Struggles of a Bipolar Artist

Sometimes, I feel as if I'm at the top of the world as I crank out music like a machine. Others? I feel like throwing my equipment against the nearest wall and saying "screw it all." I've done it a couple times; probably why things sound extra no-fi on some tracks. It may not be this way for every person with BD, but for me, it mostly is. As an artist, it's both frustrating and motivating. When everything runs "smoothly," I can put out great music. If I let the episodes run rampant, I lose a sense of common sense and start dropping stuff like the "bad" songs from One Year Later/#RAQUELReloaded.

While I was diagnosed as bipolar as early as 2008, I first accepted the diagnosis in late-September 2013. This was after being observed for a few days at a local hospital. Before last year, I thought "oh, hey, maybe I'm just overly anxious and don't like change" or "I'm just depressed right now. No biggie." Simply put, it was anything and everything else that was causing these "something's not right" moments besides being bipolar. Hell, for a minute, I became pretty paranoid and started thinking that "The Man" was trying to hold me down and force-feed me medication to stifle my creativity.

"Whitey Tryna Kill Me" conspiracies aside, I guess it was the stigma that went along with the diagnosis that always made me so adamantly against any suggestion of the sort. When someone thinks "bipolar," they usually go with what they've seen on TV or have heard about it. In college, I was uninformed and knew that I didn't want lithium, which is what they wanted to start me on to treat it. That was partly because of the Nirvana song of the same name and partly because I felt that if I didn't take the medication, I could still do amazing music. In fact, it was the only way I could do music.

Classic bipolar myth: mania always creates classic outbursts of creativity.

While I did/do find myself more inspired when going through a manic episode, I often go back (once more "leveled out") and listen to what I did. More often than not, I have the dumbest look on my face after listening. It's somewhat of a "what the hell was I doing," especially when I'm screaming at the top of my lungs, belting out bars. Remember that I still do things in a home studio (albeit a somewhat elaborate one, considering things) a good percentage of the time, I don't always have the luxuries of extensive editing software. So screaming like I'm singing "This Fire Burns" isn't always the best thing for my music. Either that or I'm rambling on stuff that doesn't make much sense. At the moment, of course, I probably bobbed my head saying "yeah, this is fire" or something.

When completely unaware/oblivious to my ailment, I tended to drop tracks that sounded overly depressed, even if they were meant to be "happy" songs. For instance, the song "Disco Demolition Night"/"Successful" from The Sh*t I Shoulda Dropped.

Here's a track that's supposed to be triumphant and about overcoming hindrances. Instead, it becomes a melancholy discussion about how mucked up things could get for me. Even in moments of success, the delivery/tone of the song created a sense of despair. Friends and colleagues, even when they vibed with a song, they'd suggest that I should "be more...happy in [my] music." 

I'd often retort by simply saying "that was me happy. What, would you rather see me depressed?" This, of course, led to people suggesting that I was nothing more than a tortured soul, a person who saw only the negatives in a situation--even when they had no real reason to be sad. While people knew something was "off" about me in some ways, they never knew what exactly. So, "tortured soul" was a label I held for years, mainly because of depressed-sounding lyrics and melodies.

I played with the idea a bit, making songs that were overly suicidal/hopeless. Unfortunately, the play on the "tortured soul" wasn't exactly a play at all. I, as mentioned, have gone through some straight up "I need to die" moments. But, if it gets people talking, I'll talk about my suicidal thoughts. I don't know, I guess I'm the guy who'd rather enact change through any method than just let dumb stuff keep piling up. Sometimes, I just didn't take that advice for my own usage, and that's how we end up with overly aggressive or overly depressive tracks.

These days, I'm doing better with it. I'm moving away from gloom and doom, partly because of my own insistence to not get back to those dark places. But, as mentioned in my interview with True, it gets hard (especially when you're making an album based on those experiences) to completely say "hey, that's not me." I mean, I'm bipolar, I don't have a cold. It's something that'll stick with me until I die. As long as I manage it, though, I can still use it all for good (and still be level most the time).

I'm writing this not as a "hey look at me, buy my music, I'm a sad sack of mental instability." Even though I come off as cocky sometimes, I'm pretty altruistic and want to help people. So, if anyone reading this can be like "oh damn, this sounds like me. Maybe I should go get checked out," I'll be happy. Also, if any artists who suffer from mental illness want to chime in and provide their own stories, I'd also be pretty down for that.

I work a job and get money from other ways/methods, so music isn't something I do for "the cash." I get paid through people learning from my miscues and getting the courage to do something about themselves, just as I've begun to do about my own issues.

Until next time.

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