If you've ever suffered from a mental illness of any kind, it likely wasn't as romantic and dream-like an experience as Lana Del Rey music videos and The Virgin Suicides might lead you to believe. One of our favorite authors, thankfully, has had enough of the glamorization of mental illnesses. In a post on Medium on Saturday, John Green, who penned Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns, took the ideas of romanticized depression and "madness linked to genius-ness" to task.
"Mental illness is stigmatized, but it is also romanticized," Green writes, referring to the popular notion that creativity is linked to mental-health disorders. Describing his own experience with depression in 1998, he depicts his life at the time like this: "I find nothing enjoyable, struggle to get out of bed, the usual. It’s at once utterly boring and absolutely excruciating." Green goes on to describe other times his depression reared its ugly head, and how every time it did his mental health affected his ability to write. More often than not, he writes, in reality mental illness is not sensational, and it is not a key to brilliance the way it might be portrayed on TV. For example: "Carrie Mathison on Homeland going off her meds so that she can discover the identity of the terrorists and save America." While he acknowledges that there are plenty of artists who live with mental illnesses, you don't need your mental illness to be creative. "You can be sane and be an artist," he writes, and "if you are sick, getting help — although it is hard and exhausting and inexcusably difficult to access — will not make you less of an artist." As for Green himself, he states plainly: "Yes, I am mentally ill. I’m not embarrassed about it. And I have written my best work not when flirting with the brink, but when treating my chronic health problem with consistency and care." Hearing this from Green, who is by all accounts a successful artist himself, is extremely powerful. Though it's now a little easier to find nuanced portrayals of mental illness on TV, the media can still fall into the trap of depicting mental disorders as the key to genius, or portray mental illness as being full of sensationalized glamour. And, as we know, getting caught up in these romanticized notions can delay the process of getting help or treatment for mental-health disorders. As Green writes, "romanticizing mental illness is as dangerous and destructive just as stigmatizing it is." You can read his whole post on Medium.