Richard G. Petty, MD

The Passing of the Crazy Diamond

You may have heard of the passing of Syd Barrett, one of the founding members and creative drivers of Pink Floyd. He was only 60 years old.

His extraordinary creativity is well known: his fingerprints were all over the early performances and albums, and he was a muse to a generation of performers. I remember everyone’s consternation as his behavior became progressively more erratic between 1967 and 1968. I was very young then, but we all loved the music.

Some blamed his psychological meltdown on his consumption of prodigious amounts of LSD and all manner of other trendy chemical amusement aids. But in hindsight, he was probably suffering from a psychotic illness, and he was either self-medicating, or the drugs pushed him over the edge. Without doing a full evaluation, I could not say for sure. Although it’s now a moot point, several things make me think that he had a psychotic illness:
1.    His startling type of creativity before and in the early stages of his illness.
2.    There are clues suggesting that he already had problems before become obviously unwell.
3.    The chronicity of his problems are not at all like drug-induced psychosis. I saw a man in Australia who told me that all his years of psychosis were the result of a single “bad trip” in the 1960s. Unlikely.
4.    He suffered for years from diabetes mellitus. Diabetes may be as much as twice as common in people suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and also in their first-degree relatives. (England’s first chess grandmaster, Tony Miles, who sadly had a psychotic episode in the late 1980s, also struggled with diabetes for many years, and died at the age of only 46.)

Why does any of this matter now?

If you ever see a young person abusing drugs, be aware that it is not necessarily that he or she is being impulsive or has just fallen in with a bad crowd. It may be that they are self-medicating.

People with major mental illnesses are at increased risk of many other physical illnesses, not all of which are a result of poor lifestyle choices. If you in contact with someone struggling with mental illness, anything that you can do to help them look after their physical health is all to the good.

And finally, a favorite song of mine that was written about Syd. According to legend, by a strange coincidence he arrived at the Abbey Road studio un-announced, at very time that the song was being recorded. It was nice that he was well enough to come and listen.

Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Now there’s a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
You were caught on the cross fire of childhood and stardom,
blown on the steel breeze.
Come on you target for faraway laughter, come on you stranger,
you legend, you martyr, and shine!

You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Well you wore out your welcome with random precision,
rode on the steel breeze.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions, come on you painter,
you piper, you prisoner, and shine!

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About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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