How my symptoms shape my visual perception of reality. Bipolar moods, psychosis, positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia, amnesia, limited episodic memory.
The elevated bipolar moods of hypomania and mania alter my visual perception of the world around me. Colors are more saturated. Contrast and depth perception are enhanced. I have a heightened sense of composition. My early photography and film work benefited from these perceptions.
I thought hypomania was necessary to maximize my creativity for many years. I believed I had learned how to induce hypomania using Surrealist methods. When I recently shared this with my psychiatrist, she laughed and expressed her doubt that it was possible to induce hypomania. It didn’t occur to me until later that I had been undermedicated and therefore was chronically on the edge of hypomania or experiencing chronic hypomania.
In the late 1980’s, a series of disastrous personal choices and decisions led me to believe that hypomania and mania were dangerous. Using the moods for artistic purposes was no longer worth the collateral damage. I stopped engaging in artistic activities and tried to focus on reality. I found that in was possible to be creative without hypomania.
Dysthymia and depression decreased the saturation of colors. At their worst, dysthymia and depression reduced the visual world to a low contrast grey scale. My sense of depth was decreased and the visual field seemed almost flat. Everything seemed too far away. Perhaps these perceptions contributed to my interest in black and white films and photographs. But, feelings of shame, guilt, hopelessness, worthlessness, lethargy and anxiety are linked to my depressive episodes. It would seem reasonable that I would associate these feelings with black and white and grey scale imagery.
There is a fifth mood that is not associated with the bipolar or manic depressive models- melancholy. For me, melancholy is a mixture of elevated and depressive states. It is a pleasurable, pensive state marked by something akin to sadness. There is a sweetness to melancholy and a sense that my thoughts and feelings are in touch with reality- albeit a sad reality. My melancholy supports, even encourages, self expression and creative activity. It is more connected to reality than the grandiosity associated with hypomania and mania. It lacks the sense of inferiority associated with depression.
I came to full understanding of psychosis in my early 50’s. This understanding was based on the changes in thinking and mood induced by the antipsychotics Risperdal, and years later, Seroquel. In an idealized model psychosis is defined as a loss of contact with reality. When one is psychotic, one is totally engrossed in an alternate reality and there is a complete loss of self. I prefer a more nuanced description- psychosis can reflect varying degrees of detachment from reality, the substitution of an alternate reality, and a loss of self awareness.