Bipolar disorder is one of the most devastating mental illnesses if left untreated. Unfortunately, it has only been in the last few decades that the scientific and medical communities have been able to adequately research bipolar disorder and find new ways to dedicate themselves to treating and minimizing the extreme highs and lows that the illness subjects its sufferers to.
Ludwig Van Beethoven
Ludwig Van Beethoven is one of the most famous victims of bipolar disorder. He was a brilliant composer and musician in his time, penning many of the most recognizable orchestral compositions known today. However, he was dealing with a very unstable mood and frequent episodes of mania and depression that would plague him throughout his professional career.
Driven by his bipolar disorder, Ludwig Van Beethoven would often try to quell his emotional anguish by drinking an extreme amount of alcohol, as well as dabbling in other substances that were popular at the time, such as opium in the form of laudanum. Laudanum is a tincture form of opium and was widely available in pharmacies and markets for purchase. It is believed that Beethoven’s abuse of these substances contributed to his rapidly declined health in the artist’s later years as his death is attributed to liver disease.
Vincent Van Gogh
One of the most famous painters of all time, Vincent Van Gogh also suffered from bipolar disorder and was plagued by frequent pain and mood swings throughout his troubled life. He was constantly having episodes of depression and mania and his artistic endeavors reflected where his mind was taking him. He was known to frequently take lovers in order to deal with the incredible loneliness he felt at times, but unfortunately he never was able to have a satisfying relationship that would last. During one of his most publicly well-known manic episodes, he mutilated himself by cutting off his left ear and taking it to the home where the victim of his obsession resided.
Vincent Van Gogh had other methods of quelling his moods, however. He was a fan of the alcoholic beverage known as absinthe, that was insanely popular at the time.. Absinthe is a very strong type of alcohol, as well as being rumored to cause hallucinations. Self-medicating with that and opium, Vincent lost touch with reality even more and eventually he died from suicide before reaching the age of 40.
Virginia Woolf is a celebrated author, penning many famous novels, short stories and plays. She was ahead of her time and was famous as well because she was relatively independent in a time where women had few of the liberties they enjoy today. Fortunately for Virginia, she had an excellent support system. Her family and friends were able to provide a comfortable environment for her to express herself.
She experimented with self-medication with opium in the form of laudanum, as well as indulging in alcohol. While never reaching the extremes of bipolar disorder akin to Ludwig Van Beethoven or Vincent Van Gogh (with her usage), she nonetheless harmed herself by attempting to quell her moods using substances without the supervision of a doctor. She committed suicide by filling her pockets with stones and walking into a nearby creek.
Bipolar disorder can be a heartbreaking illness to struggle with. If you or someone you love is dealing with the illness, know that help is out there. The modern treatment for bipolar disorder is compassionate, caring, and individualized. Please reach out today to someone trustworthy and let them know you need help. There is nothing to be ashamed of, only help to be received. Self-medication can seem like an easy path to take, but it can end in tragedy.