A dangerous career

Last week I accompanied my wife to a Passover Seder at the home of some of her old friends. I didn’t know many of the people in attendance, but the host knew about the upcoming publication of SOMETHING MISSING and introduced me as a writer, prompting much discussion about books, writing and the publishing industry.

At one point I found myself talking to a psychologist who was explaining to me that recent brain research seems to indicate that writers and other creative types have neural pathways in their brains that differ from most people, and that these pathways allow for the formation of broader, more complex connections that spurn creativity.

I listened and nodded a lot, unsure what to think of the guy.

He then proceeded to tell me that this fairly unusual brain structure is a double-edged sword in that many writers, artists and similarly creative individuals experience higher rates of mental illness, disassociative disorders and suicide as a result of these complex pathways.

“I’d better be on guard,” I said with a grin. “I wouldn’t want mental illness sneaking up on me in the middle of a book.”

“Don’t worry,” my new friend suggested. “These problems typically arise in people who lack strong family connections or well-established religious beliefs. Or in people who have suffered severe trauma at some point in their lives. You have nothing to worry about.”

It’s odd that this man would assume so much.

In terms of strong family connections, my mother is dead, I haven’t seen my father, brother or step-siblings in years, and other than my sister and an aunt who I see a couple times a year, I have no relationship with any family members whatsoever.

In terms of well-established religious beliefs, I am a former Protestant who currently has no religious convictions whatsoever. I consider myself a secular humanist on the best of days.

And in terms of an incidents of severe trauma, I’ve had two near death experiences, been robbed at knife point and gunpoint, and experiences a decade-long bout with post-traumatic stress disorder until finally receiving treatment.

In the view of this guy, I’m a mental illness waiting to happen.

Who knew that writing could be so dangerous?