According to a recent BBC report, creative people are suffering from a psychological disease: “Writers had a higher risk of anxiety and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, unipolar depression, and substance abuse, the Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute found. They were almost twice as likely as the general population to kill themselves.”
For most writers, this isn’t news. If you’re going to put pen to blank paper, you are crazy enough to see and describe what doesn’t exit. I wouldn’t be writer if I haven’t gone to the funny farm as a child and an adult.
After being misdiagnosed as mentally retarded due to an undetected hearing loss as a young child, the school system put me into special ed classes at different schools around the county. Despite blowing out the evaluation tests at the genius level, the teachers treated me like a well-behaved idiot and I learned next to nothing. The teenage years were not kind for overweight geniuses in the special ed classes. I subsequently dropped out of high school in the ninth grade, stayed home for the remaining high school years, and taught myself from library books.
I suffered bouts of depression during that time. Writing in a journal often relieved the emotions I was going through. That sometimes became a head banging exercise in itself as I struggled with the limitations of my fifth-grade English skills. (My reading comprehension was well beyond college level.) After several years of working with my father in construction and despite not going back to high school, I entered San Jose City College as an adult student. My English writing skills got better and writing in my journal became less of a struggle.
And then I became a Christian in the campus ministry.
The writing journal became a “quiet time” notebook for writing down what I learned in my bible studies. Shortly after moving into the brothers’ household in downtown San Jose, the notebook mysteriously disappeared. I started a new notebook. A bible talk leader “found” my old notebook a month later, asking me pointed questions that were relevant only if he had read my notebook (which he denied doing). I already had trust issues coming into the church—this didn’t help. I discovered years later that “missing” notebooks being read by others in the church weren’t an uncommon practice.
I started self-censoring what I wrote and destroying my notebooks after I got done with them. The doubts—the voices—plagued my mind for the next 13 years, being a writer without a creative outlet. This torment ended when even the leadership thought I was too crazy as a Christian, kicking me out of the church and insisting that I get counseling.
A year of counseling liberated me from my emotional struggles. I was able to give myself permission to do what I always wanted to do as a child: be a creative individual. Painting and pottery consumed me for the next few years until I answered the siren call of being a professional writer. I started submitting my short stories in 2006, and, after 300+ snail mail rejection slips, publishing regularly a few years after that.
The voices are gone. The doubts still remain. I’m a writer, a nut job in progress.