Next Monday, Lupen Crook & The Murderbirds will release the Curse Of The Mirror Wicked EP. One factor behind this project is Lupen Crook’s experience of schizoaffective disorder (not the same thing as schizophrenia – read more here).
He’s decided to talk about this in more detail to help explain the band’s decision to support YoungMinds, so I asked him to answer a few questions. First off, he explains his medical history and its relationship with his creative output.
You were diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder in your late teens. How did this diagnosis come about and how was it treated?
As a teenager I was a strange, wiry person, prone to introversion and mania. I sought help from a family doctor at 15, but medication failed to calm my racing mind and extreme nerves. After raging into my local doctor’s surgery, maddened, desperately crying and shouting, I was taken straight to hospital. I was just 17 then, and spent the following four weeks residing in one of Medway’s psychiatric wards. I was a complete bloody mess.
I was put onto a long-term course of anti-psychotic drugs. I was told by my team of doctors that my ‘obsessive interest’ in music and its associative delusions were causing my symptoms to worsen. They advised me to stop at once. Given the nature and extent of my obsession, I felt I had no option but to refuse their advice.
Less than a year later, I spent a further five days in the same psychiatric ward and then again a few months later found myself at my wits’ ends, taking up residence in a hospital bed. That last time I discharged myself and disappeared off the radar completely. When I reappeared a few years later, I was signed off sick until 2010, and that was that, until now.
Ten years later, what are the challenges of living with the condition on a day-to-day basis?
Living with schizoaffective disorder on a day to day basis is simply learning to live with yourself. It is not any more or less difficult than anybody else’s struggles and strifes, because it’s all relative to who you are and how that feels.
Looking back upon the last ten years, in a sense the doctors were right, because art and music have provided me with a cloak behind which my mental illness has been able to gain potency; my personalities do stray into realms of dangerous imbalance.
On the flip side of that ever-spinning coin, art and music have provided the perfect passage through which I can express myself. For the majority of time, with the support of my partner and close friends, I am able to operate and live comfortably being the twisted and often troubled individual I am.
There’s a long and clichéd tradition of associations between “art” and “madness”. How does schizoaffective disorder impact your creativity?
For better and for worse, over the last seven years I have been learning to employ the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder, thus drawing a degree of advantage from them. Deep depressions force one to face the mirror and feel the full weight and consequence of certain actions. Psychosis can frighten and confuse, leading the mind into seemingly uncharted areas, far reaches of a metaphysical room. Mania gives chase; when the floodgates open, waves of creation crash and flow through you in such a way that all of these symptoms can, on occasions, be seen to serve a very useful purpose.
One must always question whether schizoaffective disorder is the reason my mind has sought cause to find solace in art and music, or in fact did my mind’s natural and unhealthy interest in music and art cause such a condition to gradually develop within me? As well, it must be said that art and music are merely vehicles in this equation. The true concentration of any artist must be the exploration of the human psyche and its relationship with its surroundings. Therefore, ultimately, I can only count this condition as a blessing.
You experienced a relapse over this summer. Things seem a lot better now. What’s your perspective on the past few months, looking back?
I haven’t had an episode like this one since I was 17. It was what initially inspired the decision to do something to try to raise awareness of mental health, because it is a strange and awkward subject for people to deal with.
As always, the relapse was a combination of different things, but ultimately a build-up of stress through failing to keep myself fit and healthy. I was drinking too much, smoking too much, eating badly and not sleeping. It got to the point when my mind turned in on itself and all hell broke loose. It was a harsh reminder that I do suffer from schizoaffective disorder, and that I must keep both body and mind in a far better condition.
I am also fairly certain the method of writing I have used over the last few years also featured heavily in this recent descent. It is perfectly plausible that my mind was simply serving a reminder; drawing my attention to some particularly dangerous habits I have been letting form. For some time now I have been placing myself in situations where the mind experiences extreme measures of guilt, regret, and anxiety. As these self-induced waves of crushing anxiety run over and through me, it would seem I produce my most excellent material, especially lyrically.
Long ago I noticed this, that there is energy, nervous electricity that runs wild through my body and mind when I’m in these vulnerable states. Voices chatter incessantly and the only way I am able to calm my mind is to play the guitar and sing, which serves as a form of self-medication. I now realise such a method can come with a high price.
Tomorrow, we continue with Mr Crook’s thoughts on the EP itself and why YoungMinds in particular was selected as the charitable focus of this project.