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Peter Pijls shares his thoughts on bipolar disorder in response to World Bipolar Day on the 30th of March.  Some ‘bipos’ aren’t all that bad!

People with bipolar disorder for example, can go on to do great things. They teach us that pshycological issues don’t have to stand in the way of great achievements. Look at Winston Churchill; manic-depressive, but nonetheless the British prime minister who stood up to Hitler. Admittedly, on a diet of one bottle of champaign a day. His fellow countryman Lord Byron had some skills as well; poet, politician, and serial cheater.

And we have Vincent Van Gogh

who is suspected to have been bipolar. A large institution of the GGZ in my home town is named after him. (The GGZ is the Dutch Association of mental health and addiction care; the sector organisation of specialist mental health and addiction care providers in the Netherlands.) On his birthday, the 30th of March, it’s World Bipolar Day, to draw attention to this disorder that affects 1.9% of the Dutch population, including the writer of this article.

Who was never ashamed of his diagnosis

 I mean, Kurt Cobain, Virginia Woolf, and Ernest Hemingway had bipolar disorder. A kind of club I’m happy to be a member of!

And the likes of us who are still alive include Kanye West, Mariah Carey, and of course the Dutch singer S10.

It may be no coincidence these are all creative types. In her study about the connection between bipolarity and artistry, ‘Touched With Fire’, the author Kay Redfield Jamison lists dozens of examples of manic-depressive artists.

Mrs. Jamison, being bipolar herself, as well as a psychologist and Professor of Psychiatry, suspects a genetic link between creativity and manic-depressive disorder, but proof has yet to follow.

I have recognised this link in myself for some time

I have been writing stories and poetry, and taking photographs all my life. It is my creative therapy as well as my psychotherapy. Without these outlets, I would go crazy.

I also recognise this in other bi-polar people around me. A creative outlet is a must-have to them. Whether they are making videos or ceramics.

Regarding Vincent van Gogh, I remember that during a visit to Amsterdam, I saw his famous painting with the crows over the wheat field, painted shortly before his death.

A prediction of death

At the time I hadn’t been diagnosed yet, but by recognition the painting completely startled me, a prediction of death in paint.

It’s a good thing that Lithium didn’t exist in Vincent Van Gogh’s time, otherwise he may have never painted the sinister masterpiece.

It is actually such a de-stigmatising observation, that a crazy person is often a genius as well.

Peter Pijls is bipolar and a recovering alchoholic

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foto Peter Pijls
Translated from Dutch by SGM Taplin



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