You don’t have to be crazy to work here.

Sam HawkenThere’s a cliché that writers, especially good writers, are all either unhinged, or on the cusp of being so.  While there may be some degree of truth to this, as bipolar disorder (from which I suffer) can and does contribute to periods of enhanced written production, I think I can safely say you’d probably consider not having bipolar disorder more of a plus to your writing ambitions than the other way around.  Which brings me to my point: madness is not a prerequisite for being a creative soul.

Despite that fact that it’s a new century and we ought to know better, there’s still this idea that mental illness is somehow a character flaw.  If only we were tough enough, or practical enough, or did enough yoga or had a better diet, that pesky depression (or whatever) would simply disappear.  Being tough, practical and/or healthy doesn’t hurt in general, but not being those things doesn’t cause mental illness and they certainly aren’t a cure.  If one were to say one had cancer, and someone recommended jogging as a way to fix the problem, I believe it’s legal in most states to bludgeon that person.

Mental illness need not be so severe that it causes suicide in order to be taken seriously.  Any level of mental illness is a concern and deserves treatment.  If you’re experiencing manic episodes, or suffering from long-term depression, or you’re having disordered thoughts, seek help.  Even if you don’t have a lot of (or any) money, options are out there if you look.

And whatever you do, don’t use the excuse that you might upset your writing life somehow by addressing your illness.  These things — creativity and mental health — aren’t inversely related.  In fact, you may find your writing improves dramatically when the true roadblocks to wellness are removed.