End the romanticization of mental illness

Fever. Digital print of acrylic paint on glass. 2014.

Mental illnesses cannot be characterized by one unwavering, constant mood or symptom, and people do not need to be in crisis on a regular basis in order to have a mental illness. This triptych, informed by my personal experience with generalized anxiety disorder, addresses the emotional complexities of mental illness that are often ignored in dialogue.

My personal experience with generalized anxiety disorder has included spans of extreme irritability, emotional and physical lows, and periods of incessant worry. When presenting this triptych at a group critique, I was told by a guest critic that my mental illness was a “gift” that I could harness and moderate to my creative benefit as an artist, and that artwork speaking on mental illness is “disingenuous” unless produced during a period of crisis.

This implication that mental illness can be conveniently exploited is not only untrue, but harmful to those of us living with a mental illness, as it trivializes our experience. Stop romanticizing mental illness and conflating it with artistic genius.