There’s not much that’s “cool” about mental illness. Most of the time, it ranges from an annoyance to a full-blown catastrophe. Whether it’s side effects, medications, psych visits, or even hospitalizations, mental illness is time-consuming and rarely “awesome.”
One positive I have found with mental illness is community. We may have our issues, but we are some of the most passionate, creative people out there. Ellen Forney’s Marbles introduced me to the idea of “Club van Gogh”. Van Gogh, who most likely had bipolar disorder, is our representative. Our group has no membership requirements, no fees, and sadly, no club house, but the spiritual connection that it provides has been very helpful to me.
I admit to having bipolar role models: Carrie Fisher, Stephen Fry, Marya Hornbacher, Demi Lovato. I think it’s healthy to look up to people who have my disorder (or forms of it) and have achieved success in their respective fields. I love it when someone I respect is an activist as well. I look to these individuals as proof that I can do it too.
I have learned that diagnosis is not a death sentence. It’s more like being sent on a very long detour in a car that leaks sometimes. I hold the same potential that I possessed at birth – maybe more now that I have experienced hardship and developed compassion. The club serves as a reminder of people who, like you, have achieved their potential in spite of and because of their diagnosis.
There will be suffering along the way – Club van Gogh has proven this as well. But there will also be greatness, boundless creativity, and joy. Maybe we won’t be in Star Wars or be a host on X-Factor, but we can find opportunities to shine in our daily lives. We can be businesspeople, artists, mechanics, mathematicians, scientists, teachers, and advocates. There’s room for everyone.