Thursday, May 16, 2013


For nearly a week now I have been essentially relieved of depression, but in October of 2011 I had a two-week reprieve that vanished as quickly as it came, so I am loathe to trust the experience.  I am unspeakably grateful for these few days but equally concerned about relapse, a concern that curiously might lead to relapse--if I let it.

My therapist says: Shrink the abyss.  Embrace the abyss.

Embrace the abyss?  The soul destroyer, the black hole, the unworld?  Embrace the continuing crucifixion of consciousness?  The horror of unself?

She's trying to convince me that I have power over depression, but in my experience I don't.  It pisses me off that she thinks I have or should have control.  That's like blaming the victim.  Depression is mind rape.  It comes from a place I don't understand and returns there when it leaves. 

This latest reprieve is a direct result of a change in medication.  So how can I control the abyss?  I don't prescribe for myself.  Yet I must do something to insure, further, support my healing--what do I do?  How should I act?  What do I say to myself?

In my last reprieve it was the thought of losing my wife that sent me down again.  That she wasn't going to leave me didn't matter, despite all assurances.  The thought was so devastating that my emotions leaped ahead and took control of my brain and pushed me back into the unspeakable horror of depression.  I was blindsided.  Where is the punch coming from now?  Or is there some way to defend myself?  Yet to think defensively is also to give depression power.

Best to accept this day and my improved mood for what they are: here and present.  Best to be and not evaluate, not dwell, not presume, neither indulge nor repress but breathe in and out and tell myself that euthymia can be sustained. 

I am so grateful for this relief, I cannot tell you.  Just to have a moment without fear, where my mind is at rest.  Just to go shopping and pick out a few foods I prefer, like anchovies for my salad and artichokes.  And to cook without the paranoia that I won't be able to cook.  To walk and not look behind me.  To have the condemnatory committee in my head shut up for once.  The silence is deafening. 

Curioser and curioser,

Grateful CE

2 Kilorats?

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Poem: To Rise

To Rise

Spine straight I gazed
at the cloud cover back-hued with light
and wished to be translated
in moment, in the twinkling of an eye--
Lord take me I said
as the calendulas threw praise
and bright blue lobelia exploded skyward
while poppies raised their jagged leaves,
bulbs heavy with sap
milky as semen
as the tufted grass extended its spiny crowns
to the mottled light--
Take me I said, take me,
I am an open-armed child
reaching past the apple tree past blooming,
whose green limbs strain
in transpiration of invisible incense
offered to the invisible.

Yes to rise to God’s pocket
where the loose change of saints
jangles in praise,
up to the white-gold light
above the many-fingered lupine leaves
and thick heather of a thousand blossoms
both clawing, crying for lost stars
behind the sheer undergarments of clouds
thinned to diaphones.

Dizzy from a cigarette
I thought I would rise
and nearly floated up,
past the demons’ chorus
in my intransigent head,
nearly I joined the praise
of yellow nasturtiums and pink sea thrift
for the dissipating light
wreathed in wisps of vapor,
the thin creamery of clouds.

I might have been free,
I would have been free
from a thousand eventualities sucking at my feet,
weighing me down with inconsequential
harvests of chronic indecision,
the gum of existence, but this poem
like a million poems
only echoes the imaginary chrysalis
from which we might be born
and ends with a whimpering bang.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Poem: "The Lying Glass"

I notice I last blogged 11/28/12.  I managed to get through Christmas, visiting my daughters, and have survived until now without attempting suicide, though I have been sorely tempted and have even done research on methods, indeed have at hand the necessary combination for my demise.  Why do I persist in living?  This question may seem utterly strange to those who have not navigated these dark waters, but to me it appears unanswerable.  The short answer is to spare my wife and children pain; the practical answer is that my wife would be destitute without my income; the deep answer is perhaps, just perhaps, I haven't entirely given up hope.

Yet the grand mistake I made in this, the Mother of All Depressions, is to have given up hope.  Yes, I despaired.  If there is an unforgivable sin, this must be it.  Saying "No" to God's creation, "No" to life and its unremitting requirements, "No" even to survival.  One of my delusions is that I already have cancer, though no identifiable symptoms.  Another is that I have to move and cannot organize my possessions in any way or imagine the burden of moving, not to mention I wouldn't know where.  Another delusion is that I am already dead and my body being animated by a ghost.  I am a ghost in the machine of my body, or worse, the ghost of a ghost of a ghost. 

I am amazed at everyday people who go about their business coping or even trying to improve their lives.  I am jealous of near everyone, wishing I could be them, from the ratty bearded homeless man with the shopping cart to the paraplegic in his wheelchair.  I have said many times that I would gladly have both legs amputated to be free of depression.  For I find that a severe psychotic depression like my own is an amputation of self.  Thus I find myself imitating my wife, mirroring her behavior since I left the hospital two years ago.  If she reads, I read.  If she smokes a cigarette, I join her.  Monkey see, monkey do.  I cannot seem to originate thoughts or actions which seem my own.  My head is full of truisms and cliche's to the point of madness:

God helps those who help themselves.

Grow or die.

He who isn't busy being born is busy dying.

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

And so forth. 

Another delusion is that I have Alzheimer's.

Use it or lose it.

I seem to have lost it.  And here I sit, typing.

In being alienated from myself I am also alienated from everything.  I often wonder if this is self-pity.  People tell me I suffer from an illness that is not my fault.  I reply, "But it is my responsibility!"  Which puts the ball squarely in my court.

How do I spend my days?  Television (mainly basketball) and cheap fiction (mainly mysteries).  Yet I remember so little, it is like a faint wind that blows through my brain and leaves only the finest silt behind--like remembering that Chris Paul was the MVP of the NBA's All Star game. 

I am no longer conversant in poetry, philosophy, medicine or religion.  I suppose I am only conversant in my psychotic symptoms and basketball.  My world has become so small it would be dwarfed by angels on a pin.  In geometry I would be a point, not even a line. 

Past experience taught me that miraculously, depression lifts one day--sometimes through medication, once by electricity, but never has it lifted through therapy.  I have been in therapy for two years without result save that I haven't tried to kill myself.  But in that time I have surely devolved.  I look at my garden, gone to seed, and do nothing.  I look at my bills and responsibilities and hide.  I won't even look at my bank account.  I'm terrible with money.  I eat and smoke out of boredom.  I quit drinking 90 days ago and have attended AA meetings, but I don't get the program, and besides, I am sober but not clean, since I take addictive medication for pain and anxiety.  My dominant feeling state is fear, but the antipsychotic medicine makes that more bearable, even if it makes me less human as it has dried up my tears.  All of this bores me beyond words.  I feel I am a human sacrifice to the existential dilemma of living. 

Man needs hope to live; man needs new experiences and challenges to thrive.  Man cannot really exist as a couch potato, which I have become.  I avoid every pressure I can unless it becomes absolutely necessary--as in the case of electricity being shut off or a flat tire.  Or perhaps a medical emergency, as when I took my wife to the ER this past Sunday for fear she had broken her ankle.  But even such activities, rarely demanded, seem unreal, as if I were observing myself from a distant planet.  And from that planet I appear as a grease smear on asphalt, a little oily bug, a sudden apparition without substance or being.  How can these things be?  As I said, I am psychotic.  As psychotic as I was during my mania in 2010, when I believed I was the new improved messiah for the age.  Yes, I believed that with all my soul just as I now believe that I lack a soul, that I am hollowed out like a stack of Russian dolls, that nothing I express is genuine.  Indecision and paralysis rule.  I can't make sense out of anything.  By avoiding pain and responsibility I have increased it tenfold.  But I don't know how to stop my downward spiral, truly, I don't know how to stand up like a man and say, "Enough!  I will face my life!  I will do my taxes!  I'll pretend to live even if I feel dead."

Feelings are overrated, I think.  It is will and action that count.  Once you lose your will to live, all else collapses, trust me.  You don't want to go there.  "Hold on to your dreams, for if dreams die / Life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly."  --Langston Hughes

Ah to have dreams again!  Ambitions!  Goals!  I am so thoroughly becalmed, so lost in the Horse Latitudes that I cannot leave the starting gate.

P. T. Barnum once charged suckers to see a horse "with its head where its tail ought to be."  He turned the horse around in its stall and attached a feed bag to its tail.  People were so embarrassed after paying that they wouldn't tell the others who followed.

Here behold a man with an ass where his head ought to be. 

Do you pity me?  Do you laugh at me?  Fault me for cowardice?  Have compassion?  Fear not, all responses are welcome.  I seem immune to intervention and advice.  I cannot grasp a twelve-step program, which requires hope.  I would like to drink but resist, yet as I said above, given my medications, I do not think I am clean.  "That's all right," others say, "that's between you and your doctor."  But is it?  Is it right to take medication for anxiety because you can't handle life?  Isn't that just like drinking?  Or narcotics because your pain is too severe to endure?  Isn't that capitulation to the poppy?

I long to be human again but I am an alien without feelings, self-indulgent and self-centered, avoiding pain and fear at all costs, lost in television and cheap fiction. 

I used to have an expansive mind; I used to love others and sometimes myself; I used to be and do a lot of things, but now I am no more than a shriveled balloon from an ancient birthday party discarded by the roadside, yet due to synthetic rubber, unable to be assimilated completely by nature, unnaturally pink against the brown dirt.  All these metaphors are inadequate, of course.  I am the living dead, I am a zombie, I am bloodless, I am an abject worm.  My therapist tells me, "You are not your depression.  That's stinkin'  thinking'.  But in my state I know no other thoughts. 

Sometimes late at night I have a thought that maybe things could be different the next day, maybe I could act, join a gym, quit smoking, write something, be something, serve somehow.  I don't know how.  What I do now is make coffee for an AA meeting once a week and help my wife as I am able.  But I'm not able to do much--taking out the trash and washing the dishes are big hurdles.  I rarely change my clothes.  I look like a slob.  I shower often enough (and that is an extreme challenge) so that I don't stink.  Sometimes I brush my teeth.  Sometimes I even floss.  But when I do, I think, "Why should I care when I really want to die?"  And then I think, "If I'm condemned to go on living it's a good idea to take care of my teeth."  You can see how the debate about living leaks into the smallest tasks. 

I think I'll quit there.  As I've said many times, depression is boring.  And depressives the ultimate bore.  Best to laugh at us, or with us; I like to be teased about it.  That gives me some perspective.  But most are afraid to tease us for fear of insensitivity.  Believe me, the depressive is insensitive to your laughter because he takes himself far too seriously and laughter would mean perspective and perspective would mean health.

What is health?  The ability to laugh at oneself.  The ability to receive a gift without the need to repay it.  The ability to love and be loved.  The ability to conceive of tasks and carry them out.  As Freud said, "To love and to work."  The depressive, that is, the severe depressive, can do neither.  He is in Plath's bell jar, he is walled off from himself and others, he is incapable of human sympathy or connection, he fears phone calls--(indeed if my wife weren't deaf I wouldn't answer the phone, I do it for her sake).  Nor do I call my friends or family except on rare birthdays or holidays.  I know at some level there are people I love, but I have no feelings for them and this makes me ashamed.  I think I am beyond feeling for myself as well.  I am numb, zombified, so distanced from myself that I do not perceive myself as having a self.  There, I repeat myself again....self, self, self, self!  That is the main problem.  There is too much "me" to go around.  Extroversion and extrospection are the only healthy approaches to life.  Introversion and introspection maybe healthy on occasion for the normal, but for the depressive they are poison.  The well is poisoned by a preoccupation with the self which, paradoxically, makes the self no more.  Only a vacuum remains after the ruminative accumulation of self-judgment and self-despite.  Do not take this road.  Save yourselves.  Look outwards for salvation, look to things and people and works and engagement.  Perhaps rare saints can meditate on the goodness within, but there I find only the cobwebs of Miss Havisham's cake. 

Below, a rare poem I recently wrote for reasons unknown; I can't speak of its quality, but it was a rare achievement in my condition:

The Lying Glass

Reclined upon the sofa
I heard a strange eruption
behind me, to my left.
My dog leapt at the desk
and on the windowsill
I saw a small brown whirling,
twisting against glass, a dull sparrow
trapped by false transparencies
into a suicidal thrashing.

Back and forth he battered himself
against the unforgiving pane
before I cupped him gently
as you would a butterfly
careful not to denude
the delicate wings of powder--
or of a small fish, trying not to scrape
the scales’ protective coat.  

Inside my fingers the bird
was lighter than a mouse,
a thing woven of air
in danger of unweaving
but softly I gathered it
and it calmed as if in death
my palms opened on the porch
and it stirred and twirled
in a spiral of confusion
before righting itself
with its blessed element.

It’s easy to draw parallels,
how in our skulls we thrash
against unforgiving glass
wishing only for beneficent hands
to scoop us lightly up
and free us from the prison
of accusatory reflections
distorted by self-loathing.

Ah to be free of ourselves
and the suicidal smell of blood,
coppery and cloying--
yes if only some giant hand
would deliver us from ourselves,
how miraculous our flight
into the vital air.

But I know of no such magic
save to write this and imagine
how incomparably pure
the unspoiled air might taste
to a tongue used to spiking
its own mouth in hatred
or how that air might wake
an ear bent on listening
to an encyclopedia of failures
from malice swallowed so young
we never learned the difference
between damned opinions and our gifts,
rather beat against the glass,
the lying, lying glass.

Tchuss, Ciao, Arrividerchi (sp.?), Sayonara, Vaya con Dios, yada yada,


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Update on the Mother of All Depressions

My blog has been moribund, for any still following it.  My depression has been so severe that I have been essentially non-functional.  I can do a few tasks like take out the trash and wash the dishes, but even facing my e-mail seems often an insurmountable burden.

I have a bright intellectual friend, Norman Ball, whose work I recommend, but right now his writing is too exalted for me to parse, for the most part.

My mind is near constantly darkened by the obsession of suicide, the only release my brain seems to comprehend or imagine.  I resist this daily, but it is extremely hard to live when your own brain has become your enemy.  The voices in my head, like howling dogs, constantly sing an odious hymn of self-loathing and self-destruction.  Nature abhors a vacuum thus the locusts have come in to roost.

I don't know how to break this cycle.  Perhaps it most involves acceptance and doing--doing anything, like writing this.  In focusing on a task, however brief or menial, I do get some temporary relief.  But the overwhelming majority of the time has me, as my friend Ralph described, "cowering in my cubicle."

I feel a coward for not being able to face life.  Life doesn't come to me in specific details but as an overwhelming, all-devouring wall of impossibilities.  I quit blogging mainly for fear that I was only going in circles about depression--after all, there is only so much to be said about it, and I thought the narrative might be reinforcing the disease.  Then objectification of my suffering in words may have some therapeutic benefit. 

Don't know when I'll blog again.

All you out there not afflicted with a serious mental illness, give thanks daily.



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Depression Redux; Not a Poem

It's been so long since I blogged.  Readership has fallen off the cliff, as there is no continuing story, though I do get some hits from random net searches about certain subjects discussed here.

So how am I doing?  Close to 10 Kilorats, or on a scale of -10 to +10, I am hovering around -10.  I'm presently alone as my wife is in NY visiting her ailing mother.  I don't know what to do with myself.  I try AA for positive brainwashing and then despair of any miracle.  Sometimes I do treat myself with drink, which helps numb the pain temporarily.  I am psychotically depressed; my fantasies of suicide are sometimes so intrusive I can think of little else.  I have no sense of self as I write this; it's as if my self has abandoned myself.  Does this make any sense?

Luckily my dog is with me.  I would trade places with him in a heartbeat.  Oh to be an American pet!

What will become of what's left of me?  Saw my shrink today, he added another med to the new one I'm taking (Safris).  I have no hope or faith in meds.

Strangely last Saturday I had a brief respite from my state after rapping with two men after an AA meeting.  For two hours we discussed depression, essentially, and I became so involved in the discussion that it lifted me up and I was able to go home and do some things around the house, even wrote a poem and mastered Dylan's "Tangled Up In Blue."  The next morning, however, the transient return to myself slipped away and now I am worse off for having tasted that again, I fear.

I may be complicit in my own destruction for lack of willpower.  Strange, when younger I had a great deal of it, but now I find myself regressed to an infantilized oral state, like a suckling infant, willing to put anything in my mouth for comfort.  I gluttonized yesterday on quesadillas and frozen meals to the point of pain.  Just wanted to put something in my mouth to fill the emptiness, I suppose.

My daughters call out of concern, one nearly daily.  I chat with Kathleen at night by computer (she is deaf, you know).  I haven't written anything here in ages.  I don't know what to do with or about myself.  In writing it appears I might exist.  When I stop typing it's as if I don't.  In a way I may be beyond suicidal; it's as if the soul has died within my body and I walk around like a zombie.  I have been pithed like a frog and no Craigness remains that I can tell.

Strangely I had a poem accepted for publication by Qarrtsiluni which I must have submitted one day while feeling a mite better. 

And did I mention my cervical stenosis acting up?  No longer is it just my pinkies going numb, all my fingers go numb and wake me if I sleep with my neck in the wrong position.  Sometimes it is difficult to type.  This is indeed scary. 

So forgetful I can't remember the books I read.  Even movies I've watched.  Then it comes back to me somewhere in the re-run that something is familiar and I stop--or go on.

Self-pity?  I suppose I have some.  But not too much.  I don't think I'm the only one with such a devastating depression, nor the last one, nor is my suffering completely unique, although it feels so.  Other people in AA try to assure me that they've been through what I'm going through but I don't believe it, in general, at least not for two years like this.  And remember that the days in those years are interminable, so the whole thing seems an infinite nightmare.

I stay alive for my loved ones.  This much I do.  I don't want to cause them pain.  But I can also see a point beyond that, where I don't care anymore.  Sometimes I fear I've reached it.  Then I remind myself I can't do that.  Then the fantasies return with vengeance.  Then I remind myself.  Then they return.  A terrible cycle.  No exit.

Would I rather be dead?  Oh yes.  But a friend said to me, "You can't be sure it would be any better on the other side."  Now that's a terrible thought.  To be as sick as I am now if my existence continued, that's horrible.  I prefer to believe in some kind of redemption, some kind of heaven where I could be miraculously cured, resurrected from the dung heap of my own dark delusions.

I really have nothing to say.  I ought to be institutionalized but that's not easy anymore except for the criminally insane.  Hospitalization didn't help me last time.  As my shrink opines, the only reason for that is to protect me from myself but I have not attempted suicide despite my 13 soul-wrenching major depressions of six months or more.

Everyone has suggestions, suggestions I lack the will to follow.  I need to go to some kind of regimented health farm where I might work in the fields or laundry or have my body regimented in some way until my mind returns.  Sadly I know of no such thing; there are only these 30-day rehab units at great expense, focusing on addiction more than depression.

How I ramble on.  I sincerely hope no one reads this. 

I feel incapable of anything.  Think I'll go have a cigarette I don't enjoy.  And below, an attempt at a poem.

10 Kilorats,

Craig Erick


This is my last poem before I die.
I set the font for this but it reverts
to one I don’t want.
I prefer Palatino Linotype.
Isn’t that pitiful?

I have a fillet knife.
I know to cut the radial artery
lengthwise for a sure death.
I’m a doctor, after all.
Fuck you.

Once I was a golden boy,
the globe at my feet.
I knew the vibrations of hummingbirds
and the secret enigma of snails.
I knew a lot.

Why five-line stanzas?  Why me?
I go to AA for three days then drink.
Drink makes me better, drink makes me worse.
My daughter pleads with me not to do it.
My wife says she’ll come home early from New York.

I promise my daughter.
I tell my wife to stay and keep her itinerary.
This is confessional poetry at its worst,
no more than journalling.
I have betrayed poetry.  This is not a poem.

You wide-eyed innocents
who have yet to pay Charon for a boat ride--
You are but shades, shades, shades.
The gloom of your conviviality
screams like a rodent in the night.

Poor owl, he’s not to blame.
Nor is the night.  The night is always there
to camouflage our pain.
Did you know aphids are born pregnant?
We are all pregnant with abortions.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mild improvement?

My mood is mildly improved, it seems, with the addition of Wellbutrin to the soup.  Now my dilemma is what to do with myself.  I have been withdrawing from the world for a year-and-a-half and have lost contact with so many, been unable to write verse and unwilling to play music.  On disability I am not allowed to work at a job, and I am physically limited by my chronic back pain.  For starters I think I shall try to weed the garden a little each day and continue my daily walks.  I feel like an 80-yr-old man inside a 57-yr-old body.  Truly, I ache everywhere, esp. from deconditioning, I think, despite my walking.  Today I am afflicted with severe sciatica and can barely sit to write this.  Oh this mortal coil!  Why must it demand so much of us and why is pain so much part of the bargain.

Kathleen told me about experiments in which the brain re-interprets pain as pleasurable.  Good luck.


Friday, June 01, 2012

Brief note...

I see it is over a month since I posted anything.  I can report no change in my condition.  It is as if I resigned from life rather than being resigned to it.

I quite smoking but put on 30 lbs.  Talk about a devil's bargain!

I rarely go online anymore--it is too much work and too much contact.

Thanks to all who still visit and care.


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Unexpected Light
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