Mind: Illness and Illumination

mental illness

John Nash, known best for his depiction in the film “A Beautiful Mind,” suffered from debilitating schizophrenia. He won the Nobel Peace prize for his work in Mathematics and the Game Theory.

Sylvia Plath, known for her dark poetry and many other works, suffered from depression until it pushed her to take her own life.

Vinvent Van Gogh, French painter and artist, although created many great works under the influence of absinthe, a careful review of his letters indicates he may have suffered from manic and depressive episodes. He committed suicide at the age of 37.

I write this post under the cloud of my own disorder. It is debilitating, confusing, and a constant battle that far too many understand all too well. Despite the fact that so many undergo such conditions, and so many end up leading brilliantly creative lives, the stigma towards mental disorders keep us hiding under a rug, afraid to talk to any about what we struggle through.

The words that we bear as the name describing what we daily fight through, find themselves as the punch line of jokes or the careless belittling of someone we do not like.

Over the past few days, I heard and even used the term “bipolar” to describe the behavior of individuals at my job who were not everyone’s favorite to work with. Upon careful inspection, it may become clear to any caring individual that, maybe – just maybe, they did struggle from bipolar disorder. The tragedy is that many go untreated because of the stigma, the name calling, and the poor treatment.

“A Beautiful Mind,” albeit not entirely accurate to John Nash’s struggle, portrayed the story of a mathematical genius inflicted with schizophrenia. It wasn’t until half-way through the movie that viewers uncover, along with Nash, that his adventurous escapades were not at all what he thought but were elaborate hallucinations composed out of the misconstructions of his own mind. It can be difficult to put what an individual with such a condition goes through without artistic methods, as too many who have this condition end up on the streets as “that rambling homeless man talking to himself on the subway.” The movie eloquently depicted a side of the condition that few ever see: the struggle.

Too few of us care to see that side, even among those of us who undergo it. The mind is a beautiful and terrifying thing, capable of pressing us to create marvels, and wreak havocs. With our minds we can create vaccines, invent airplanes, and paint pieces of art that inspire anyone who views it. With our minds we can also drown our new born infants, leap in front of trains, or lead a nation into believing another race is a blight on human kind and insight them all to commit atrocities against them.

Each individual is capable of creating and destroying. Each person we work with, see on mass transit, or making our coffee is capable of ending their infant’s life, or finding the cure for cancer.

Which will it be? Which will our words move another to accomplish? Will our haphazzard label of “crazy,” “bipolar,” or “depressed” push our fellow man over the edge to self harm? Or, perhaps, will we choose the higher road of listening and asking “How are you today?” while truly listening… and carry our fellow man through the storms?

A Penny for your Thoughts, or a penny for your fellow man?


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