Kanye West is unwell again. Hurtling through a manic Bipolar episode while the world laughs. And as someone who lives with Bipolar 1 Disorder, I feel for him.
In the early years after my diagnosis, during one manic episode (while hospitalised) I started discussing my sex life with strangers. My friend who was visiting me steered me gently away.
Kanye doesn’t seem to have anyone to steer him away, gently or otherwise.
Kanye is a wealthy, influential man, who probably has access to the best mental health care available. But I don’t believe his problem is accessing top quality care.
His problem is that he lacks insight and no one around him is game to have the difficult conversations with him. The conversations that point out that while he may be a brilliant artist when he is relatively stable, when he develops manic symptoms his brain needs a break from the world, and the world is not entitled to its contents.
Instead, when Kanye becomes unwell his mania is left to run free.
He has been open about his choice not to take medication to help manage his Bipolar Disorder. That is his right. Medication doesn’t work for or agree with everyone.
But he seems to be unaware that to successfully manage this illness without medication, you need to employ other strategies. You need to hone your insight. And if your insight when you are unwell is shaky, you need a mental health directive.
This means sitting down with your doctors and people closest to you when you are well and discussing how you would like to manage your symptoms when you are unwell. And if you experience manic episodes, one of the most basic requests may be to not have access to the media – social or otherwise – while symptomatic. Why?
Because mania can gobble up your inhibitions, make you see the world through a paranoid lens, and sprout delusions of grandeur.
Kanye recently gave an interview to Forbes magazine during which he rambled for four hours, to this effect:
‘…They want to put chips inside of us, they want to do all kinds of things, to make it where we can’t cross the gates of heaven. I’m sorry when I say they, the humans that have the Devil inside them. And the sad thing is that, the saddest thing is that we all won’t make it to heaven, that there’ll be some of us that do not make it.”
“Clean up the chemicals. In our deodorant, in our toothpaste, there are chemicals that affect our ability to be of service to God.”
If Kanye were a homeless man on a street corner sharing these ideas with the world, the interviewer from Forbes magazine would probably have walked past quickly, maybe shuddering at such overt insanity.
Instead that interviewer sat and listened to him for four hours. Noted down delusional quote after quote and then published an article in which they even describe Kanye’s lack of awareness:
‘If it all sounds like a parody, or a particularly surreal episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, West doesn’t seem to be in on it.’
Of course West isn’t in on it! He is walled off from reality by illness.
Did that interviewer ever pause to consider why much of what Kanye was saying made no sense? I suspect (with disgust) that they were fully aware their high profile subject was mentally unwell, but chose to exploit him while he was most vulnerable.
I have written thousands of words I thought were brilliant, while in the grip of mania. But once my symptoms recede, I am relieved no one else has read these largely nonsensical word vomits. Because if they had, that would invalidate the quality of my writing when I am healthy.
But Kanye’s word vomits are out there for all the world to snidely pick at, to brand him a rambling idiot and someone to be sniggered at.
At the time of publishing this post, headlines announcing Kanye’s withdrawal from the presidential race are emerging.
I understand stress and sleep deprivation are a president’s companions for most of their time in office, that pushing through is a corner stone of juggling the demands of the job.
Stress and sleep deprivation are the perfect fertiliser for Bipolar episodes to flourish. Bipolar episodes, once active, can’t simply be pushed through. They have no respect for deadlines or work demands – let alone international or national emergencies.
Whether Kanye recognised the risks of pursuing the presidency himself or whether someone in his circle came forward to have the hard conversations and steered him gently away, I am relieved for him.
You may also be interested in:
Psychiatric Medication And Stigma
If I Were Kanye West – written two years ago with a different angle to this post