4 Pros & 4 Cons of Being a Bipolar Artist

Read about the good and bad of being a bipolar creative.

I'm disabled. Bipolar. I once thought being an artist would be easier than having a regular job. It's not.

Here are 4 pros and 4 cons to being a bipolar artist.

Cons

I may be highly creative but I contend with some serious setbacks.

"Sad Face Love" by artist Matt Vaillette

Con 1: Low Energy

Depression makes it hard to create art in the cold months. This is due to Bipolar Depression & Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which are both hard to treat.

The best treatments for either aren't effective and they trigger other symptoms. Light therapy and antidepressants give me anxiety, headaches, and _mood swings._ They affect my longterm health.

This is pretty standard for psychiatric treatments. Mental Illness Research is under funded so good treatments often don't exist for these conditions.

Con 2: Mental Pain

Bipolar disorder is painful. It took about 8 years to get me stable. 11 years later I'm still depressed pretty often. Life is painful even though I'm creative.

Con 3: Basic Life Stuff is Hard

Making appointments and other basics are challenging. I have a long list of things that regularly keep me home sick.

Just recently I was set for an interview for this newspaper article about my art ... when I got sick. I rescheduled: It went fine but the lead in was stressful.

I had to cancel last minute because I was nauseous and anxious.

We rescheduled but there was a deadline for the article: Wednesday. I had no clue if I'd be better in 2 days.

I made it. It was more luck than anything. There's always a good chance I'll be too sick to leave the house.

It worked out just fine. I had fun and it was a great article…but the time leading up to that interview. Whew. That was horrible.

Illustration of an anxious tearful person.

Con 4: Art Is Hard Work

People think of art as good fun. Artists must be lazy, right? Nope. You need a robust skillset and strong work ethic to get anywhere.

Getting started is time consuming and risky. You need amazing artistic skills, computer skills, and marketing skills. The list goes on. Schools adds 4-6 years and loans.

What's that about flexible hours? Not really. It's so competitive that you either work work work—or you don't get anywhere.

Lots of artists get regular jobs to pay off their loans and buy art supplies. Plenty of them fall off the art horse. It's too much work.

Pros

It's not all bad.

Pro 1: Fighting stigma

"Trumpeteer"... spread love!

I use art to talk about mental illness. It's powerful. I can help people like this!

That newspaper article I mentioned...It's about how I use art to cope with my illness. I got tons of great feedback from my local community. It felt GREAT!

People found it refreshing and courageous. They were happy that I spoke openly about it.

I heard from lots of people who have a mental illness. Lots of family and friends of sufferers too. Most of them talked in public channels as well.

It was super positive for me! I felt good hearing these stories. I know I'm not alone, and so do they, but it's nice to be reminded.

It's not common for mental illness stories to appear in the paper. I felt like we made some progress here in Leominster and surrounding.

Pro 2: Art as Therapy

I drew a lot as a child because I was anxious. Now I have a therapeutic passion and I've gotta use it to stay well. It gets me to inject meaning into my art too.

It feels good to help peopel with art! That helps me fight depression.

It also gets me creating art in the way that I love it. The style I love. I can't chase acceptance and be happy. I just make what feels good.

Flow

One great side effect of creating meaningful art is more "flow." Flow is a fantastic state of intense focus that we all experience from time to time. It makes us more aware, creative, and skillful.

More importantly it provides us with meaning and wellbeing. A wellbeing that lasts well after we leave flow. It makes life worth living!

Pro 2: A Unique Creativity

Bipolar people seem to have unique creative gifts. This gives us a great advantage as musicians, artists, poets, and scientists. This is a popular topic of research!

portrait drawn by Matt Vaillette, 2015

Pro 3: High Energy

I'm extremely productive and energetic in warmer months. I'm outrageously productive in the Summer.

Pro 4: Inspiration from Suffering

Being bullied and stigmatized has been a good source of inspiration. It allowed me to create the art you see all over my site!

I Hope You Understand

I'm happy to be me…but life isn't easy. I hope you can understand my experiences better. Thank you for reading!

Oodles of hugs! ♥
—Matt Vaillette