Starry, Starry Night

"Do you want to go to the Van Gogh exhibit at the Convention Center?" my friend Caroline texted this morning.

Yes, yes I did.

If you have a chance to see the traveling Beyond Van Gogh exhibit, go. It's well worth it. For those without a real art education (me), it gives a basic grounding in his life, and a panoramic look at his art.

I found myself in tears after the exhibit. The brushstrokes dance across the canvases in swoops and flourishes, sheer joy in every one. It--and at times, probably he--was a delight.

Van Gogh was clearly mentally ill. As someone else who is clearly mentally ill, I can't help but wonder what his life would have been like had someone close to him either understood that or helped him. I believe he was bipolar like me, though I'm sure someone with more actual knowledge of Vincent has their own idea.

I wonder what Vincent's life would be like today. Medicated, Vincent would not have been as prolific as he was; his entire enormous output took place in only 36 years of life, after all. He reminds me of myself. While I wrote 300,000 words a year before I was diagnosed, for instance, I could only write a third as much once I was on medication (and before I had the stroke). While I'm sure I would have loved being the one who helped him, I know for a fact that I couldn't have. There was nothing I could have said to him, or done to or with him. There was nothing anyone could do for me, before lamotrigine.

"I could have told you, Vincent, the world was never meant for one as beautiful as you," goes Don McLean's song. It's true for all bipolar people still trapped inside that world. It was true for me. But the times I was beautiful were not enough for me to stay trapped there, not when there's a pharmaceutical doorway.

Vincent had starry nights before the despair took him, before he died. I have had starry nights followed by deep despair. I may yet have starry nights, this time without the deep despair.

Who can say.