creative gifts from mental illness?

I saw this picture online last week, and I wanted to post it on my blog and see what people thought of it.

I’m trying to decide what I myself think of it, especially as an obsessive-compulsive who is also a creative writer.  Do I believe that my creativity is tied up inexorably with my mental illness?  Would I be just as creative without OCD?  Do mental illnesses perpetuate the arts or stifle them, or does it depend on the person?

Before I went through cognitive-behavioral therapy, I used to wonder if I wouldn’t be as interesting without my OCD.  I don’t devote much time to thinking about that anymore, so this picture is really bringing up those old thoughts.  While I believe that OCD/mental illnesses can draw creativity out of a person, I don’t believe that it is the wellspring of it, by any means.  In many ways, my OCD hampered my creativity.  Now that it is under control, I feel much more creative freedom.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  Mine are obviously not yet sorted out!

14 thoughts on “creative gifts from mental illness?

  1. I think that with disabilities God also gives us great gifts.
    For example, I know an autistic boy in my school has the most incredible gift in music. He’s a selective speaker (he doesn’t talk much at all, and only to a few people), but he can sing like no other. I don’t think they’re related by cause and effect; I think it’s just that the fact that he has a hard time with communication that inspires so much of his gift, if that makes sense at all.

    • Love that story! Yes, after reading people’s comments today, I’m still not 100% sure what I think, but I do think that it all somehow comes together in one package that God Himself wrapped up. There is still mystery in that, but I’m comfortable with it, knowing that God’s hand is in it all.

  2. I think that we all have a unique set of experiences and challenges that make us who we are and that set informs how we view life and how we express ourselves through art and other areas. I don’t think that mental illness makes a person artistic, but all of our personal traits and experiences inform that expression. I hope that all made sense 🙂

  3. As a twist to a common theme I would suggest that there probably does not exist a direct tie between disability and creativity. However, I think that disabilities can often give a very different spin on things otherwise unseen. For example, Beethoven created his best works during the time he was deaf. He was forced to “listen” to the music in a new way. In your novel you were able to creatively insert the mind of an OCD troubled person. This certainly added a certain creative element people without OCD could not have crafted so well if at all.

    On the other hand, there are some people with disabilities who demonstrate very little creative tallent. Therefore, I would wager that having disabilities does not give to increase in creativity, but it does help those with creative talents to present a new perspective in a given field of creativity.

  4. I have a severe level of depression that went undiagnosed for years. It caused me to introvert myself, finding comfort in books and writing. I’m not sure if I would have loved writing so much without it, but now that I’m on meds, my writing is so much more vibrant, and I’m able to move past self-doubt so much better and accomplish about twice as much as I do when I’m depressed. Either way, I think it’s all just part of my story. 🙂

  5. Oh man, I’m SO much more creative when I’m not in the throes of an OCD spike! I brainstorm more, I write more, I draw more, I’m happier, and I’m not spending up all that mental energy worrying about nothing.

  6. I’m so interested in this because, as someone mentioned above, not everyone who has a mental illness is bursting with creativity–but it does seem as though many creatives throughout history have dealt with mental illness. (Maybe it’s just better documented amongst certain groups of people, or not hidden to the extent that it is with other “types” of people–not that it’s always out in the open, but creative people seem less afraid of sorting it out in front of an audience.)

    I often wonder not if mental illness is the wellspring of creativity, but if creative types are just naturally more prone to it because we spend so much time anyway inside our heads/fantasy worlds/own feelings. Could it be that mental illness hovers around creatives more frequently because they are already affected deeply by life in ways that other people aren’t? I could be totally off, but…I don’t know, what do you think?

  7. Pingback: This Gave Me Pause. | Lights All Around

  8. Pingback: Question & Dancer: OCD & Family, Romanticizing Mental Illness, and What to Expect in OCD Remission | JACKIE LEA SOMMERS

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