Mental Health, Drugs, and Creativity - Dundurn
Dec 01, 2022

Mental Health, Drugs, and Creativity

I wrote Babble On with the purpose of it being read. I mean, duh, it’s a memoir; but, more than that, I meant for it to carry an agenda of lucidity beneath its psychotic surface. I meant it as a warning, a lesson, a glimmer of hope, and a confession. 

Babble On orbits mental health issues, but it could only ever revolve around my mental health issues (combined with exacerbating factors) as my mind distorts all my experiences, making the experience of others a literal alien encounter. I can relate, in some fashion, to others going through their own mental health journeys. We share a few symptoms, medications, emotions, ideas. But no two diagnoses are identical. And, with my particular cocktail of thought distortions emanating from the Cerberus of disorders combined with medication side-effects, and generally living, it’s really hard to find people on my wavelength. Especially people I can love. I struggle immensely in dealing with the general public, and they struggle with me.

Like many people with mental health issues, I often feel alone. Abandoned by society and those who surround me — even when I can see and hear their pleas for me to be happy clearly, my mind distorts. I found myself thinking, very long ago, “If I can’t think like them, can I help them think like me?” That thought has reverberated through my life since that moment, and, due to my later actions, it would find resonance with others, for good and for bad.

Before any of my actual diagnoses started rolling in, I was already Googling symptoms and psychological phenomena. “What does schizotypal disorder look like? How do I know if I have borderline disorder? What’s the difference between bipolar 1 and 2?” My thought patterns naturally gravitate to the strange, and often as I cursed it, I reveled in oddities … and very early on I heard a rumour: “If you take acid seven times you go crazy and can’t come back.” What was this ‘acid’ stuff? Cool name, btw. One way to find out. 

I wondered what the world would be like after one time. After one I wondered what would happen after six. I was at the precipice, and gravity meant insanity, and both have always had a hold on me. Seven. I was fine. Elementary school rumours are not to be trusted, it seems. I liked acid. Like, a lot. It was creativity incarnate. I felt like making art on LSD was cheating, but I kept it up. What else had the rumours been wrong about? As they say: “Drugs won the war on drugs.” Everything was fair game.

About twenty years later my life is close to stable. I’m in remission. I’m where I hope Babble On can help other people get to. I got my story out there and hope it inspires at least someone. It’s being read. It’s making connections, for me and for others. It’s teaching people, it’s comforting people, it’s entertaining people, and it’s reaching the people who need reaching. Thank you.

Andrew Brobyn is a poet and memoirist. His experiences involving mental health and addiction issues are a major focus of his writing. He lives in Toronto. Learn more here.