Posted by: Harold Knight | 09/23/2009

How a manic hypergraphic writes.

My right? My necessity?

My right? My necessity?




Sometimes sitting at my computer at five in the morning, I’m plagued with emotions I cannot describe or name. They are not, however, pleasant.

I must say something. 
( Table of contents: A word about hypergraphia and then a bunch about Bioplar disorder as I see it, then something about the lucky combination: Queen for a Day!)

Hypergraphia: That, of course, means I must “write” something. But I have no idea what I should write. Is my writing under these circumstances some kind of mania? Am I making up the entire need to write because I think it would be somehow nifty to be unbalanced (either as in having seizure activity in my temporal lobe or as in a Bipolar manic episode)? Or have I simply made this into such a habit that I can’t break/stop it? Do I will this obsession or am I a victim of it? Victim—not a good word. I do not mean that this is a destructive force in my life (oh, really). I do not mean that it has negative power over me. I simply mean that it is possibly an undeniable urge that has managed to get in the way of my functioning in any productive manner–academic research and writing, finishing a novel, having a real career.

Bipolar (depressingly manic): do I will my depressions? Did I hear somewhere when I was at an impressionable age that great creators are conflicted, tormented people and decide that, in order to be creative I have to be conflicted and tormented? Is that what reading too much Coleridge and listening to too much Wagner would do for a young person?  So I learned how to think about my life as a disaster, as something to be endured, as being hardly worth living? If so, that idea is perfectly conflicted itself. I remember reading a long time ago an essay by (I think) Samuel Barber in which he (or whoever it was) said that creativity was simply hard work (1% inspiration and 99% perspiration and all of that). He described how he simply went to work every day—his office being the piano—and spent the requisite hours “creating.” So I decided to try to get organized and be disciplined and creative. And I’ve been trying for forty years or so since. Did I start thinking now and then about suicide in order to increase my creativity? (I’m not thinking about it today—don’t worry—every time I use the word even if I’m not actually thinking about it, I am afraid that certain people will think I’m in trouble).  Did I decide to be suicidal?

We all know the Bipolar creators who actually accomplished something in their lives:  Alfred Lord Tennyson,  Edgar Allan Poe, Dick Cavett, Kurt Cobain, Graham Greene,  Jane Pauley, Vincent Van Gogh, Robert Schumann, Carrie Fisher (and depending on how willing you are to stretch the imagination, many more, both dead and alive). Throw in the famous Bipolar sufferers who are dead (well, I guess Tennyson and Poe and some more of these guys are), and the list, real or imaginary, goes on and on—even Emily Dickinson (that’s an easy one to surmise—I feel much of the time like living by myself in an attic writing poetry).

So of all the junk (both scholarly and popular) I’ve ever read—I shouldn’t ever read another word about any of this (I just get ideas about symptoms to add to my list)—about Bipolar disorder and/or hypergraphia/ temporal lobe epilepsy, not one (that I can find) actually uses any of the writings about what’s going on in their heads and with their pens or computers of people who have one or the other (or, much more interestingly) both disorders.  Take a gander at a search for “Hypergraphia” in Amazon, for example. Thank goodness Dr. Flaherty’s book tops the list. She doesn’t need to use the writings of hypergraphics because she are one.

Then you get Change Your Brain, Change Your Life by Daniel G. Amen (I love the fact that he’s always shouting “So be it” at the end of his titles); and then his Healing ADD: The Breakthrough Program…. (which, apparently contains the sentence, “All of these patients had temporal lobe abnormalities. Hypergraphia, a tendency toward compulsive and extensive writing, has also been…”  ADD? maybe ADHD?  the designer diseases of the decade); and then Cracking the SAT (“… Recent research on the antipodal condition of hypergraphia has shown that the overwhelming desire to write is a …” I guess it’s important to know about hypergraphia to get into college?); next comes the Clinican’s Thesaurus (that one makes sense); next is Psychological Evaluations for the Courts, Third Edition: A Handbook for Mental Health Professionals and Lawyers; next is Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind; then comes one that is most definitely at least interesting because it’s by Oliver Sacks (one of my heroes), An Anthropologist On Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales (it has a reference to an article written, I guess, by him, “Hypergraphia in Temporal Lobe Epilepsy.” Neurology 24:62936 (1974); next is Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge by Edward O. Wilson and Edward Osborne Wilson (what the hell is “consilience?”); then comes one with one of my favorite quotes, The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’leary; the sentence: “”… the patient was not having seizures. These changes included hypergraphia (voluminous writing), an intensification but also a narrowing of emotional …” [NOT having seizures?]; and last on the first page of hits in the “hypergraphia” search on Amazon, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: Building and Rebuilding the Human Brain by Louis Cozolino.

So none of these books say anything like, “Here are some wonderful bizarre examples of the ‘compulsive and extensive writing’ that hypergraphics do. And just think what might come out of them it they have Bipolar disorder, too.”

Duh. Read the above. It’s a mere 45  mintues’ work for me.

Look. Here’s a sample of my brilliant and driven prose.  Ya’ wanna put it in your book? Ask me! Two random paragraphs from Tuesday, December 11, of some year:

….But righteous indignation is the root of all change for the better in the world. OK, so I should never have gone to Palestine. I should never have involved myself with the Palestinian-American community here in Dallas. I should not write, send out nasty e-mails, try to influence anyone’s thinking about the issue that I am pretty sure is at the core of America’s troubles in the world, to say nothing—because to say anything invites the criticism of most of the people I know—about our complicity together in an immorality that is exactly the kind of complicity every great thinker from Buddha to Confucius to Jesus to Mohammed to Augustine to Luther to Nietzsche to Gandhi to Derrida to Baudrillard to Bishop Tutu has said is at the center of evil in our lives. Of course, if I condemn George W. Bush for talking about “evil” (as in the “evil empire”) why should I assume that I have any more right or reason to speak of it….
….I won’t even get started here—because I’ve written about it so much that I’m sick of it—about how I am not even sure I exist, much less that I will exist “for eternity.” Living in the hope of going to heaven seems to me to be as idolatrous and as stupid and as immoral as living a life that is dedicated to helping only those who are like me. OK, so righteous indignation gets me into trouble. It puts me into a mindset in which I am in danger of drinking or acting out or doing some other bizarre and unhealthy behavior. So what? If that “god” that I profess to believe in, who seems to have a personal interest in my kind and only my kind, will not protect me and keep me centered while I do something that seems to be dangerous because I believe it to be “right,” then she’s not much of a “god,” is she? And my “sobriety” isn’t worth much except to give me some sort of “security” to do what I wanted to do anyway, which is to live a completely “normal” and “successful” and “conforming” life secluded away from all those awful people that I don’t like anyway.

So will someone tell me what’s MANIC about this (written at 5 in the morning typing as fast as I could think, WITH MY EYES CLOSED SO NOTHING WOULD GET IN MY WAY) about this, what’s hypergraphic about this, and what’s depressive about this. I don’t know if hypergraphics are supposed to read what they write. In my case it’s probably not a good idea because it DEPRESSES the hell out of me.



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