A Star In Your Own Right


The casual readership of the world is chiefly concerned with two things at the moment: mental health and celebrity culture. With that in mind, it can be very empowering to here about those who are successful coping with the illness and coping with it well, however insubstantial coverage of their life may be.
So, how does someone with a mental illness or learning difficulty get to be a star in their own right? Well, I’ve written before about how anyone with a mental illness will, over the course of time, accrue it’s superpowers. This isn’t to say that the illness is some kind of blessing but it’s a pretty good way to describe the skills people develop over the course of leading daily life with these conditions. For example, someone who lived their entire lives with dylexia is, countrary to popular opinion, likely to have a fairly advanced literary taste. They would have practiced various strategies for reading coherently on a wide variety of texts, challenging themselves constantly, yearning to not be excluded from the stories and articles their peers were using to furnish their minds. Not to mention, when the simple act of reading is that difficult, you’re only going to use your energy on the finest material.
One could make the point that actors, artists and the big personalities that occupy our screens often got the heights their at by way of mastering a very esoteric talent, a tagent of creativity most of us find impossible to tap into – especially at 8pm typing up an article in bed. They have a unique energy that they have to hone and practice and if they don’t, it can often be a negative impact on their personalities and their careers. Sounds an awful lot like the habits of one of these conditions to me.
One of broadcasting’s old guard in the UK, Stephen Fry, is perhaps the most often cited public figure with my own predominant condition – bipolar disorder. Here is someone who, in spite of any criticism, needs to have a tightly observant human about the whole range of human behaviour and of how the words we hear and way we hear them. It’s given confidence and charisma to someone who ought to have quite little.
In fact, almost regardless of the exact kind of condition, we see it lend itself rather well to creativity. I’d submit that this is less to do with the magical autistic persons trope and more to do with the value that some of the best and brightest individuals we have put into taxing and developing their mind, albeit from a creative standpoint. It’s the thing that they do for it’s own sake and have emerged as talented purveyours of it – something I hope to achieve with my own writing.
But is it right to define someone by this soul vocation? And to zoom in on their illness as their sole defining trait? I would take the example of Rosemary Clooney. The singer and actress was among the very first household names to ever disclose that they had Bipolar disorder (or indeed any disorder) in the very judgemental period of the 70s. Rosemary Clooney already had a career ahead of her and behind her. No one forced her to, but when she revealed that she had the condition she had, she gave greater insight into her talent and into her perserverance. As a result she is credited with leading the way for discussion around the issue.
The question still bothers me though, why is discussion of Bipolar disorder and of mental illness in general still such a depressing and despairing affair? If you can lead you life to inspire and be inspiring, there’s no reason someone with Bipolar can’t have just as good a life as anyone else – if

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