Joshua Walters: Bipolar Disorder, Creativity, and Resources

“Maybe no one’s really crazy. Everyone is just a little bit mad. How much depends on where you fall in the spectrum. How much depends on how lucky you are.” (Joshua Walters)

Joshua Walters is a performer and mental health educator and speaker as well as a facilitator of the DBSA (Depression Bipolar Support Alliance) Young Adults Chapter in San Francisco, which he co-founded. He’s been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

The mission of DBSA is to offer “hope, help, support, and education to improve the lives of people who have mood disorders.” Also from their site: “Because DBSA was created for and is led by individuals living with mood disorders, our vision, mission, and programming are always informed by the personal, lived experience of peers.”

Various “Personal Wellness Tools“—including a Wellness Tracker and a variety of Toolbox topics, such as a Therapy Worksheet, both a “Trigger Tracker” and “Trouble Tracker,” and a Suicide Prevention Card—are made available by DBSA.

Walters has learned to put a more positive spin on the challenges of living with mania and hypomania than some. Here he is giving a TED talk:

A couple books mentioned in the clip are listed below along with pertinent reviews:

I. Clinical psychologist John D. Gartner‘s The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (A Little) Craziness and (A Lot of) Success in America (2005)

From Kirkus Reviews:

Gartner works the edges of manic-depressive disorder to explore a lesser-known syndrome: hypomania, ‘a mild form of mania, often found in the relatives of manic depressives.’ Hypomanics are full of ideas, energy, and sometimes insufferable self-confidence; they make decisions quickly, seldom look back, and generally view those who don’t get them as enemies or, at best, mere hindrances. They’re not mentally ill, but they’re close. So far, so good, but then Gartner wanders onto shaky historical ground…

II. Clinical psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison‘s Touched With Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament (1993)

Jamison, diagnosed with bipolar disorder herself, has written a number of well-regarded books on related issues, including her autobiography, An Unquiet Mind.

The following is an excerpt from Kirkus Reviews:

The basic argument here is ‘not that all writers and artists are depressed, suicidal, or manic. It is, rather, that a greatly disproportionate number of them are; that the manic-depressive and artistic temperaments are, in many ways, overlapping ones; and that the two temperaments are causally related to one another.’

…Lithium and newer drugs, she explains, often dampen creative highs while relieving victims of turmoil and suicidal lows, but calm periods at optimum serum blood levels may allow longer, more productive periods of creativity…

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