Kanye is one of millions of people who struggle with bi-polar disorder and depression. While many go unnoticed, there are those such as myself who have been diagnosed and have found treatment.
For years I struggled with whether or not to take medication. Then finally, after having a serious bout of depression over a summer break from teaching that lasted into the fall, I decided to take the medication that had been recommended for me.
It is not uncommon for those suffering from mental health issues to forego taking their “meds.” There is an overriding feeling that the medication will alter one’s personality or, in Kanye’s case, creativity.
As a Baby Boomer, it took me some time to realize that the new generation of treatment drugs are far different from the past. My depression at the time had become so severe that I decided that my life could only improve by taking it.
And it has. Since that time, I have continued to compose both songs and poetry. Yet there are those days when despite everything, there may be a mix-up in my refill schedule or something else that may cause me to go without it.
Admittedly, on those days, there is a noticeable difference that allows me to work with less inhibition. But I also know that those moments are when I need to remain diligent about my boundaries and my relationship to the world around me.
It is also in those moments that I can appreciate that Kanye stopped taking his medication for six months in order to put his full raw energies into producing the likes of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
Studies have shown there to be links between creativity and mood disorders. Many talented musicians have suffered with not being able to tame the tremendous mental creativity which can overload the brain as a result of bipolar or other mental impairments and still be productive. Kanye has said that bi-polar is his superpower.
And while he may be right in that assessment, taking medication can tame that superpower and give it focus. If only one could turn those moments on and off at their convenience without the accompanying reckless behavior.
Perhaps that generation of medications is on the horizon. But, for now, Kanye and all of us who are dealing with mental illness need to practice self-regulation.
We need to recognize that society has yet to catch up with how to interact with mental illness in their friends, relatives, colleagues, and more. Many still use it as a weapon to point out our flaws. Pharmacists, doctors, and other medical personnel have been known to shrug off our critical need for medication and often delay filling prescriptions.
Despite this, medication has allowed me to face the challenges in my life, including homelessness. I have had the clarity to write for The Groundcover News and somehow manage the complexities of life without mainstream housing.
So bipolar is my superpower as well. I take on huge projects, but with the superior class of medications I take I am becoming more adept at managing them without feeling overwhelmed.
There is reason to feel optimistic and hopeful about life with mental illness in today’s world. We should celebrate the enormous advancements in the medical field as well as appreciate it for its peculiarities which nature often uses to feed the muse.
So if Kanye runs for president, he may be the first to openly acknowledge his battle with mental illness. It would be a sign to all Americans that mental illness does not have to destroy dreams. It would shed light on the tremendous strides that have been made in the area of mental health.
I am convinced that once Mr. West applies his creative energy towards striking the delicate balance needed to negotiate life with mental illness, he will find a path which may lead him to provide the unique form of leadership that only Ye can do.