David Harbour, a.k.a. Hopper of Stranger Things, a.k.a. Eleven’s real dad, a.k.a. Winona’s sexy ex, has spoken publicly for the first time about his diagnosis with bipolar affective disorder.
“I really had a bit of a break where I thought there was a sort of God that I was in connection to”, said Harbour.
Comedian Marc Maron went on to ask if this meant he was ‘getting signals’ or ‘talking [to God]’ Harbour responded, “Yeah and writing a lot. The whole thing and I had all the answers at that point. No drugs. The interesting thing about it is that I realised I don’t need [drugs].
“I have a capacity to see the elves in the corners of the room if I really allow myself to go there.”
On Monday’s episode of Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast Harbour told of being diagnosed with the mood disorder after giving up drugs and alcohol and becoming Catholic. He was 25 years old. Harbour was sectioned to a ‘mental asylum’ and has been on psychiatric medication ever since, which he confessed has been a constant struggle for him.
“I was taken by my parents to a mental asylum and I have to say one thing about the mental asylums: Being in a mental asylum is really not as fun as you think… it winds up being sad. It smells like shit. Its horrible.”
Bipolar affective disorder is typically diagnosed in late adolescence and early adulthood and takes varying forms and severity. It is categorised by disorder moods, cycling modes of energy and sleep patterns and episodes of mania, hypomania and depression in mixed variances depending on the diagnosis and patient. Outcomes and management are varied. Delusions of grandeur are one symptom, and in some cases hallucinations can occur.
Harbour told Maron of the spiritual tone of his mania: “The funny thing about my brain is every time I’ve had an episode like that, it’s coupled with spirituality. Generally, people are like ‘I need to meditate more’ or ‘I need to get into yoga.
“I’ve been medicated for bipolar for a long time. I’ve had a struggle going on and off the medications. You think you’re not the artist you could be. Let’s open this baby up! The minute I get close to that flame of the answers, the mysticism, I’m out of my mind.”
Bipolar and its ‘manic’ cycles are often linked to bouts of creativity and have been aligned with many artists. Kay Redfield Jamieson was a leading researcher on the disorder (and also suffered from the disorder herself) wrote a book titled Touched with Fire: Manic-depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament and spoke extensively on her research establishing links between creativity and mania.
She identified other traits not listed in the DSMV like expansiveness, mental clarity, expounding empathy and cognitive flexibility which inform creativity. Studies by Jamieson linked word patterns in poets, use of alliteration, unusual word use at a higher rate amongst bipolar poets. She also asserted that success amongst creatives saw greater representation of those with bipolar in creative fields.
Artists who have openly identified with the disorder include Russell Brand, Kanye West, Mariah Carey, Carrie Fisher, Demi Lovato, Catherine Zeta Jones and Jean-Claude Van Damme.
So how does Harbour deal with his disorder?
“I need to, like, eat a cheeseburger and just like smoke cigarettes and hang out. Because, like, the minute I get close to that, what I consider a flame of like ‘the answers’ and the mysticism and I’m like ‘completely present,’ it’s like I’m out of my mind. So if I write the self-help book, it’s going to be like ‘sit on the couch and play some video games.”
Now thats mystical.