Living With A Mental Illness: A Lesson From Kanye West



This quote comes from Kanye West's song FML. For those of you that do not know, Lexipro is a medication used to treat depression and anxiety in adults.

Over the last few weeks years Kanye has made some questionable decisions including his most recent twitter rants and meltdown on SNL. These acts have served as fuel for numerous conversations questioning his sanity but the bars from his song above stood out to me.

I am not sure of Kanye’s actual diagnosis but I can understand the fine line between creativity and living with a mental illness.   Some people that are considered the world’s most brilliant minds, such as Beethoven, Michelangelo (not the Ninja Turtle), and Isaac Newton were believed to have lived with some form of mental illness.

I am not saying that having a mental illness correlates with being brilliant, but the idea of being brilliant can serve as a barrier for receiving the treatment needed to effectively manage symptoms for fear of losing that creative edge.

Initially, I hated taking medication for my illness.   I felt like a zombie because my feelings and emotions were gone and I wasn’t myself. My symptoms decreased in frequency so you could say I was “better”, but I did not feel like Shaun and I yearned to get that feeling back.

I wanted to go back to my state of genius. I wanted to feel the excitement of transforming my thoughts and ideas in my state of creativity. I wanted to go back to my comfort zone of functionality…no matter how dysfunctional and uncomfortable it actually was. The thing that mattered to me was that I believed I was able to produce results in that state because I did it in the past.

I looked at it like, taking the Bad with the Good.

I was able to do work while on medication but I felt like it wasn’t my best so when I decided to stop taking my medication, the edge returned (Good) but so did the voices and the thoughts of harming myself (Bad). I used alcohol to self medicate instead of taking my prescribed medication (Bad). Sleepless nights returned (Bad). The voices got louder (Bad). Determination to finish school led to me making better grades (Good). I attributed that success to drinking alcohol and not taking medication (Bad).

The Bad outweighed the Good but I continued to try to focus more on being “Shaun” than getting mentally better. This was a significant hurdle to overcome.

When learning how to live with a mental illness, I had to learn some tough lessons….

“I can’t write unless I have alcohol. It gets my creative juices flowing”

  • I learned that my talent and given ability is not solely attributable to one particular thing.

I've had some great ideas while intoxicated, but lacked the clarity to think about those ideas logically and actually turn them into something more.

“The meds make me feel like a zombie and I am going to stop taking them”

  • I learned that taking mediation for a mental illness is not an exact science

Lines of communication have to be open with the prescribing physician and your therapist. This is the only way that they can understand how the medication is working, if it is working, and make changes as necessary.

“Normally when I get depressed and feel emotionally drained, I go to the gym and workout”

  • I learned that living with a mental illness is a constant battle that requires constant readjustments.

Things that were normally effective may not always work for each situation. A major key is being open to learning about yourself and implementing new tactics to tackle your symptoms. (I had to revisit this lesson recently and adjust things that were not good for me).

As for Kanye, I can relate to some of his behaviors as he attempts to learn how to live with whatever mental illness he struggles with. Taking the good with the bad. New Album (Good) [I am not here to debate if the album itself is good but he completed a body of work that he felt was good enough to release] Twitter rants (Bad). Meltdown at SNL (Bad). His cowriter Rhymefest quitting (Bad).



The Bad things are adding up and at some point individuals close to him may have to intervene during the “creative process” and help him find ways that are not as harmful.

What is something that you believe is Good in your life but may be overloaded with Bad?

What is something that can replace this?