A Response to Joan Didion’s The White Album: The Artist’s Mind Matters

“The content of patient’s response is highly unconventional and frequently bizarre, filled with sexual and anatomical preoccupations, and basic reality contact is obviously and serious impaired at time.” — Joan Didion, 1979

Art. An unimperical way to express the self. It’s something about the artist that is unconventional yet intriguing. Didion, herself, wrote a diagnosis in order to treat what she experiences in life. Artist’s fatigue. It’s a different kind of fatigue. The type that has an artist feeling that they’re insane for what they’ve made and their exposure. In the midst of being a writer, one find themselves contemplating the meaning behind their lives. It’s something about their wonderings that we want to read more about. If we don’t have these artists then we lose touch with reality.

Artists have created everything. Everything that exists came from their redefinition of reality. Without the engineers we wouldn’t exist. Without the novelists we won’t empathize. The construction of our world came from behind the artist. The problem with this is that their mental states suffer at the hands of our neediness. If the condition is serious enough, they commit suicide. They kill off themselves in order to save us from their insane distortions of what the world should be. And, we don’t appreciate them.

The artists starve. We don’t give them the pay that they deserve. They have to work odd jobs and do what we deem as disgraceful. If we aren’t careful, we kill them off with our policies. The artist deserves more money than less. Their constructive minds should be compensated with higher wages. We have to stop keeping them away from living the lives that they deserve or our world will suffer. We won’t have the gadgets, tools, and parts that matter if we continue to kill them off.

Joan Didion did us a favor by diagnosing herself. She showed us the inner workings of her mind by way of third person analysis. It is through her words that we can understand the millions of ways that artists suffer. They feel inadequate, over worked, pulled in many directions, and more than anything, overlooked. The mental health issues of the Artist is our fault. The faster that we realize this then the quicker we can rearrange society.

Make room for them. Make them feel welcomed in this world. Their creations shouldn’t be the only means of income. In fact, an artist should be able to walk into any job and have it. They shouldn’t be analyzed or told that what they bring to the table “doesn’t fit the criteria.” They find themselves having to settle, for a while, in life. In those moments, they are disappointed and pleasing Uncle Sam when Uncle Sam should be bowing down to them.

Artists are hard workers. They are laborers in an industry where many can’t understand them. Albert Einstein, himself, has a personality type of INTP which makes up 3% of the general population. His mind found startling data that gave scientists many breakthroughs, however he was unable to properly determine his feelings which resulted in many divorces and no children left behind to carryout his legacy. The personality type, other wise known as ‘The Architect,’ is a scarce. Even the basic retail job demands that one should be outgoing and personable. But, what happens when you can’t work those jobs because you’re busy in your mind with billions of ideas that you want to see come to life? Why must they suffer for being unique?

At the same time, artists do have the responsibility to be self accountable. They have to realize that in order to survive in this world they must suffer. Without suffering, then in Didion’s case, they won’t become as “prosperous” as they should be. Didion was able to accomplish a lot, however, her mind went without notice which ultimately led to dissatisfaction of life.

And, we know this because we look to people like Elon Musk for answers. Have we ever considered the amount of the rumination that Musk does in the course of a day? Have we ever thought for a moment that maybe this man may have a mental health problem that goes unnoticed?

On July 30th, 2017, he tweeted, “The reality is great highs, terrible lows and unrelenting stress. Don’t think people want to hear about the last two.” Musk has confessed to being bipolar yet we glorify him for being able to found an electric car company, Tesla, that has been one of the greatest inventions of the century. Why don’t we pay attention to the way that he lives instead of killing him off with our demands?

Social media does not help this, at all. In fact, when I did more research on Musk I was surprised to find that people replied to his tweet with many negative comments about his mental health.

Being bipolar is not easy. Many of the “highs” that he’s talking about are mood swings. Musk will deal with a day of being genuinely happy, satisfied with life, and then swing ever so quickly into being depressed with existential questions of reality. In 2008, alone, it was reported that 15% of the population with bipolar disorder will follow through with a plan, but 80% have thought about it.

Those are the stats for solely bipolar disorder. However, if we look at the US on a large scale we find that in 2016 there was an issue with people offing themselves. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that 51 percent of the population decided to off themselves with suicide being the 10th leading cause of death in US.

“We take our lives for granted.”

It is as if the lives of artists are taken for granted. Many artists spend their livelihood devoted to their work in order to make the world a better place and yet we only see what they have done to make a profit. Or, we only see what benefits us. Have we never thought to stop bickering with artists on Twitter about mental health matters and start to realize their reality?