Sherman Alexie on Mania, Bipolarity and Great Art

April 11, 2013

Writer Sherman Alexie talks candidly about mood swings he experienced before he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, explaining the ways in which his manic periods influenced his creative process. “Just staying up, you know, two days in a row writing — and great stuff often,” he tells Bill. “I mean, you’re crazy. So, you get these incredible images.”

He cites Collossus, Sylvia Plath’s book of poetry, as an example of great art emerging from experiences related to mental illness. He admits that when he was younger he found his manic periods “addictive” and he ventures that “most of the world’s great art has come out of manic periods in the artist’s life.” But he says he has a strong desire to “be in the middle,” because when you’re depressed it “feels like the world has ended.”

Now medicated, he talks about the challenges presented by his illness, including the constant adjustments that need to be made to his medicine. “The brain sneaks around it,” he says, “your bipolar brain is like these soldiers, and your sanity is like the civilians.”

Watch Bill’s full conversation with Sherman Alexie. Join us on Tuesday, April 16 at 1 PM ET, for a live chat with the author.

More Information about bipolar disorder:
National Institute of Mental Health
Mayo Clinic
American Psychological Association

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