We all know the importance of mental health awareness, and doing our part of erasing the stigma that still surrounds Disorders like Bipolar. As March 30th approaches which is World Bipolar Day, it’s also Van Gogh’s birthday who is a well known Dutch impressionist artist, how fitting that his birthday falls on the same day we acknowledge Bipolar. It’s known that he too had bipolar.
I’ve come a very long way in my personal journey with bipolar, but it’s still part of who I ‘am even though I’m stable. That’s why I find it so important to continue to speak out and do all we can to remove the social stigma that surrounds mental illness.
Prior to September 2010, I had only vaguely heard about Van Gogh. It was then while attending college, I decided to take a Art class, and this is where I learned about this brilliant man and fine artist. He was a humble man, a man who saw much beauty in this world, more than the average person. For one of our assignments we had to do research on a artist, write and give a oral presentation and create our own art piece but incorporate that artist's style into our drawing. I then chose Van Gogh. I loved his artwork and his love of color and when I found out that he too suffered with bipolar, I felt a personal connection with him.
His artwork was unknown during his lifetime; it was only after his tragic death at age 37 that the world came to know his artwork, for what it truly was, amazing. What Beauty he portrayed. His passion for art was evident in every piece he painted; each piece showed such mesmerizing work of his brilliant mind. He loved using vibrant colors, he painted in such a way, he wish he could see the world, he did see beauty in God’s creation, but its was tough for him to see beauty in his life, because his life was enveloped in a blackness, a deep despair. He wanted to see his future through those colors, not the pain in his mind. He was passionate about what he did. He painted with strong raw emotion. He found his release through his love of putting his paintbrush to the paper.
Even amidst the madness in his mind, his painting revealed a different story, a story of serenity and beauty, unlike any other artist. Only shortly before his death did his paintings start to show another story, it’s so true when they say a painting can express a thousand words, without any word spoken, his artwork portrayed a man who was desperately searching for something to grasp a hold of. He had a way with his paper and paintbrush to bring to life all that he painted. While the paintings at the end of his life expressed deep sadness behind those eyes, they still had a way of showing his desire to return to his once stable self.
I want to bring to light his life, to share why I chose that presentation for that art class and why I felt the need to write in my blog about this brilliant artist. He was like us, though our journey is different, we fought the same war within, our minds. I want to share another example of his life but in a different way, so you can truly see my point I’m trying to get across.
I’am a fan of the syfi show Doctor Who. This past season they did a show titled” Vincent and the doctor” the focus was on Van Gogh. I found it awesome that a show like syfi and the producers could do a show on this brilliant man and the way they portrayed mental health without stigmatizing it was wonderful. Van Goghs life came to a tragic end when he took his own life at age 37.The producers were showing the difference between genius and mental health. The doctor and his companion traveled out of their time to his time to try to convince him not to end his life, to show him that his life mattered, that he accomplished more than he ever thought was even possible, that he was now one of the best or thee best artist of all time. They brought him back to present day, so he could see his artwork displayed in all these museums. He had left an incredible legacy, but never lived to see it come to pass; sadly research for mental health was not anything like it is today. When they traveled back hoping that this time it was different, they found out, he still ended his life.
The doctors companion tried to wrap her mind around his decision, how could a man who had such talent and so much to offer this world, give up on his hopes and his dreams? Yet sadly this is the reality that many face in real life today, who is suffering in silence, which have such brilliant minds and so much to offer this world, but yet cannot see it for themselves. So many unable to get the help they need, that’s why awareness is so vitally important.
The world has come to know this brilliant artist. And even through we’ve come a long ways with mental health research, were still so far off. For a show to produce a episode of a person who has mental illness in such a loving way, shows we are making strides in raising awareness and taking that stigma off. So as we celebrate Van Gogh’s birthday, let’s not just focus on his tragic end, but focus on what kind of man he was.
Remember we have gifts to offer this world, you are brilliant in your own beautiful way; don’t let any diagnosis or anyone take that from you. His life shows us we can take our pain and transcend it into something beautiful; he had a way of painting emotions he could not find the words to speak.
So I ask you how you are taking the stigma off of this disease. Are you sharing your story? Don’t hide behind your pain, be part of the change in erasing the social stigma once and for all.