Having been through the manic-depressive cycle any number of times, I have an unpublished ms. that seeks to duplicate the experience, called Sine Wave (which I would be happy to e-mail to anyone interested). The book begins in depression and by degrees rises to manic psychosis. (Yes, Virginia, I've experienced both. When manic I usually end up in handcuffs; when depressed curled up in a fetal position in admitting.)
This disease has done more to form my life than any other factor; it contributed to my early hyper-religiosity, my choice of career, even my first marriage. I was not capable of making major decisions back then; I had to get a sign, a voice, some special message from God in order to make one. It wasn't until after my first course of electroconvulsive therapy at age 30 that I completely abandoned my underlying psychosis for reason in my own life. (I had been able to apply reason to work and other tasks.)
It was in my early 40s when I finally faced the truth, that the major decisions of my life, marriage and career, were based on psychotic direction, and here I was, a divorced doctor with three children. That's a hard nut to swallow without entirely devaluing one's life.
As I type this I am becoming tearful, as it is 3:15 PM. I don't think crying does much good so I will try to resist. It may have a short-term calming effect but it ultimately makes me more tired. In manic-depression, I experience crying jags as seizures of toxic melancholy. I don't cry about anything, it feels more like a reflex, like vomiting. Tears of grief are different, only available to me when my mood is normal or "euthymic." When I'm sick, weeping only seems to deepen the darkness. Now for today's poem:
His cold breath steams up my neck
like dry ice. I never see him approach.
He comes from darkness
where eyes forget they are eyes,
where speech has no conclusion
and touch is without resistance,
where music becomes noise
and selves are emptied
of history like milk bottles
below the ninth circle of hell.
I hear his wild dogs carol
in the burning church of my mind.
Pass the offering plate--
Is that a medicine vial, a gun?
Jimmy crack corn and I don't care,
the light has gone away.
("Demon Melancholy" first appeared in Ygdrasil.)