As an artist, I always knew I was different. Even as a kid, I’d always be gripped by these bursts of creativity where I’d have to be in some sort of studio. Days later, though, I’d want to be as far away from music, beats or whatever sparked my initial excitement as possible.
One moment I'd be in a really great place, but the next had me saying "fuck it" and running off somewhere. My music, much like my thoughts, was pretty scatterbrained. One second I’d be thinking about revolutionary verses, the next I’d be on some “Suicide Is Painless” vibes.
When I entered college, as clichéd as it sounds, things finally changed.
At the urging of a young woman who, years later, would become the mother of my two children, I decided to go to a campus health specialist. Between releasing new records, and experiencing high highs and very low lows, followed by bouts of extreme hostility, we both figured it was time. After a few tests I had a discussion with my doctor, who told me I might be bipolar.
I was scared. When you think of bipolar, you think of the classic TV versions of the disease. Reckless, hypersexual, dependent on drugs. Plus, I began to wonder if my creativity was a byproduct of this disorder and if it would go away if I started on lithium. As a result, I decided to forgo treatment. Artistically, I continued to crank out new music, but I began to self-medicate through drinking 151 and Everclear. Instead of treating my mind, I was killing my liver. “Fair trade,” I thought. “At least borderline alcoholism is less stigmatized than mental illness.”
As the years went by I continued to struggle. Around the release of my 2013 album, Songs For… (The Rebirth and Evolution of the Modern Male), (Once again, sample hounds, I made, at most, a few hundred dollars over three years from the album; plese don't sue.), I found myself having manic episodes almost daily. These episodes became so horrific my family was afraid to be around me. And the drinking didn’t relieve my problems. Hell, during an “album release” party in Baltimore, I found myself having a panic attacks on top of my manic moments. It wasn’t fun.
Again, my experience wasn't anything like you'd see on a scripted TV program. It was some real scary-ass shit. Instead of, for instance, boning every woman who gave me “The Look,” my heart felt like it was beating outside my cheast while my thoughts raced, quickly moving from suicidal thoughts to elation over finally releasing my album. In lieu of partying my face off, and then waking up with one hell of a story to tell, I was surrounded by friends - and people I didn't know from a mole on my arm - looking at me like I'd just pissed myself in public. They were worried, but more afraid than just outright worried. There were no synapses firing off creativity at every turn. Just fear, confusion, and embarrassment. On top of that, alcohol plus panic attacks plus untreated bipolar episodes made me a walking poster child for why you should take care of yourself, mentally and otherwise.
After my episode I checked myself into a psych ward and began treatment. But, as is the case for many bipolar patients, finding the right mix of medications wasn't easy. On top of that, my music began to become darker but more truth-filled (even more so than usual), potentially because I was afraid and worried about the diagnosis. Or maybe it was because I was finally able to see clearly about being bipolar. It’s scary, and it can be dark, but it wasn't the end of the world. No mental illness, when properly treated, is the end of the world. Besides, I knew I had rejected treatment, and there's no telling how far I could've fallen if I continued on that path.
Today, I’m being treated properly. My assortment of medications actually help my music and creativity because they allow me to be more focused and less all over the place. I’m also no longer drinking to the point where I’m causing a crazy amount of damage to myself.
Readers, I hope that my honesty helps assuage your fears about your own potential issues. Rappers, I hope you now know that you can still drop those dope bars if you’re being treated for a mental illness. If you're afraid to seek treatment for a mental illnesses, don't be. It’s not the end of your life, or your career, if you’re bipolar, have borderline personality disorder, deal with schizophrenia, whatever. You can still have a great life. Trust me.
By Speed on the Beat, a writer, former rapper and perpetual social experiment @speedonthebeat
Photo Credit: Instagram