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Kay Redfield Jamison

Ellen Forney – Bipolar Artist and Author

A bipolar book by the cartoonist Ellen Forney

Nearly 3 percent of adults in the U.S. have bipolar disorder – and that is known cases.  The question might be – how many people have it that don’t know about it?  Still, 3 percent is quite high, and the World Health Organization lists Bipolar Disorder as the “sixth leading cause of disability in the world”.

People with Bipolar Disorder face innumerable challenges – some personal, some professional.  Aside from the daily struggle to come to terms with the mental illness and manage symptoms, relationships and medicationbipolars often face stigma in the “regular” world.  Whether it is family members, friends or work associates, unless they have bipolar disorder, they are likely to have a skewed image and often little understanding.

Bipolar-1 Disorder - Ellen ForneyCartoonist Ellen Forney, of Seattle Washington, also a teacher at the Cornish College of the Arts released a graphic memoir – a graphic novel produced in a manner similar to her other published work.  In it, she describes what it is like to be bipolar from her perspective and how she struggled to find the right treatment.  Forney, along with her book; “Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir” were recently featured in the Huffington Post.

Being of an odd combination of scientist and artist – and particularly nosy. (some would call it inquisitive – but I prefer just nosy)

I have read a lot of books on bipolar disorder. I have read professional journals, research papers, self-help books, and books written by people with bipolar disorder – most of which were supposed to explain the illness, how to treat it, or tell what it is like to be bipolar.

Some of the books were well written, some were sadly misguided.  The most famous book by Kay Redfield Jamison, “Unquiet Mind” is considered “THE” book by many people, professionals and patients alike.  Though it is well-written, educational, and true – it doesn’t always fit, and many who are bipolar probably can’t read it when they need to.

Ellen Forney’s book is different.  It isn’t a manual; it isn’t a self-help book, it is simply a terrific depiction of bipolar disorder and even if you aren’t bipolar yourself, you should check it out. It is worth a look.

Melissa Lind

“Sex in Comics:” The bipolar Ellen Forney and R. Crumb

•    “My own BRILLIANT UNIQUE personality was neatly outlined right there, in that inanimate stack of paper.”
•    “My PERSONALTY reflected a DISORDER…”
•    “… SHARED by a group of people.”
•    “This sank in like the sun had gone behind the clouds…”
•    “… like I`d been covered by a heavy blanket, like a parrot…”

Bipolar Disorder and the Famous

Celebrities and bipolar disorder

Kurt Cobain - Bipolar MusicianKurt Cobain (1967-1994) American “Grunge” Musician – diagnosed with bipolar disorder and known drug abuse, suicide from self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Bipolar disorder can be a devastating disease.  Some people might also claim it is a gift in a sense.  There are a lot of famous people with bipolar disorder – and a lot more who are suspected of having it but have never been diagnosed – or just haven’t admitted it.

Kay Redfield Jamison is one of the most well-known people with bipolar disorder as she has been a pioneer in removing the stigma associated with the disease – and other mental health disorders.  Jamison is the author of the book Touched with Fire which has had resonance with people around the world, but she isn’t the only one.

People alive today that are known to have bipolar disorder

  •  Adam Ant (musician)
  • Russell Brand (comedian, actor)
  • Patricia Cornwell (author)
  • Richard Dreyfus (actor)
  • Patty Duke (actress)
  • Carrie Fisher (actress, author)
  • Mel Gibson (actor, director)
  • Linda Hamilton (actress)
  • Jesse Jackson Jr. (politician)
  • Margot Kidder (actress)
  • Debra LaFave (schoolteacher convicted for having sexual relations with student)
  • Jane Pauley (journalist)
  • Axl Rose (musician)
  • Britney Spears (singer-songwriter)
  • Ted Turner (media mogul)
  • Robin Williams (comedian, actor)
  • Catherine Zeta-Jones (actress)

Deceased

  • Kurt Cobain (musician, songwriter)
  • Ernest Hemingway (author)
  • Margeux Hemingway (actress, granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway)
  • Abbie Hoffman (activist)
  • Vivien Leigh (actress)
  • Marilyn Monroe (actress)
  • Sylvia Plath (poet)
  • Edgar Allan Poe (poet, author)
  • Jackson Pollock (artist)
  • Frank Sinatra (musician, actor)
  • Brian Wilson (musician)
  • Amy Winehouse (musician)
  • Virginia Woolf (writer)

This is only a short list of those who are known to have bipolar disorder as there are many more – and many more than that is suspect, including some who are alive today.  Mostly these are celebrities – known as bipolar only because they are famous.  We can guess who might have bipolar disorder through the news stories about repeated brushes with the law involving drug and alcohol abuse and bizarre behavior.  We can also look at the list of the deceased and see how many of those have died through suicide.

It seems that there are an abnormal amount of celebrities with bipolar disorder – or that more people with bipolar disorder are celebrities.  It is doubtful that either case is true, simply that the bipolar person is a “shiner” – usually amazing in their accomplishments at the best of times, and tremendously tragic at the worst of times.

In many cases, we learn of a famous case of bipolar disorder when a celebrity has a notorious (or repeated) encounter with the law – often involving alcohol or drug abuse.  Also in many cases, these encounters will continue until the person is diagnosed, incarcerated or dead – or a combination of these events.
Substance abuse and bipolar disorder often go hand-in-hand – whether this is because the person is self-medicating or because their brain tells them the rush is good.  Many people – not just celebrities “hide” behind substance abuse as an excuse for wild and unusual behavior.  Think of the celebrities who have gone on very public benders, breaking into houses, repeated visits to jail, long and dangerous rants in public, lewd and dangerous behavior.  This is not normal– even for a drunk.

It is a sad fact that substance abuse is more readily accepted today than a mental disorder – but it is.

Think about that the next time you hear of a celebrity doing something heinous – or a series of something’s heinous – or a celebrity committing suicide.

The Last 48 Hours of Kurt Cobain

Abuse, bizarre behavior and bipolar disorder often go hand-in-hand.