"The Illness and Insight of Robert Lowell"
, from The New Yorker
"Jamison’s book is the first to bring clinical expertise to Lowell’s case; before it, the poet’s cycles of illness and recovery have been judged in scolding moral terms, or, worse, viewed as a kind of lifelong-mishap GIF
, with Lowell stuck in a permanent loop.
When he was manic, Lowell smashed wineglasses and schemed to marry near-strangers. In recovery, his depressions were severe, his remorse profound, the work of repairing the relationships he’d damaged unrelenting.
But the metaphors that came so quickly to hand could again be tamed and put to use. “Gracelessly,” he wrote, “like a standing child trying to sit down, like a cat or a coon coming down a tree, I’m getting down my ladder to the moon. I am part of my family again.”
"But mood disorders occur with staggering frequency in creative people, and writers seem to suffer the most. A 1987 study at the University of Iowa found that eighty per cent of the writers studied exhibited the diagnostic signs of mood disorders, with fifty per cent fitting the criteria for bipolar disorder.
A 2011 study of three hundred thousand individuals showed that 'individuals with bipolar disorder were overrepresented in creative professions.'
Poets might be the most susceptible of all. They count on a certain amount of basic disorientation to do their work, which many report involves the temporary unshackling of the mind from ordinary semantic logic.
There are various names for this willed receptivity to associations: flow, inspiration, the muse. These are not the names we assign to symptoms of mental illness."