That Fine Madness

Fifty-five years ago, on a brisk March morning, the novelist Virginia Woolf walked from her country house at Rodmell, in Sussex, England, to the banks of the nearby River Ouse. There she lay down her walking stick and picked up a large stone, forcing it into the pocket of her coat. Then she walked on. The stone did the trick; it was three weeks before her body surfaced on the far shore.

To Leonard, her husband, she had left a note propped on the mantelpiece. Dearest, it read, I feel certain I am going mad again . . . and I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. . . . I don’t think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. . . . V.

The diary Woolf kept from 1915 until four days before her suicide suggests that her terrible disease may have been manic depression, now also known as bipolar illness. This condition, classed by psychiatrists as a mood disorder, involves a series of emotional peaks and valleys that over time often become higher, lower, and closer together. Some sufferers experience deep depressions and moderate manic episodes; others have moderate, short-lived depressions but become so manic they begin to hallucinate.

read the rest of this interesting look
at bipolar disorder and creativity


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