I am a linguist who loves literature and who is fascinated by science. I quantify randomness. I paint. I travel in a power wheelchair, hoping to capture the ordinary.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Parental mental illness and creativity

Personne - Prix Femina 2009 (French Edition)It is old news to the French literature buffs out there, but today I stumbled upon the Prix Femina winner from November 2009: Gwenaëlle Aubry, for Personne. Aubry is a philosopher and writer born in 1971. The book is based in part on a journal she found after her father's death. Her father, who had bipolar disorder, kept a daily journal detailing his emotions. The clip below (in French) includes a short interview with her and then a reading of an excerpt of the work.

She reads more of it here.

Despite the many challenges children of individuals with mental illness face in adulthood, it also seems to me that there is a certain gift that comes with growing up with someone whose categories may be different, whose boundaries are more fluid, who questions the world to extremes others find irrational. The observation of "psychosis" provides for unique introspection, when not running from abuse or taking care of the adult. (And this is a caveat to be taken with the utmost gravity.) And later, to say, "I looked deep into the face of madness. I was born of madness. I survived that." What a sense of power, to survive so much of life's intensity so young.

UnBarrage Contre le PacifiqueMarguerite Duras writes of her mother's mental illness in Un Barrage Contre le Pacifique, or The Sea Wall in English translation. She writes, "I believe that always, or almost always, in all childhood and in all the lives that follow them, the mother represents madness. Our mothers always remain the strangest, craziest people we've ever met." (Source unknown, found here). And in French, we have the homophones mere 'mother' and mer 'sea', with all of the depth and torment and desire. But I am not the one to consult about Duras. The bibliography is impressive and not really my field.

Originally uploaded by uncommonmuse

Dear reader, I am not wishing to glorify abuse or the pain of mental illness. But every scar on these bodies (and souls) becomes a winding shiny story of unpredictable lines and thick skin. No tattoo more personal, no unveiling more intimate.What we can create with this power can become a rain of crimson rage, and an offering of peace.