Aristotle once said, “There is no genius without having a touch of madness”. Some really great geniuses had the history of having psychiatric illness. Nonetheless, these great minds have produced some ultimate piece of works that made them stand apart from others. Do they not make a sane mind sound boring and mundane? Their madness ridden talent makes us question our mediocrity. Let us talk about some of these incredible minds who mesmerised us with their insanity.
One of the pioneering authors and a beat poet of his time, he was famous for his literary iconoclasm. Along with Beats, he was also actively involved in Hippie Movement. The progenitor of two great movements suffered dismissal from navy because of his schizophrenia. The mental disorder, alcohol and drug abuse led him to his grave at the age of 47. However, when he was alive he had a passion to travel and live life outside its banality.
Vincent Van Gogh
Now, who does not know the famous painter of the 19th century painting ‘The Starry Night’? His sheer brilliance is exemplified by the amount of painting he created in a short span of 10 years. He made 2,100 of them! His Post Impressionistic style made a huge mark on Western art. His major paintings are Sunflowers, Bedroom in Arles, Portrait of Dr.Gachet, among many others. His life took a turn when he went to Paris in 1886, where he met Paul Gauguin, his roommate to be. It was his fight with him that triggered the signs of bipolar disorder in Gogh. There is this story about him cutting off a piece of his left ear, during the argument. He then gifted that to a local prostitute. His death was a result of him shooting himself in the chest because of his severe depression!
Once he himself said, “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know”. This statement is enough to show his state of mind. One of the most renowned American author of all time; he suffered from alcohol abuse and a possibility from bipolar disorder. He received the Nobel Prize for The Old Man and the Sea, in 1954. He authored a number of novels in his lifetime which changed the course of literature in America. His writings reflect his passion for travelling.
His alcoholism took a toll on him when he started treating himself using alcohol itself (ironic?). His mental issues aided by alcohol abuse led him to commit suicide in 1961, in Idaho.
She was a great sculptor who suffered not only her own traumatic disorders but also patriarchy. Her work dates back to the later parts of 19th century and early 20th century. She could not make a niche for herself because she was a woman (not hard to believe). Story of her life was good till she apprenticed under a man with whom she also fell in love with later. This love story was a tragic one which tore her life apart. It left her with nothing but paranoia and schizophrenia. She had to spend 30 years of her life in an asylum. Although, there are some arguments which state that she did not need to be left dying in that place full of mad people.
It is hard to believe that America’s beloved president, who was known to be a gentle and kind person also suffered from mental illnesses. Losing his mother at a very young age, he lived with his sister and an alcoholic father in poor conditions. He also was another victim of a failed relationship with a woman called Ann, which quite possibly resulted in his first encounter with depression. He experienced another bout of depression and possibly schizophrenia when he was forcefully married to his fiancée, Mary Todd Lincoln. Nonetheless, he remained in his unhappy marriage for all of his life. This aptly reflects his saying, “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on”. However, it is believed that it was partially her support and strong faith in him that gave America its greatest president!
The father of biology, who gave the world the notion of ‘survival of the fittest’ was himself not completely fit mentally. The early signs of psychological illness became visible in him at a young age of 16, which became extreme till he was 30. In spite of tackling agoraphobia and panic disorder, Darwin had made revolutionary marks on the face of mankind in the field of sciences. His theory of evolution made huge impacts on the intelligentsia of his time.
He would become detached of his own mind and body, owing to his agoraphobic disorder (Isn’t that scary?). Darwin is believed to have died of a heart failure.
One of the eminent playwrights of the 20th century, Thomas Lanier Williams III was renowned for The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire. He was a bold writer who would not shy away from writing about the taboos of the time, unlike his contemporaries. We all know, being a rebel and a homosexual is not easy for any one in any age. He found himself grappled with depression when his lover died of cancer. Taking refuge in alcohol and drugs only worsened his situation. He did not stop the consumption even after being admitted for his health and mental condition. What did not stop was his writing. This brilliant writer of some of America’s beautiful plays, died amidst empty bottles of alcohol and drugs, in a hotel room.
This exceptional singer was a part of ’27 Club’. She is fondly remembered by her fans for her emphatic, soul piercing lyrics and intoxicating voice. This Texas girl was a fighter who would not accept to be a part of racism still prevalent after the ban on segregation, even as a school girl. She would be made fun of for her artistic world view and different taste. Her skin condition and weight issues only added fuel to the fire. Later, she went on to become the star she is but, that did not gave her the companion she always craved for. This resulted in her falling prey to alcoholism and drug abuse (Including heroin), an overdose of which led to her untimely death in 1970.