Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Crazy doesn't mean creative

People characterize mental illness in one of two (not mutually exclusive) ways. Mental illness is:

1) a personal failing, a sign of weak character, and/or "Pull yourself out of it. Everyone has problems."

2) a sexy, fascinating affliction that makes the sufferer more creative and more interesting than the average boring person.

There's an excellent post that discusses the second point in terms of the public's treatment of Syd Barret here.


hexyhex said...

Oh, ick. So familiar.


Madame DeBarge said...

Yeah, I get #1 a lot.
Though, I think it would be rather creepy to hear someone tell me I was sexier because of rampant mental illness...

Amy's Brain Today said...

I've noticed a lot lately in the vernacular the use of the words "mad" and "crazy" to describe a person's skill or ability--she's a "mad writer," she has "crazy painting skills." I can't decide if that's an outgrowth of #2, or is a way of recasting mental illness in a positive light, unlike the way the metaphorical use of "lame" puts down people with mobility impairments. Whaddya think, SE?

spotted elephant said...

I see the use of "mad skills" and "crazy painting skills" as being the equivalent to the usage of "asshat" and "teh" for the: just a trendy, super-cool way for kids to speak. ;)

I might be "crazy wrong". I'd like to see it as a positive recasting of mental illness, but I haven't seen any drop-off in immediately labeling people who do horrific things as being mentally ill. That awful = crazy is what offends me most.

The Goldfish said...

Julia Kite wrote a good article about the mad = artistic thing.

I think the funniest misuse of a mental health term I have heard is the use of schizophrenic to mean ambivalent. As in "I'm not sure whether to go to the party; it should be good but that girl I don't like is going to be there. I'm a bit schizophrenic about the whole thing."

I don't know how this misuse has come to pass, but I have heard it.

Christina said...

Crazy is the most frequent. Although I have heard many varied misconceptions and prejudgments on mental illness. My family will not even speak of their conditions because of the treatment my grandfather recieved while his mother was in an institution.

When I worked at an art gallery (the only job where my bipolar was public knowledge), it was a prized condition because of its assumed links to creativity. I am a creative person, yes. But is that simply because I am bipolar?

spotted elephant said...

Golfish-Schizophrenic as ambivalent is a new one for me.

Christina-That's exactly it. Maybe you would have been even more creative if you didn't have to put energy into dealing with bipolar disorder. Maybe you'd have been less creative without it, but that still doesn't mean it would be the same for everyone. I'm betting that the people at the gallery weren't very knowledgeable about the pain involved in bipolar disorder.