I feed the madness and it feeds on me

I grew up with a healthy fear of schizophrenia, an unusual those probably not my strangest fear and given the family I grew up in, not without warrant.

My grandmother had a very late onset of schizophrenia (nearly thirty) and I grew up in the smashed shell that was her unintended legacy: a father who had essentially raised his five siblings. they would sit around and laugh, telling stories of the time, grandmother, thinking her daughter had been replaced with a robot sent to spy on her, chased the Aunt Bert around with a knife until my father wrestled it away.

Broken china dolls. Carefully glued back together, but the shiny paste still lingered in the cracks.

vangoghinsaneI was like her, my family said, with my wit, intelligence, and the art.

Oh the art.

My grandmother had never been an artist, until the early days of her illness.  She would draw, everywhere.Elaborate murals usually of Disney characters. My father told me it was wondrous, as his childish eyes say it.

Until she started talking to the drawings.

And they answered her back.

I still wonder some days if there isn’t some correlation between art and madness. And though I have had nothing as severe as my grandmother, I have always been a bit off. From my carefree youthful days of car-surfing to my more turbulent twenties and my occasionally bouts of depression (which I can usually control with diet, exercise and meditation, those I have had to take medicine a few times.)

There’s an interesting article in scientific America talking about the history of mental illness in art. It’s worth taking a lot even at the sanest of times.






14 comments on “I feed the madness and it feeds on me

  1. I think there definitely is a correlation. There has to be something there to make artists see things so differently in the first place. Great article! You may have just inspired me to write my own post on the subject.

  2. May be finding a solution in those drawings. Pictures do give us lot of clues about what is going on in our mind, and these illustrations can even make us understand what exactly we are feeling.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story. I know that I constantly worry with any sip of alcohol I take, that I’ll become addicted like my mother. It helps to know how strong you are and I believe you will make it through. 🙂

  4. You can tell a lot about the inner workings of a person by their art. They create pieces of work that reflect the things that they are afraid to share openly and sometimes without even intending to. Art is amazing. I’ve learned a great deal about my autistic son through his art.

  5. You’ve heard the saying, “it’s a fine line between genius and insanity,” and I think it’s probably true. I also believe what Stuff Jeff Reads said that mentally ill folks my be communicating on a level that the rest of the world can’t. Interesting post.

  6. Being “a bit off” is what makes you beautiful. It is actually a badge of honor to me nowadays–being “different” (and yet I judge people constantly on their degree of “weirdness”). That’s an interesting thought also Jeff.

  7. I appreciate your sharing your world with me/us. I also have wondered about the correlation between Art and over-sensitivity. Maybe it is because those who look at the world differently don’t listen to the naysayers and shape the world in their own way. Which is often pure and deep.

  8. My grandmother was a schizophrenic as well, but she had a late onset, like her mid-40s. She was not creative, inspired, or an artist. She was also a psychopath and/or narcissist and was emotionally abusive to my mother, so I didn’t know her very well at all. I don’t think being crazy necessarily makes you a great artist, but I think it enables you to think outside of the box in a way that normal people just can’t. Someone like my grandma had no artistic talents so the insight from her psychosis was wasted, However, I wouldn’t ever wish to be a schizophrenic as it’s a tortured existence. . .

    Slyvia Plath rejoiced in her bouts of depression and mental illness because it inspired her. She was a genius to begin with, so her psychiatric disorders allowed her to enter a world only those with mental illness have access to, and combined with her natural writing talent, she conceived some brilliant pieces. Neurotypicals, and those that are sane, don’t have the key to this world, so they can only stand on the other side and imagine what it would be like instead of actually experiencing it.

    Some people achieve these altered mental states with drugs. Lady Gaga fueled her creativity with drugs and admitted that openly. I think that explains some of her recent music videos. But even with drugs Lady Gaga will never by Bjork. I mean I think some people are just born a certain way and process the world differently than the average person. Bjork is one of those people, and whether one likes her or not, it’s hard to deny that she is creative, and at the very least different. And that is separate from mental illness. I think many artists fall into this category, relatively sane but process the world in a different way.

    One of my friends is an amazing writer. Her pieces are so abstract, and I’m always amazed at how she even comes up with these ideas. She’s definitely a bit eccentric, but doesn’t suffer from mental illness. . . I wouldn’t say we are close friends, so it’s not really fair of me to judge, but she was definitely different than most people. Unfortunately, she can only write when inspiration strikes because her pieces are so unique it can’t be forced.

    I know that I’ve always felt like I was different, and it definitely helps with writing fiction. I’m extremely emotional, and I feel that the way my brain processes emotions is different than normal. Everything from sadness to joy is much more intense and long-lasting. I’ve been struggling with this ever since I was a young child. I often avoid watching certain movies, TV shows, anime, etc. if I know it’s going to be depressing because I get an emotional hangover, and I end up being sad and antisocial for days to weeks. I just shut down, and I have trouble eating or even communicating with others because the sorrow heavily weighs down my heart. But at the same time I kind of enjoy it XD It hurts so good. I’m also a self-hater, have had several bouts of anorexia (first at 10 years old), and depression, so that helps me identify with angsty characters or those struggling with inner-turmoil. I wouldn’t say that I’ve really cherished my super-feeler abilities. Most of my life I wished I didn’t feel things SO much, but it is what it is. I have learned at this point to embrace who I am.

    The one medium where I do enjoy angst is writing. I’m a sucker for poetic prose like Cormac McCarthy’s, and even though his stories break my heart, I absolutely love them * -* I love poetic prose in any genre, but angst and poetic prose go so well together.

    Anyway, this was a thought provoking post 🙂 Thanks!

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