The mind of gifted adults: Julia Cameron on her mental health challenges

Julia Cameron

I have felt as if I were coming apart

Julia Cameron spoke thoughtfully about a variety of subjects, including her own psychic abilities and the always-lurking mental illness she called a “time bomb.”

“They have very effective medicine now, but there have been periods where I have felt as if I were coming apart and the medicine was the wall between me and … ” She left the sentence dangling, but added, “You’re just hoping it will hold.”

Excerpt from article: Agonizing success of ‘Artist’s Way’ – The creator of the bestseller never divulged her extreme struggles – until now. By Gina Piccalo, Los Angeles Times June 23, 2006; photo by Spencer Weiner]

A punishing regimen and breakdown

She had work to do and seminars to teach. And remarkably, it got done despite the breakdowns. The first big one came in the mid-1990s just as she became known as a recovery guru, after the end of her second marriage to Mark Bryan, her inspiration for writing “The Artist’s Way.”

“Cast as a ‘spiritual teacher’ and desperate for answers myself in the wake of the loss of Mark, I embarked on a series of ill-considered fasts,” she writes of that time. “I went as long as a week or ten days without solid food. I went for very long walks praying with every footfall. Although I didn’t see it at the time, mine was a punishing regimen.”

This search eventually led her to London, where she began writing her first musical, this one about Merlin. Things soon started unraveling. [In London] police led her off to a mental hospital. She was diagnosed as manic depressive, which American doctors later said was wrong. Cameron still hasn’t gotten a new diagnosis.

The right combination

There were other episodes — “allergies” to electricity and walking barefoot in the desert in Taos and talking flowers and more fasts on Venice Beach — before Cameron found the right combination of medications and the stabilizing regimen to keep them at bay.

Today, Cameron and her assistant and collaborator, Emma Lively, share a Manhattan apartment, where they keep up an impressive pace. In their eight years working together, the two women have collaborated on three musicals, plus drafts of three more, plus two albums of children’s music, all while Cameron taught weekly at the Open Center in Manhattan, traveled a few days every month to lecture, wrote a novel and her memoir, Floor Sample.

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  1. Well said,i applaud your blog, mental health consumers are the least capable of self advocacy,my doctors made me take zyprexa for 4 years which was ineffective for my symptoms.I now have a victims support page against Eli Lilly for it’s Zyprexa product causing my diabetes.–Daniel Haszard

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