Anyone who is a lover of literature can quote their favorite passages by heart from the books that have touched and moved them in one way or another. A book that drips with emotion is definitely a rare treasure. It can be soaked with sadness, aflame with madness, or pungent with fear. While these books tend to enthrall us, have you ever put much thought into the author's state of mind when he/she wrote it? If you are anything like me the obviously answer to that question would be....YES! And if you are even more like me, you research the author extensively as if you are trying to crawl inside of him/her. If a book is well written you can literally feel the pain, sadness, desperation, and/or solitude within each pen stroke. These are pieces that tend to be timeless and span generations.
This is why the classics are bestowed with the label "classics." Even though the terminology or slang differs from modern day speech, the core emotions or message it contains resonates through the years. It is not lost in translation but is comprehended by each and every new generation. Who among us does not immediately recognize the phrase "Never more", or "Call me Ishmael"? The loneliness felt when reading "The Raven", or the almost maniacal obsessions while sampling "Moby Dick" is something anyone can relate to. That is because emotion is the one thing that does not change context through out the years.
(Click on link to read further about a few famous authors who suffered mental illness)
One doesn't have to look too far to acknowledge just a few of the famous writers who have struggled with some type of mental illness. Mark Twain succumbed to bouts of depressions and we can be sure that his turbulent family drama played a factor in his struggle. Stephen King self-medicated with alcohol and drugs to cope with his unhappiness yet his most famous works, like "The Shining", were produced during those troubled times.
Sylvia Plath Ernest Hemingway
Sylvia Plath was tormented with suicidal depression, so much so she consented to shock therapy. These experiences are detailed in her only but much acclaimed novel, "The Bell Jar." Ernest Hemingway suffered from bipolar disorder, also known as maniac depression. He underwent shock therapy which he claimed affected his memory which is essential for a writer. I find that the most poignant and resonating pieces are the ones created during times of great turmoil. Let's be honest, books that are all rainbows and lollipops just don't cut it. We all are raptured by stories that encompass suffering where characters are plagued with conflicts, internally or externally. The most memorable characters in a book are the ones that we can relate to, that are human, and this comes from mostly internal conflict. Who doesn't love a character who struggles only to rise above it in the end in some way or another? Just like music we relate to stories that seem to capture issues we ourselves go through.
Current studies being conducted detail the correlations between creative people and mental illnesses.
(Click on link to see article from Stanford University)
Living in such dark, tormented, and maddening places seem to provide some of the most delicately beautiful works of art. Yes, it is a shame that the two seem to go hand in hand and in this day and age with all the medications out there to make everyone feel "normal", one tends to wonder if we will ever see such great works as we have in the past. In no means is this an excuse for someone who does have a mental illness not to seek help. It is just a interesting and somewhat proven theory that one can not help pay attention to. With all the downsides of having a mental illness ( I know since I have lived with depression since I was 18) it is kind of refreshing to see a positive in there. Does that positive outweigh all the negatives? For me, the answer is no. I have lived through some of my darkest times before I went on medication and never wish to return to that state again but I do wonder if the medicine does inhibit my creativity. Food for thought.