Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Mental Health Stifles Creativity

For the past few weeks now, I've visited a therapist to address various challenges in my life. Before jumping to any conclusions, there's nothing really bad happening in my life but my opinion is that every once in a while, you need to wipe clean the emotional slate and start fresh. A former colleague of mine claims that periodic visits to the therapist is a mental "tune-up" necessary for continued mental health, much like dentist visits or an annual check-up. To that extent, I suppose that a discussion with the therapist is like mental floss, clearing the crevices of your brain tissue of undesirable emotional gunk that can contribute to decay. You could also think of a therapeutic visit as being like the splutter of lubricant during an annual exam that makes everything glide along better -- but surely I'm not alone in finding that analogy distasteful.

But, I've noticed a side effect of my mental health endeavors. There's been a disturbing decline in my creative productivity. Notice my blog posting, which has been reduced to near nothing in the past six weeks, which more-or-less correlates with when I began visiting the shrink.

I think I'm onto something here.

Observe the great creatives of history. Whether their means or ends were good or ill, they all accomplished something extra-ordinary and they were all suspected or confirmed mentally "different." Consider Tennessee Williams, Abraham Lincoln, Gaetano Donizetti, and John Forbes Nash. Lest you think only men are inspired by their cranial chemical imbalances, don't forget to include Mary Shelley, Virginia Woolfe, Vivien Leigh, Margaret Mitchell, and Joan of Arc (whether she was truly visited by angels or not, it's undeniable that a woman seeing visions is a little different than the rest).

When a struggling musician in college (struggling not for want of money or food but for lack of talent), I stumbled upon an epiphany of sorts: there is an apparent link between greatness and being afflicted with syphilis. Witness van Beethoven and Mozart, Schubert and Wolf, de Maupassant and Joplin. Could it be that these men had happened upon the path to accomplishment? If one can't be mentally unstable, contract syphilis and have a second chance! Even those with less noble goals seemed to be aware of this link. Manet, Henry VIII, and Ivan the Terrible all had syphilis, too. But, to be fair, one could argue these men were insane as well as syphilitic. After all, only a crazy man (and my mother's ex-husband) would marry six times.

So, perhaps a person's contributions to society is relative to their mental faculties or lack thereof. Maybe my very good mental health alone explains my (absent) contributions to the worlds of politics, literature, music, and science. Is evolution stigmatizing me for being chemically balanced (relatively-speaking)? Is my future potential forever capped because all of my synapses are synapping? Is mental stability the new glass ceiling?

Clearly then, my first step to recover any pretense to creative genius is to stop visiting the therapist.

Should that not inspire the necessary mental defects to result in prolific composition, I may need to resort to more dire steps...like contracting syphilis.

1 comment:

JMo said...

Many great authors suffer from some sort of mental imbalance. So do artists, musicians, comedians, and all types of creative individuals. I would not be surprised at all to find you are entirely correct.