagnosis of bipolar in 2006. This book had a profound effect on my thinking and my decision to Recover & be a positive voice for mental health.

  • I wouldn’t say I was creative but I get lots of ideas for improving/organising things at work and in my life when I am on the way to a higher mood. When I am in the hole (depressed), I am not creative or organised in any way.

    I guess it’s a fine line between creative and madness. If you are famous maybe you always get called creative, whereas us lesser mortals get called mental, mad, or nuts.

  • Thanks Stephanie,
    for sharing your experiences when the creative flow works for you.
    YES I agree with your comment on the fine line between Creativity and Madness … and celebrity labels … Karen 🙂

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