emily dickinson…you gotta love her!

The First Day’s Night Had Come
And Something’s odd – within-
That person that I was-
And this One-do not feel the same-
Could it be Madness-this?
-Emily Dickinson (19th Century)

Washington Post
Did a Bipolar Trait Bring a Turn for the Verse?

By Shankar Vedantam
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 14, 2001; Page A07

“Scholars have long speculated whether the reclusive poet suffered from some kind of mood disorder. Now, a century later, a new study postulates that Dickinson may have had a mild form of manic depression, with periods of high poetic creativity coinciding with exuberant periods that bordered on mania.”

I’m taking on a serious side today because of the frustration that I am experiencing. I have been reading a book called Touched with Fire by the manic-depressive sufferer, mental health advocate, and PhD and Professor of Psychology at Johns Hopkins University, Kay Radfield Jamison. She is considered by many to be an expert in Manic Depression. In this book she considers the mental health of many of our GREATEST creative artists, such as Emily Dickinson. It is her expert opinion that Emily Dickinson, the remarkable poet, did suffer from Manic Depression, as well as Social Anxiety Disorder. From the poem above, you can get a hint that Emily Dickinson, although never diagnosed, that we know of, also had an inkling that something about her state of mind was not always “quite right”.

Like Kay Redfield Jamison and Emily Dickinson, I am a sufferer of Manic Depressive Disorder (aka BiPolar Disease). I was just diagnosed in August of 2004. This has been a HUGE eye-opener for me. I have read everything that I can get my hands on about the disease and people who have suffered from it. I recently read a Biography about Nick Traina, the son of author Danielle Steele. He was a “casualty” of this disease. He killed himself in the late 90’s; he was very bright and creative, but ended his own life at the young age of 19.

Bipolar Disease is a killer, just like heart disease and cancer. It is sad that society seems to turn their back on individuals who SUFFER from mental illness. I emphasize SUFFER, because unless you have experienced the feeling of “going crazy” that comes with this disease, you cannot possibly know the inner turmoil that it causes…many people feel the only way to get relief is to end their own life.

Well, as soon as I was diagnosed, I began the journey of finding the right medications to help me live a normal life. This is a LONG process and it requires pure diligence because you have to constantly analyze whether or not your prescription drugs are working and what you need more or less of….all depending on your own subjective mood. It is a pain. Lucky for me, I have the BEST HUSBAND IN THE WORLD and very understanding family members (my parents both suffer from one thing or another and my in-laws aren’t crazy, but they try to understand me even though I am). I have all the reasons in the world to live and I have still contemplated suicide, even though I don’t know why I could ever think about something so morbid. [Through my studies I have found that my brain is WIRED this way, as all manic-depressives are].

Well, many people in this world don’t have the wonderful life that I do. Many people NEVER get the medications or help that they need because they are too poor, embarrassed, or uniformed. I may be too poor to afford my meds. soon, but we will figure something out because I don’t want to put my husband and kids through the torture of having a TOTALLY unstable ME. I am always a little unstable, but they like me that way. However, it is a really BAD thing when I never sleep and wake up every morning crying uncontrollably.

I have talked to some charities on the phone today researching what exactly they offer to poor people like me. One conversation that I had with the woman at “Ladies of Charity” really struck me. She informed me that they only provide the needy with medications that help with LIFE THREATENING diseases. Not, that I am trying to undermine what they are doing for the heart disease sufferers (many of which are that way because of bad habits), but BIPOLAR DISEASE is LIFE THREATENING and the people who suffer from it, have done nothing to deserve what they suffer from. It is MADNESS that the people in our world want to turn their backs to them, when they have enriched our society so much.

Other bipolar sufferers: William Blake (the poet), T.S. Eliot, Victor Hugo, Edgar Allen Poe, Walt Whitman, Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson, Tennessee Williams, Virginia Woolf, George Frideric Handel, Robert Schummann, Peter Tchaikovsky, Hugo Wolf, Irving Berlin, Vincent Van Gogh, Benjamin Haydon, and Michelangelo.


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