Mental Illness and Creativity

This is hardly a revelation, but many of the most creative minds the world has produced suffered from mental health issues to some degree or another. From Pablo Picasso to Charles Dickens, the struggle against the mind is intertwined with the creation of art.

That’s not really what I want to talk about.

What I want to talk about is why I’ve seemingly abandoned this blog, despite its one-time popularity and my commitment to writing. You see, from hundreds of posts in 2012 when I started to only 30 so far this year, my participation in this blog has dwindled, but it isn’t because I’ve been more depressed, or less committed to writing.

It’s because I’ve been medicated.

I suffer from bipolar disorder, which comes with periods of crushing depression, alternated with periods of (for me) hypomania – not quite the euphoric, top-of-the-world feeling of some sufferers, but rather a sense of needing to be prolific, to be productive, to get things done.

Back in 2012, when I first started blogging (also, as it happens, when I started work on The Redemption of Erâth), I was completely unmedicated. And looking back, I think I was going through a long, drawn-out manic phase. I would blog three to four times a week, write for hours a day, and wrote a complete first draft in three months (by contrast, the most recent book in the series, Ancients & Death, took over a year to write).

This period of productivity came with its downsides, too; I became distant from my family, using my writing as an excuse to ignore them and sit in my office for hours, sometimes days, at a time. That wasn’t fair to them. I focused so heavily on my writing that all else – my life, my job – became secondary.

But then something happened. Around 2013 or 2014 (I can’t remember exactly), I went to my doctor and asked for help. I couldn’t handle the depression and the mania anymore. And since then, on and off, I’ve been on a variety of medications, some of which are helpful and others that I had to leave well alone. And one of the things that this medication has done is keep me on a flat, level plane.

That’s okay – it’s what they’re supposed to do. But it has hindered my creativity … to an extent. Whilst I’m not usually cripplingly depressed, nor do I have any real manic phases, which leads to the problem: sometimes I just don’t do anything.

I want to blog regularly. I want to pick back up on my Thought of the Week posts, and others. But the motivation is hard to come by. It isn’t depression – it’s just a lack of desire.

In the meantime, I have done work; I wrote and released my young adult book 22 Scars, and I’ve been working hard at editing and finalizing Ancients & Death. And now, it’s ready for release.

With the book writing a little more out of the way (I’ll probably pick up on the sequel to Ancients & Death sometime in the new year), maybe I can focus back on blogging a bit more. I’d certainly like to revitalize this page. And who knows? Maybe I’ll make some new friends again!

The Redemption of Erâth: Ancients & Death (Vol. III) is available for pre-order, and will be released on Sunday, November 4th.

Thought of the Week: Lithium, One Month In

About a month ago, I wrote about being diagnosed with Bipolar Type I and the treatments I’m undergoing. Specifically, I wrote about adding lithium to my daily pill diet, and being both concerned and excited about this new treatment. I was afraid of the results, afraid of the side-effects; in particular, I was afraid of what it was going to do to me mentally. I was looking forward to the possibility of a more steady life, and afraid that I would become a zombie.

So now it’s a month later, and I’ve been on lithium long enough for the effects to settle in. The overall result? It’s really, really weird.

I haven’t noticed a wide array of different crazy side-effects, but there are a couple of things that are different that I can really only attribute to the lithium itself. The first, most obvious and noticeable effect is a significant tremor in my hands particularly, and in my body in general. Sometimes the tremors become quite violent, although they are mostly more subdued. For example, I spilled tea on myself and my mouse while writing this post because of a sudden shake. It’s even a little more difficult to type on the keyboard (thank goodness for autocorrect). I’ve also noticed a strange phenomena when I’m sleeping. Mrs. Satis has for a long time said that I shake or move uncontrollably when I sleep, but recently when I’m coming awake (that state between sleeping and waking) I begin to shudder throughout my entire body. It’s not painful, but is the most peculiar sensation I can describe. Every muscle in my body, it feels like, starts quivering rapidly, and this continues for several seconds before eventually fading away, leaving me feeling normal. I’ve started to become used to this, and I had something similar (but much milder) before starting the lithium, but it’s a little unsettling.

The second most obvious change is mental. Here, I can almost feel the lithium interfering with the chemical signaling in my brain. I have a constant fuzzy, numb sensation near the back of my head – right about where the cerebellum would be, I’d say – and emotionally I’m simply gone. I can still laugh in the presence of colleagues but I don’t actually find the joke very funny; I can still frown when Mrs. Satis is angry at me for forgetting to do something for the millionth time, but I don’t actually feel upset. I feel steady, certainly; almost like a see-saw that’s frozen in place.

There’s a good side to this. I don’t get nearly so angry, and I especially don’t get so depressed. This is a hard one to explain, actually, because I still feel a great lethargy, which was always one of the key characteristics of my depression. I still want to spend all day lying in bed, sleeping. (I got ten hours of sleep last night, yet I still felt compelled to have a nap all morning.) I can’t bring myself to do anything, never mind the important things that need doing every single day (like cleaning).

And there’s a down side, which is that I can’t react appropriately to anything. If little Satis is happy, I feel a little “meh”. If Mrs. Satis is angry I feel a little “meh”. It’s okay at work – reactions are governed by pre-scripted rules for social interaction, so as long as I respond the way work wants me to respond, I’m good – but at home it’s causing all sorts of problems. Which is ironic, because the whole point of lithium was to improve my quality of life.

It leaves me wondering what the point of any of this medication is. All I’ve done is traded a violent, abusive, depressed and lazy monster for a quiet, monotone, unfeeling lazy monster. And I have no idea which is better.

Do I want to go off lithium? I’m not sure. There’s the part of me that’s enjoying a bit of stability for once. There’s a part of me that hates the relationships this “new” me is forming with his loved ones. And there’s now a big part of me that just doesn’t give a f***.

Sigh. What would you do?

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The Devil’s Details: Surgical Drapes

It turns out you learn a lot when someone you know undergoes surgery. Along with the general nausea, blurred vision and pain of recovery, we discovered long red marks on Mrs. Satis’ abdomen. We had absolutely no idea what caused it until we went to see the doctor for our first follow-up consultation. He pondered for a moment, and then declared with quite the “ah-ha” that it was a delayed reaction to the surgical drapes.


Did you know they drape the patient’s body entirely during surgery apart from the head and the surgical site (called the “operating field”, according to Wikipedia)? It makes sense when I think back on it – whenever you see surgery on TV there’re gowns and cloths and drapes all over the place. The specific reason for this, however, wasn’t apparent to me until now. During open surgery when the patient is under general anesthetic, the anesthesiologist remains in the operating room throughout the procedure. Another one of those things that makes sense when you think about it. The patient is hooked up to IVs and ventilators and all sorts of stuff, and the anesthesiologist is there to make sure the patient remains unconscious throughout.

The drapes separate the surgeon’s working area from the anesthesiologist’s (and anything else). You see, I’d always assumed that operating rooms were kept pretty sterile as it was, but it turns out not sterile enough: the drapes help to minimize the possibility of contamination during surgery.

It feels obvious, but kind of crazy at the same time; it’s just a further reminder that you are being deliberately wounded – cut wide open – and that you are just as prone to infection during surgery as anywhere else.


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