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 Our Debt to Mental Illness

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Tue 05 Mar 2013, 13:47

Even in these enlightened times the subject of mental illness can cause disquiet and discomfort when raised in general conversation, especially in relation to people who we know well or are close to. That we term it an illness at all indicates a reticence to properly analyse what it is we think is "wrong" with the person. But that there is something "wrong" and the person is "ill", while inadequate as a description, is more than adequate when referring to a person so afflicted so that one's meaning is immediately understood by one's interlocutor.

Yet for all its taboo-ness and our unwillingness to be as open about it as we might be when discussing, say, a physical injury or a bad bout of whooping cough, there are few of us whose lives are untouched by it. Someone we know or knew, maybe even we ourselves - have had to face up to the fact that they were "different", "abnormal", "mentally sick" or any of the equivalent terms we use and have used to describe such aberrational behaviour. Yet what about those of whom we know only by repute? The "great and the good", our "leaders", our "cultural icons", our "heroes and heroines", those people who for better or for worse society and fate has placed above us and apart from us, men and women who shape our lives by design or accident, whose existence has touched on ours and even for whom we have had reason at times to be grateful that they existed at all.

How many of them have been "mentally ill", and indeed how many of those who were owe something of their success to that fact? The eminent psychiatrist Anthony Storr once said of Winston Churchill; "Had he been a stable and equable man, he could never have inspired the nation. In 1940, when all the odds were against Britain, a leader of sober judgment might well have concluded that we were finished." Churchill, who famously labelled his bipolar depressions as his "black dog", seems to have used that dog to direct his attitude. It certainly seems to have had an effect on how he instinctively dealt with adversity. Do the British people - who undeniably recognised the man as a great leader that they were blessed to have at the time - owe as much to Churchill's debilitating illness as they do to his decision-making? Maybe even more?



Abraham Lincoln is another great leader whose bipolar behaviour has been noted (his wife Mary Todd Lincoln was schizophrenic to boot), and who seemingly drew strength from his battles with his own depression that enabled him to govern a war-ravaged land with courage, integrity and indomitability. But have there been others, and what would we have been deprived of if any of them had been "cured"?




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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Tue 05 Mar 2013, 14:39

Vincent van Gogh suffered from mental problems, culminating in suicide.
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Tue 05 Mar 2013, 15:16

Hmmmm....

I have to say that frankly I feel that many of those “called to great office” etc, do not have their brains wired quite as most of the population do. In short they could often be considered, “abnormal”, or at odds with everyone else.

To take just one minor, but contemporary example, President Assad of Syria. As my aunt recently remarked (and though elderly, she is herself far from senile by the norms of modern society): ”... that Mr Assad... such a good-looking young man, but why does he have to act so evil, killing his own people? How does he sleep at night!?”. How indeed!?! Just what does go through his mind as he lays down to sleep?!?

Many people worry about being able to pay their monthly bills because of current economic factors which are largely outside of our own direct influence. But Mr Assad must surely be worrying about whether his head isn't gonna be stuck on a spike within the next few weeks. But at the same time he can be fairly certain that whatever does happen to him, it will be essentially of his own making.

I suggest that those that stand for the highest office - and that need not be as absolute dictator - I include Churchill and Hitler there along with the likes of Cameron, Merkel or Hollande etc - must almost inevitably have an unusual (when compared to the rest of us) mindset to firstly have wanted to get there, secondly to have actually succeeded by beating all the opposition, and finally to have the - the whatever, the je ne sais quoi - to fight, lie, cheat, …. or equally, to envision, empower, lead ... indeed whatever they thought was "right" just to stay there.

In time, some will get lauded as great leaders, others will be reviled as inept or evil self-servers .... but lets face it: very few "normal" people would really want to do the job. And so often the difference between being hailed as a genius, or consigned to the asylum, is often disturbingly slight.


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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Tue 05 Mar 2013, 15:46

This may be so, but at the same time I wonder how many have provided excellent leadership in difficult times because - rather than in spite of - a mental condition which in other circumstances would have been seen purely as a negative aspect to their personality?

Genius and such mental aberrations from what we call normal also seem to be divided by a very thin line indeed. I am not sure I would attempt a common definition for what is termed genius, but the list of great artists, writers and actors who "suffered" with bipolarity is an impressively long one. I am not saying that one has to be bipolar to produce great work, but it certainly seems not to be a drawback in the slightest.
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Tue 05 Mar 2013, 15:53

@nordmann wrote:
This may be so, but at the same time I wonder how many have provided excellent leadership in difficult times because - rather than in spite of - a mental condition which in other circumstances would have been seen purely as a negative aspect to their personality?

There is that. Churchill of course had for many years prior to WW2 been seen (and not without considerable evidence too) as dangerous, unstable, a maverick, etc etc ... and many in Parliament considered him totally unsuited in 1940, to become war leader, as well as being too old ... and yet that was to be his finest hour! Perhaps indeed because he saw the world differently. He certainly wasn't afraid of upsetting people or of, as the current parlance would have it, thinking outside the box. Interesting then how he completely miss-judged the 1945 general election by acting and thinking as a typical pre-war conservative, Conservative politician.
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Tue 05 Mar 2013, 16:08

Quote :
This may be so, but at the same time I wonder how many have provided excellent leadership in difficult times because - rather than in spite of - a mental condition which in other circumstances would have been seen purely as a negative aspect to their personality?

I suspect that, in wartime especially, it is almost a condition of effective leadership to be sufficiently different in psychology from the norm as to be considered abnormal. The need to make decisions of such fatal consequence must require either supreme self confidence, narcissism even, or a lack of empathy bordering on the autistic. Believing god to be on your side helps of course but that's another questionable mental state.
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Tue 05 Mar 2013, 16:20

Concerning political leadership by bipolar people - it does of course raise an obvious question as to how many others in history might have been defined as such had they lived today? Whether factual or concocted by others, Jesus for example would appear to be a natural suspect in this regard. His mood swings are an integral part of his character and are used to make some very astute points rather dramatically in his story. Alexander the Great also appears to have been a bit of a yo-yo temperamentally, as was Attila the Hun. Henry VIII is another who I would think merits a psychological assessment in that regard - much of his darker side is attributed to living with painful gout or other physical pathological causes. But could it also have been down to clinical depression?
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Tue 05 Mar 2013, 16:29

@nordmann wrote:


Genius and such mental aberrations from what we call normal also seem to be divided by a very thin line indeed. I am not sure I would attempt a common definition for what is termed genius, but the list of great artists, writers and actors who "suffered" with bipolarity is an impressively long one. I am not saying that one has to be bipolar to produce great work, but it certainly seems not to be a drawback in the slightest.

I agree with that.

Most of the great writers, artists and philosophers whom I admire seem to have been completely bonkers - well, bonkers in the eyes of the world that is. There is always the possibility of course that they are/were the sane ones in a crazy world. The bipolar, the alcoholic (I'm reading about Tennessee Williams at the moment - he's a classic example), the addicted, with - where the women are concerned - a spot of borderline anorexia thrown in for good measure. Such people fascinate me, and in real life I have always been drawn to them, usually because I have admired their writing ability, their musicality or their originality. They are impossible people to be involved with - the sort of people who wreck relationships and who, in Williams's memorable phrase often end up depending "on the kindness of strangers." But they are the ones who - it would seem because of their suffering - have the gift of explaining the world to the rest of us. I'm not sure if that makes sense or not.

But there is mental instability and mental instability.

Political leaders are perhaps different from creative artists, men like Churchill and Lincoln excepted. If the bipolar personality is the stuff of creative genius, the psychopathic narcissistic personality is the stuff of political nightmare. Surely most *evil* leaders have suffered from narcissistic personality disorder? The Hitlers, the Henry VIIIs, the Assads (the list of these dreadful humans is, sadly, pretty long too): such people do not, like the bipolar type (during the depressive part of the bipolar cycle), suffer from crippling self-doubt, quite the opposite - such types have utter faith in themselves and in their right to demand power and adulation. And the terrifying grandiosity and confidence of the narcissist is not the same as the "I can do anything" energy of the bipolar in full manic flight.

EDIT: Two posts while I was typing, but will send.


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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Tue 05 Mar 2013, 16:35

.... and of course there is the aspect of how bi-polar people, or those with other mental problems, were seen and treated in contemporary society. Shakespeare's portrayal of Hamlet is often quoted as repeatedly displaying all the classic, and sometimes subtle, symptoms of a bi-polar mental condition.

The Hamlet character was fiction but Shakespeare was certainly a good observer of his fellow men, and relied on his audience to comprehend the, often very subtle, charicatures of people that he was presenting. So in that Hamlet was a very real person.

So! Was his Dickon III then really not a psychopath but just a control freak?!?


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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Tue 05 Mar 2013, 16:39

Shakespeare was possibly bipolar too, MM.

Richard III was perhaps half crazy with chronic pain - and despair as to what was happening to his body (I suppose the same could be said for Henry VIII).

But let's leave him out of this - Richard, that is, not Henry!
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Tue 05 Mar 2013, 16:45

@Temperance wrote:
Shakespeare was possibly bipolar too, MM!

I was tempted to suggest that but I really have no evidence ... not even second hand evidence, so I kept quite. silent


But frankly I'm struggling to think of ANY great historical characters that don't seem to have been, at least slightly, mentally disturbed.
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Tue 05 Mar 2013, 16:54

I'm sure there are few, MM. But what I was wondering in my first post was how frequently this "madness" on their part has worked to society's great advantage?

Even Henry VIII, if one thinks about it, played the most crucial of roles in establishing what would later become C of E (I and S etc). Now this in itself might neither be good nor bad, but to me it is hard not to think of the Anglican Church as having been a moderating influence on the tendency to religious excesses over the centuries. It makes one wonder where such moderation would have come from in its absence - the track record of other European churches, orthodox and reform, is not one that ever has naturally leaned towards such moderation. So in his small way he did actually contribute to a society which embraced the principal of enlightenment ahead of many others and benefited enormously from that development in the process.
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Tue 05 Mar 2013, 18:20

Not to do with OP's reference to political figures, I'm afraid, but some interesting comments here:

http://www.bipolarartists.com/

“Men have called me mad but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence–whether much that is glorious–whether all that is profound–does not spring from disease of thought–from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.”— Edgar Allan Poe. The condition known as madness has a long and complex history and for centuries has been the subject of poets, painters, philosophers, and physicians. Aristotle linked madness to one's character, claiming that “no excellent soul is exempt from a mixture of madness” and Seneca declared that “there is no great genius without a tincture of madness.” Göethe took a dimmer view of the human condition, stating that “we do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution for the universe.”

The following are a few highly creative individuals with bipolar disorder: Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Walt Whitman, Sylvia Plath, Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Ezra Pound, Charles Mingus, Gustav Mahler, Paul Gauguin, Georgia O'Keeffe, Jackson Pollack and Vincent van Gogh.

And the character of Carrie Mathison in Homeland has made bipolar disorder very fashionable. Some people are now claiming to be sufferers when they are nothing of the sort. Which is pretty crazy when you think about it.
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Wed 06 Mar 2013, 07:10

Martyn Bennett, in his Oliver Cromwell, suggests that this huge political figure was possibly bipolar (Google books won't let me copy and paste the relevant quotation).

Antonia Fraser, however, is more cautious. She says: "The delicate relationship between psychosomatic illness and physical disease is of course famously difficult to analyse with any precision. It is clear that Cromwell's ill-health had an original nervous strain in it, hence the early crisis at Huntingdon, the breakdown and the consultation with Sir Theodore Mayerne."

Mayerne was a famous doctor who kept meticulous records: he noted ominously that he found "Monsr. Cromwell", who had consulted him in London on 19th September 1628 (six months after OC was elected to Parliament), valde melancholicus - very melancholy.

Dr. Simcott, the Cromwell family doctor, noted that Cromwell would sometimes lie in his bed "all melancholy"; but that at other times he would send for Simcott at midnight and at other "such unseasonable hours" because he was sure he was dying, or because he was having "strange fancies". One of these "fancies" was that he (Cromwell) should be "the greatest man in this kingdom"; another because he needed to talk about the large cross standing in the centre of Huntingdon! One can imagine the good doctor's reaction, being expected to discuss such things in the early hours!

Were Cromwell's "strange fancies" simply those of the ardent, religious personality, which delights to exult in the Lord? Such folk do often seem to be quite unhinged in their faith, both in the Lord and in themselves. Bipolar or religious fanatic - perhaps both? I don't know enough of Cromwell to comment, neither can I suggest that his melancholy/exultant moods ultimately were of benefit to this nation. He did attempt to abolish Christmas, I believe, but you don't have to be bipolar to consider that to have been an excellent idea.

Here's Dominic Sandbrook (writing in the Daily Mail, I'm afraid):

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1343232/Was-Oliver-Cromwell--founder-British-empire--greatest-Englishman.html



Given his wild mood swings between jubilation and gloom, some biographers have suggested that he suffered from manic depression.

That might explain why he laughed ‘as if he had been drunk’ after the Battle of Dunbar, or why, at the signing of Charles I’s death warrant, he relieved the tension by flicking ink at his colleagues’ faces, like a naughty schoolboy.

In many ways, though, what drove Cromwell was his burning religious passion.

Around 1630, when his financial woes were at their worst, he went through a dramatic religious conversion, becoming convinced that God had marked him out for eternal salvation.

‘Oh, have I lived in and loved darkness and hated the light,’ he wrote a few years later. ‘I was a chief, the chief of sinners . . . I hated godliness; yet God had mercy upon me. O the riches of His mercy!’

EDIT: Oh dear, I fear I'm talking too much, and I really don't want to kill off this interesting thread. Will pipe down for a bit.
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Wed 06 Mar 2013, 09:49

Cromwell is indeed a candidate, isn't he? Apart from all the weird behaviour mood-wise his extraordinary tunnel vision once he embarked on a course of action is also very indicative of a symptom in many cases of paranoia and other delusional psychoses. He exhibited signs of an intelligence above average - or at least his input into the Heads of Proposals and his subsequent analysis of the Putney Debates indicated a remarkable grasp of abstract principle and a corresponding ability to translate it verbally into accessible terms. This intelligence however failed to be used in acknowledgement and analysis of his own disorders, or at least we have no indication that it ever was, so this could even mean Asperger's Syndrome or similar - an autism that does not necessarily impinge on the ability to relate socially or on cognitive processes.

But you are right to question what, if anything, we might be grateful for when it comes to Ollie. The Commonwealth Games perhaps?
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Wed 06 Mar 2013, 09:57

One last little squeak, then I really will be quiet for the rest of the day (I'm going out ). Erik Erikson - see link - believed that Luther was bipolar.

Martin Luther is indeed an obvious candidate. And his psychological and/or spiritual agonies changed the world:

http://socrates58.blogspot.co.uk/2010/02/erik-erikson-believed-that-martin.html
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Wed 06 Mar 2013, 12:02

Luther was a very lucky man. His wife Katharine von Bora was a remarkable woman - did absolutely everything practical at home* (which included even buying a farm and running it so they'd have income) and even swotted up on theology so that Martin could bounce ideas off her (and then presumably conclude what she told him to). Martin of course acknowledged her input - well, he said she was sweet and congratulated himself on giving her the odd biblical passage to study.

*"Home" for the Luthers was a half-way house for recovering nuns that they set up so poor Katie's household duties included running a medium-sized hotel to boot.
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Wed 06 Mar 2013, 14:51

Just to show I'm not just thinking of politicians either - I thank the stars that i was fortunate enough to overlap on this earth with Spike Milligan, and even meet him twice. A manic depressive, and it was difficult to know which was funnier!



Not sure about society in general - but I certainly feel a debt to that man myself.



And this purely sublime moment from 1994 ...

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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Sun 10 Mar 2013, 16:27

Then there are the famous schizophrenics - another long, long list.

There is John Nash of Beautiful Mind fame; Nash was awarded the John von Neumann Prize for his "non-cooperative equilibria", mathematical formulae which I presume have been very useful, although quite how I have no idea.

Nijinsky, dancer, not horse, was declared insane and spent much of his life in clinics and asylums, while in our our times Syd Barrett, the "crazy diamond" of Wish You Were Here will always be remembered. Famous Barrett quotation:

I'm sorry I can't speak very coherently.


And I wonder how many of the ecstatics/saints of the Catholic church would actually be diagnosed with acute paranoid schizophrenia were they alive today? St. Catherine of Sienna? Joan of Arc? St. Francis?

William Blake and Ezra Pound and the famous archaeologist, Katherine Routledge - all barking, but brilliant.


For as to have no desire is to be dead; so to have weak passions is dullness; and to have passions indifferently for everything, giddiness and distraction; and to have stronger and more vehement passions for anything than is ordinarily seen in others is that which men call madness. (Hobbes)


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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Sun 10 Mar 2013, 16:54

Isn't Michelangelo, of Sistine Chapel fame, nowadays thought to have been schizophrenic, and/or bi-polar?

Yet again the mix of great genius with delusion and social dysfunction.
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Sun 10 Mar 2013, 19:05

This is Ezra Pound - a handsome face, but so cruel and intense!


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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Mon 11 Mar 2013, 09:21

I should add of Pound that, although he was a great poet and friend of other poets, he was also anti-Semitic and a supporter of the fascist regimes in Europe.

The Italian government paid him during the Second World War to make hundreds of radio broadcasts criticizing the United States, as a result of which he was arrested for treason by American forces in Italy in 1945. He spent months in detention in a U.S. military camp in Pisa, including 25 days in a six-by-six-foot outdoor steel cage that he said triggered a mental breakdown, "when the raft broke and the waters went over me."

http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/pageviews/2012/01/ezra-pound-jew-hater


http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/3559924.stm
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Mon 11 Mar 2013, 12:32

It is beginning to appear that we owe more to loopers than to the sane, both in terms of culture and social advancement. Which puts me in mind of Darwinism and the important role mutation plays, even when the mutation in question would appear to be counterproductive in terms of a species' survival in its contemporary environment.

It also reminds me of an Asimov comment in one of his books where he has a character explain to a colleague that were we all to be transported back to the 17th century we would all be burnt as witches. What is regarded as aberrational, and dangerously aberrational, in a contemporary setting can in fact be a vital component of the species' own survival.
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Tue 12 Mar 2013, 07:16

@nordmann wrote:

It also reminds me of an Asimov comment in one of his books where he has a character explain to a colleague that were we all to be transported back to the 17th century we would all be burnt as witches. What is regarded as aberrational, and dangerously aberrational, in a contemporary setting can in fact be a vital component of the species' own survival.

That's an interesting comment.

So who are we burning today? Who are the 20th/21st century "loopers" whom future generations will regard - perhaps - as the sane ones who were denied a voice? Or those who, if not "burnt" or otherwise silenced, were laughed at/are being laughed at as being quite mad?
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Tue 12 Aug 2014, 15:52

@nordmann wrote:
Just to show I'm not just thinking of politicians either - I thank the stars that i was fortunate enough to overlap on this earth with Spike Milligan, and even meet him twice. A manic depressive, and it was difficult to know which was funnier!




Robin Williams was bipolar:

http://www.famousbipolarpeople.com/robin-williams.html
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Tue 12 Aug 2014, 16:15

I'm glad you have resurrected this thread, Trike. Very, very appropriate today.

My new heroine is Jean Rhys: a complete and utter nutter who lived just up the road from me - in a ramshackle bungalow (it's still there) in Cheriton Fitzpaine, near Exeter.

She drank and she raged against the world and she wrote. The villagers of Cheriton Fitz all thought she was qute mad. She is most famous for The Wide Sargasso Sea, but her earlier novels are quite simply brilliant. I actually prefer them to Sargasso Sea. She was at one time Ford Madox Ford's mistress which I did not know until recently.

I read her when I was very young and couldn't understand a word of what she wrote. How things change. I wonder if Robin Williams ever read "Good Morning, Midnight"?

Such a interesting - and misunderstood - woman. I wish I had known her.


PS “I've been so ridiculous all my life that a little bit more or a little bit less hardly matters now.”
― Jean Rhys, Good Morning, Midnight

PPS She was also very funny.


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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Wed 13 Aug 2014, 06:08

@Nordmann wrote:
It is beginning to appear that we owe more to loopers than to the sane, both in terms of culture and social advancement.

 There's a general feeling, I think, that this is the case. Or at least that there are a greater number of people with mental health problems who achieve highly or are very talented than in the population generally. (Though since the population generally usually counts everyone, perhaps I mean in the population who is not considered mentally unstable.) Do the statistics/research back this up, does anyone know?  Are the more talented people among patients with depression or bi-polar disease or alcoholic or drug-addicted or whatever than among those who don't?  And how do you judge just how much alcohol, drugs you need to take to be over the line, and how many people are not ever assessed for depression because they don't recognise it, or don't want it treated? 

I can certainly think of people in my community with issues of alcohol for instance who would probably achieve a lot more if they weren't alcoholic and spending half their life in prison after some new misdemeanour while drunk.
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Wed 13 Aug 2014, 09:59

But then I suppose it's true we tend to romanticise the suffering artist - the genius who despite the drink and/or drugs and the depression still comes up with the goods. There are so many others who never achieve anything artistically as writers or musicians or painters or performers. They are the really tragic ones - the old men of rock 'n' roll as in that old 10cc song:



Where are my boys?
They are in deepest water
Where are they now?
They are over the hill and far away
But they are broken men who lie low
Waiting for miracles
Old men of rock and roll
Came bearing music
Where are they now?
They are over the hill and far away
But they're still gonna play guitars
On dead strings, and old drums
They'll play and play to pass the time
The old wild men
Old wild men
Old wild men, waiting for miracles
Lord have mercy upon the many
Lord have mercy upon the few
Lord have mercy upon the many
Lord have mercy on me and on you







Is it fanciful to suggest that having Celtic blood plays a part? Jean Rhys's father was Welsh and drank too much - fatal inheritance there, along with the writing ability. Robin Williams was an American, but his face and eyes (that awful lost look) were those of an alcoholic Celt - I bet there was Irish or Welsh or Scottish blood there.

Or am I talking nonsense? Probably.
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Wed 13 Aug 2014, 10:38

Alcoholic Celt Temp? Let's not descend into stereotypes, alcoholism exists in all societies, races and social groups. But if you are interested in Robin William's ancestry there is this according to Wiki

Robin McLaurin Williams[13][14] was born in Chicago, Illinois, on July 21, 1951.[15] His mother, Laurie McLaurin (c. 1923 – September 4, 2001), was a former model from Jackson, Mississippi, whose own great-grandfather was Mississippi senator and governor Anselm J. McLaurin.[16][17] His father, Robert Fitzgerald Williams (September 10, 1906 – October 18, 1987), was a senior executive at Ford Motor Company in charge of the Midwest region. Williams had English, Welsh, Irish, Scottish, German, and French ancestry.[18][19][20] He was raised in the Episcopal Church (while his mother practiced Christian Science),[21][22] and later authored the comedic list, "Top Ten Reasons to be an Episcopalian.
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Wed 13 Aug 2014, 11:12

@Islanddawn wrote:
and later authored the comedic list, "Top Ten Reasons to be an Episcopalian.


Couldn't resist:



10. No snake handling.
9. You can believe in dinosaurs.
8. Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them.
7. You don't have to check your brains at the door.
6. Pew aerobics.
5. Church year is color-coded.
4. Free wine on Sunday.
3. All of the pageantry - none of the guilt.
2. You don't have to know how to swim to get baptized.
And the Number One reason to be an Episcopalian:
1. No matter what you believe, there's bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Wed 13 Aug 2014, 11:37

@Islanddawn wrote:
Alcoholic Celt Temp? Let's not descend into stereotypes.

With any issue concerning mental illness I fear the discussion all to often decends into sterotypes, and this thread is no exception. Suggesting that there is a causal link between creativity and mental illness in itself risks seeing mental illness in simplistic black and white terms, whereas surely in reality its shades of grey in all directions. The image of the brillant yet barmy scientist or artist, and the autistic savant are themselves sterotypes. Being brilliant and creative is not in itself a mental illness, and neither is being a bit thick with a low IQ.  Maybe all of us average Joes just view the brilliantly creative lateral thinkers as a bit odd because our own brains are chugging along in third gear while theirs are flitting left and right in fifth, and they view us as the dullards in much the way we "normal" people view the thickos who are still struggling to change up to second gear.


Last edited by Meles meles on Wed 13 Aug 2014, 15:12; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : spelling)
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Wed 13 Aug 2014, 11:58

I was looking for something for the On This Day Thread, when I came across the story of Otto Witte, who claimed to have been crowned King of Albania on the 13 August 1914. The story is actually a complete crock, and Witte is believed to have suffered from a condition known as pseudologia fantastica.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudologia_fantastica

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otto_Witte

as can be seen from the article Time Magazine printed the story as being true.

By coincidence, Witte died exactly 45 years after this supposed exploit.
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Wed 13 Aug 2014, 12:24

Temp wrote:

But then I suppose it's true we tend to romanticise the suffering artist

Yes, I wonder if there's also something resembling the *Rainman* effect, the erroneous notion that all those on the autistic spectrum are idiots savant, operating here in that these high achieving sufferers from bi-polar disorder and other conditions serve to distort the picture by suggesting a causal link with creativity?
Aren't all these syndromes, conditions, disorders just extremes of the spectra on which we all sit, somewhere or other, and it's when they combine with intelligence, environment and often coincidental opportunity that they become, for good or ill, visible?
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Wed 13 Aug 2014, 14:03

@Temperance wrote:
But then I suppose it's true we tend to romanticise the suffering artist

Seeing things that aren't there:


"Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today,
I wish, I wish he'd go away"
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Wed 13 Aug 2014, 14:29

The Swedish Depressive Suicidal Black Metal band Shining used the first four sentences as an intro to their song "Ytterligare Ett Steg Närmare Total Jävla Utfrysning", the first track from their 2005 album V: Halmstad.

Gosh, they sound a barrel of laughs. You could listen to their CD while reading "Good Morning, Midnight", but I wouldn't advise it.

Sorry about the stereotyping, folks, but there really is something called Celtic Blood Disorder, you know. I thought it was alcoholism and creativity, but it's not: it just means you have too much iron in your body. It can make you very poorly indeed.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4842700.stm
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Sat 16 Aug 2014, 11:41

We were discussing this in the pub last night and most people agreed that Celts are incredibly creative - brilliant actors, comedians, poets and musicians - but that they often appear to be crazy and/or alcoholic. (Apparent "craziness" in this mad world, of course, is often a sure indication of sanity.) A long list of names was produced - obvious ones were Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole, Richard Harris, Dave Allen, Billy Connolly, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Dylan Thomas  - but there were many more. To be fair, someone mentioned Oliver Reed, but I pointed out that he was mere English!

So is it stereotyping to suggest that creativity and alcoholism are often linked, especially in those of Celtic descent?

This is interesting:

http://www.thefix.com/content/irish-and-alcoholic-are-they-one-same

According to Chris... the stereotype is not without merit. He has been sober for the last 15 years, something of a rarity in his home country. As he explains, “When I first started going to meetings in San Francisco, people would say they were in the CIA—Catholic Irish Alcoholic, and though I wasn’t living in Ireland at the time, I agreed. Where I came from, everybody drank. I didn’t even realize there was something wrong with it until I went to England when I was 17, and though people were partying it wasn’t anything like back home.”

Please understand, ID, that no disrespect whatsoever is intended here - quite the opposite, in fact: creativity, "madness" and the propensity to drink too much is what interests me.


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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Sat 16 Aug 2014, 11:59

I am not, I promise, going to launch into a diatribe about 'Celts' and how that word when applied to ethnicity and much else should be banned but can I suggest that, rather than any genetic cause, the propensity to over indulge we, poor denizens of the damp and gloomy north, self medicate to ward off terminal depression. In the miserable nights (and days) of a northern winter, what the hell else is there to do but tell stories, compose ballads, do craft work and accompany it all with some warming, consoling beverage that also loosens our otherwise taciturn tongues and means that our men might actually talk to each other?
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Sat 16 Aug 2014, 12:13

What's wrong with a nice mug of cocoa then?  Smile 
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Sat 16 Aug 2014, 12:40

PS Jean Rhys (nee Williams) said of Cheriton Fitzpaine: "It is a dull spot which even drink can't enliven much."

The endless green, the cows, the rain and the ministrations of the local vicar, a good man, a Cambridge classicist who was determined to "save" her, became so annoying that in the end she was on a bottle of whisky a day and was driven to write "The Wide Sargasso Sea" (plus a few superb short stories).



PPS I seem to remember that on the old BBC History site the word "Celt" was banned, and anyone who used it was regarded as a bit of an imbecile. Sorry.


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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Sat 16 Aug 2014, 14:39

Have to agree with ferval on the term "Celt", as in reality, it not only applies to people from Ireland, Scotland and Wales but also half of England, Northern Spain and Western France who all have the same percentage of "Celtic" DNA. Or what about the rest of Spain, Portugal, France, Denmark, Holland, parts of Italy & Germany who still have fairly high percentages at 50-60%, aren't they 'alcoholic Celts' too? And it is here that the 'mad, incredibly creative, alcoholic Celt' argument falls well short.

Distribution map of Halogroup R1b1 (or the 'Celts')

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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Sat 16 Aug 2014, 15:06

Must be something in the water then.  

Sorry, ID, must be serious. I'm sure you are right - really.

EDIT: Please may it be noted that when I first mooted a possible Celt/creativity/alcohol link I did add: "Am I talking rubbish? Probably."
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Sat 25 Oct 2014, 15:12

This was such an interesting thread and I very much regret that my ill-advised remarks about alcoholic Celts probably killed it off. Genuine apologies to all posters - alcoholic, teetotal, Celt, non-Celt or other.

We tend to think that artists, writers, musicians and performers generally are the unstable ones: indeed that instability and creativity go together, but what about famous soldiers? How many great  warriors or generals have possibly been bipolar? Was Napoleon?

This article about Sherman is interesting.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/09/shermans-demons/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

Over the following weeks, Sherman’s fears only intensified, while others observed a tortured man suffering what has long been defined in psychiatric terms as intense mania. For example, two sympathetic New York journalists who shared long nights at the Louisville telegraph office with the general grew deeply alarmed by his behavior. Sherman talked incessantly while never listening, all the while repeatedly making “quick, sharp…odd gestures,” pacing the floor, chain-smoking cigars, “twitching his red whiskers — his coat buttons — playing a tattoo on the table” with his fingers. All in all he was “a bundle of nerves all strung to their highest tension.” Back at his hotel, other guests observed him pacing all night in the corridors, smoking and brooding, “and it was soon whispered about that he was suffering from mental depression.” Such increased energy, talkativeness and hyperactivity (which can sometimes become impulsive and even psychotic), is the definition of mania, the twin — and opposite — of depression in the illness of bipolar disorder.

And wasn't Alexander the Great described as "melancholy mad"?

But then, the question posed in the OP was:

Quote :
But have there been others, and what would we have been deprived of if any of them had been "cured"?



Would the world have been "deprived" of anything had all the crazy, brilliant warriors been dosed up on lithium? A lot of history, maybe.
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Tue 28 Oct 2014, 10:30

I'm not trying to "bump" this thread - I just wanted to share a quotation that I felt summed up the debt we owe to the artists who have - by, or through, or in (select your own preposition) their suffering - given us so much, so many "songs".  It's from Dylan Thomas whose 100th birthday it was yesterday:

Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains, like the sea.


Yes, Thomas was referring to the chains of time, but perhaps we may be forgiven for interpreting it differently.
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Wed 18 Feb 2015, 07:26

@Temperance wrote:
I'm not trying to "bump" this thread - I just wanted to share a quotation that I felt summed up the debt we owe to the artists who have - by, or through, or in (select your own preposition) their suffering - given us so much, so many "songs".  It's from Dylan Thomas whose 100th birthday it was yesterday:

Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains, like the sea.


Yes, Thomas was referring to the chains of time, but perhaps we may be forgiven for interpreting it differently.



There has just been a very interesting piece on BBC Breakfast about the new museum at the Bethlem Royal Hospital ("Bedlam") which is opening today. Looks well worth a visit. There is an extensive display of patients' artwork.


http://bethlemgallery.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Bethlem-Gallery-and-Museum_launch_final1.pdf


And talking of art and chains, I was struck by these figures - Melancholia and Mania - by Caius Gabriel Cibber (1680). They are given pride of place at the new museum.











The life-size statues of "Raving and Melancholy Madness" that were
displayed at the entrance to Bethlem Hospital from 1676 to 1815 are the
most famous works of the Danish sculptor Caius Gabriel Cibber, and were
significant London landmarks of their time. These reclining figures
dramatise the binary opposition between manic and melancholic symptoms
which lay at the heart of pre-medieval and early modern understandings
of mental ill-health. Raving Madness is depicted in furious agony (and
in hospital chains, by the way) whereas Melancholy is free of restraint,
but expressionless and unengaged.
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Wed 18 Feb 2015, 08:43

The lad in chains is reputedly modelled after "Mad Daniel", once a porter employed by Oliver Cromwell and, by the time of Cibber's commission, a star attraction at Bedlam - people paid money to see at first hand someone who had known Cromwell personally. Pamphlets explaining how prolonged close proximity to a tyrant could result in mania such as poor Dan's were also handed out to the asylum's "guests".
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Wed 18 Feb 2015, 17:28

Cibber's statues are mentioned in Nicholas Roe's John Keats. A New Life (Yale University Press, 2012).

The publisher’s blurb states that “Roe is the first biographer to provide a full and fresh account of Keats’ childhood in the City of London and how it shaped the would-be poet”, and that “the mysterious early death of Keats’ father, his mother’s too-swift remarriage, living in the shadow of the notorious madhouse Bedlam – all these affected Keats far more than has been previously understood”. Readers of the biography will discover that Professor Roe locates the intersection between the life of the poet and the life of the Hospital precisely at the foot of Cibber’s statues, in the shadow of which Keats spent his childhood, and which (according to Roe) “lingered deep in his memory as gigantic embodiments of anguish, awaiting their summons to reappear as the fallen Titans in Hyperion”.

Just at the self-same beat of Time’s wide wings  
Hyperion slid into the rustled air,  
And Saturn gain’d with Thea that sad place  
Where Cybele and the bruised Titans mourn’d.  
It was a den where no insulting light        
Could glimmer on their tears; where their own groans  
They felt, but heard not, for the solid roar  
Of thunderous waterfalls and torrents hoarse,  
Pouring a constant bulk, uncertain where.  
Crag jutting forth to crag, and rocks that seem’d        
Ever as if just rising from a sleep,  
Forehead to forehead held their monstrous horns;  
And thus in thousand hugest phantasies  
Made a fit roofing to this nest of woe.  
Instead of thrones, hard flint they sat upon,        
Couches of rugged stone, and slaty ridge  
Stubborn’d with iron. All were not assembled:  
Some chain’d in torture, and some wandering.
 
Coeus, and Gyges, and Briareüs,  
Typhon, and Dolor, and Porphyrion,        
With many more, the brawniest in assault,  
Were pent in regions of laborious breath;  
Dungeon’d in opaque element, to keep  
Their clenched teeth still clench’d, and all their limbs  
Lock’d up like veins of metal, crampt and screw’d;        
Without a motion, save of their big hearts  
Heaving in pain, and horribly convuls’d  
With sanguine feverous boiling gurge of pulse.


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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Wed 18 Feb 2015, 19:54

I haven't read the whole thread, so apologies if I am repeating something that has been mentioned previously but the gifted (in my opinion at least) French writer, Guy de Maupassant died in a private asylum from mental problems brought on seemingly by syphilis.

Don't a lot of people (and I include myself here) have their ups and downs though?  I'm mostly a cheerful person though when I do feel low I feel very low (though not - yet at least - jumping in the river low; mind you my local river is very shallow).  I may be mildly creative but I don't think I am a creative genius.  On a slightly different tack, I have wondered if somebody who lived in his/her own little world might sometimes be happier than someone who has full knowledge of the real world.

Again, if this has been mentioned before I'm sorry but I believe Bedlam was situated near or on the site of Liverpool Street Station in London which I used to pass through at one time as part of my daily commute.
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Wed 18 Feb 2015, 23:05

The strain of leadership, responsibility - and fame greater than talent - surely also take their toll. Lack of sleep for one thing, causes erratic behaviour and moods. Perhaps that ouht be taken into account when suggesting serious mental conditions. We have all seen stars who in their first flush seemed  grounded gradually struggle with the pressure of fame - Elvis, Jackson, Judy, Amy come to mind. What of our debt to them?
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Wed 18 Feb 2015, 23:50

Isn't the old Bedlam now the Imperial War Museum?
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PostSubject: Re: Our Debt to Mental Illness   Thu 19 Feb 2015, 08:44

The third Bedlam was on the site now occupied by the Imperial War Museum. This version of Bedlam operated from 1815 to 1930.


The main gate in Southwark, 1896.

The original Bedlam was situated just outside Bishop's Gate and, as LiR said, was on the site now occupied by the commercial buildings lining the south-east corner of Liverpool Street Station, just beyond St Botolph's Without:



The one that Cibber's statues adorned was used between 1676 and 1815, lining the south side of Moorfields and with its back to the street (it used London's Wall as a giant screen between it and "normal" life on that side), the main entrance facing the recently drained Moorfields park. You can just make them out on top of the gateposts in this engraving:



Dance's Obelisk (actually a disguised ventilation outlet for the tube running underneath and erected as recently as 1999) occupies roughly the spot of Bedlam's entrance. Ironically it is a reconstruction based on the architect George Dance's original commemorative Obelisk which for many years was displayed outside the Imperial War Museum.



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