Bipolar Hemingway

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The silence of an innocent Sunday morning in July was broken by the abrupt resonance of a double-barreled shotgun that split the skull of Ernest Hemingway, Americas most celebrated writer of the 20th century. On the morning of his suicide, he awoke at 7 o’clock a.m. and wrapped himself in his favorite cloak, ironically named “The Emperors Robe”, symbolic of his literary status. Ernest Hemingway fell victim to an illness called manic depressive-or-bipolar disorder, a gripping mental illness that tragically caused five members of the Hemingway family to successfully commit suicide. Hemingway is the prime example of depression and suicide amongst writers, a large epidemic with little to no acknowledgement. Bipolarity has a strong influence on the life, experiences, and writing style of affected authors, whether it be positive or negative. The same way the illness has two sides, so does its affects- enhancing a writers creativity or ending it in fatality.

Bipolar disorder is categorized as a “mood disorder” and is a chemical imbalance of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, the two chemicals responsible for pleasure and pain. Each year, 5.7 million Americans are diagnosed as bipolar and an estimated 11% of those diagnosed proceed to take their own lives. (CITATION). Bipolarity consists of an alternation between two polar extremes of mood called mania and depression. Mania is a euphoric, overly active and hyper mood state where individuals become severe hedonists and consequences are obsolete. In this mind state sleep is seldom, the world is not moving fast enough and impulsivity is at an all-time high. Mania causes one to act first and then do, the consequences seem to be small grains of sand from an airplane view and reckless behavior ensues. Popular manic behavior is overspending, increased speed of speech, thoughtless actions, and recklessness. Manic episodes can last anywhere from hours to weeks, but there certainly does come an end to this pleasure-filled euphoria. The joy ride is always accompanied by a crescendo-like depression.

The depression end of bipolar disorder is what shackles the affected, making it hard to execute daily routines and obligations. This portion of the illness incapacitates the motivation and energy of the individual. The depression can alter ones emotions, sensitivity, and perception, making some situations seem worse than their reality. These “mind games” can strip those of their will to live and significance in life. The constant instability between the manic and depressive states can be exhausting on the minds of those affected, making it difficult to decipher reality from inner conflicts. The depressive state causes one to form recluse characteristics, secluding themselves in dark rooms or empty spaces, feeding their feelings of gloom. Hemingway rode the ups yet succumbed to the downs of this mind-altering illness; many other notarized authors had to hurdle this disorder as well as embellish it into their writing to become successful.

With every negative comes a positive, and with all the negativity, consequences, and social complications that bipolarity brings, it does have its perks. As stated in the informative New York Times article “Depressions Upside”, Charles Darwin was quoted for his adage, “we suffer – we suffer tremendously – but we don’t suffer in vain.” (CITATION). Darwin claims that the seclusion allowed him more individual time with his studies where distractions were minimal. He channeled his frustrations into his work that quickly became his remedial outlet to the disorder. Stephen Frye, a popular comedian from England diagnosed with bipolar disorder, created a documentary titled The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. Frye interviewed an array of those affected by the disorder, from a pair of sibling boys who take over 100 pills a day each to movie stars such as Carrie Fisher, the actress who played Princess Leia in Star Wars. With each interview Frye conducted,...
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