Bipolar Manic Depression Nips Promise In The Bud

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Trent was a talented artist, who had shown promise from his first years. His disturbing acrylic paintings of his mother, at the age of twelve, brought the attentions of the entire art world.

At fourteen, barely out of grammar school, Trent was invited to New York. An exhibit of his paintings of himself and his mother, which became something of a motif with the youthful artist, was supposed to show at a fashionable gallery in Chelsea, and at another one in Williamsburg.

Trent was much too young to be thrust into world of fashionable New York artists, all of whom were in their twenties and thirties (the scene also included, of course, the occasional 50-year-old, trying too hard to be “hip”). The ingestion of alcohol and illegal drugs was normal, and even expected, at these gallery openings, and, in particular, at the wild “after parties.”

The women who moved in this world were promiscuous, and were often artists themselves. Neither the men nor the women had any qualms about using their own sexuality, and the promise of intimacy, for their own ends. Friendships–and even romantic relationships–existed only to advance careers. Trent’s mother, the same one he painted so often, did not want him to enter this cesspool. However, Trent threw one of his famous tantrums. His mother, ever-indulgent, relented.

The issue: Trent suffered from bipolar disorder, otherwise known as manic-depressive disorder. This severe mental disorder is associated with increased creativity. Unfortunately, its symptoms are frequently devastating, both for the one who suffers from it, and for his nearest and dearest.

As part of his illness, Trent was often seized by episodes of mania. His mother described them as, “fits of madness.” He would stop sleeping, and either stop eating altogether, or start eating voraciously in a wholly inappropriate manner. Once Trent took an entire raw chicken out of the family icebox and started to gnaw at its breast in a feral manner, while mumbling at a million miles an hour about how “he was hungry.” As he talked, pieces of uncooked chicken kept falling out of his mouth.

His mother took the chicken away from him, and cooked a piece for him. However, by the time the chicken was done, Trent was shut up in his room, painting another masterpiece.

Trent’s periods of hyperactivity alternated with periods of severe depression. After dashing out five or six paintings, the adolescent artist was typically “spent.” He would lapse into a lethargic torpor that lasted weeks. He got terrible marks at school, and often thought of suicide.

The terrible moment finally came during his trip to New York. His mother accompanied him, but she was unable to watch her son every second. After all, there was so much to see and do in New York. At a Williamsburg loft party, a nineteen-year-old woman who refuses to disclose her identity rejected the clumsy romantic advances of the art world’s “enfant terrible.” Without any medications, Trent was unable to deal with this blow. He jumped out of the top floor of a Brooklyn warehouse, to his death.

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