David Feingold has bipolar disorder. He discussed how the disease has shaped his work as an artist and how it contributed to his divorce from his ex-wife. He spoke with his current significant other Becca Buchalter at the StoryCorps mobile booth in Flint.
Becca Buchalter: What was the mania like? That's when the affair happened was during the mania?
David Feingold: All of a sudden I had dangling earrings. I dyed my hair blonde. I bought a motorcycle. It was really out of character for me. Before that I was a mild-mannered husband and father. And after that I would stay up late nights and got into a relationship with somebody else. So, that led to a divorce.
I think the most difficult part is that you're ill, but people relate to you as if you're a bad person. I mean, you do bad things, but you're not a bad person because you're not in control.
Bipolar disorder has mania and depression and one of the times that lasted several weeks. And my sister flew in from Florida to have me hospitalized.
BB: What was that like?
DF: It was diminishing. I did go there willingly. It was kind of dehumanizing, but for my own good.
BB: You're very, very creative. I call you a creative genius.
DF: There are many scientists, psychiatrists, researchers who draw a link between creativity and bipolar disorder. [Making art] helps counter the negative feelings that one has of oneself.
BB: I think that your artwork was really helpful for me because there's a lot of it that’s very distressing and disturbing, but that's what's inside of you. And it gave me a lot of compassion to see what you're living with. Sometimes you call it "The Monster."
DF: I think objectifying it helps it takes it out of me. It's kind of like brushing your teeth. Once is never enough. You have to do it on a daily basis, which is why I have so many pieces of art.
I've become known as a bipolar artist.
BB: Some people object to the idea of "bipolar artist." You're an artist with bipolar.
DF: Well, part of my education is that it's person first. I feel that I'm a bipolar artist. I feel like I'm a bipolar person. It doesn't mean I don't have personhood, but bipolar disorder is such an invasive and intensive part of your life that it's hard to really separate it. So I just face it and it defines my artwork and I'm not ashamed of it.
This transcript was edited for length and clarity.
Michigan Radio is featuring conversations recorded at the StoryCorps mobile booth in Flint every Friday on Morning Edition during the month of September.