Friday, June 23, 2006

Poem #30; Depression Continues

On the Anthropic Principle

Here at the spoke-ends of our galaxy
it is easy to forget the central axle moving
insensibly slow, still the silvery-white
dispersion of stars soothes randomly
until we impose a pattern, like the Magi,
like the Greeks.
-------------------And despite the most
accurate of calendars, dawn remains a wager
until the great lion of the sun peers over the plains
with a growl of heat and the day blooms and withers
toward the violet hour where even wise men
arrive as strangers because the arrangement
is never the same.
-------------------As the latest layer of bones,
can we ever appreciate how far
the swan’s neck stretched to uphold its head,
how far the spider’s strand thinned without snapping?
Can we recall the dark alternatives dodged,
any of which could have unmade us?
Always there were detours where the river
never creased the rock that never
rose from the sea that never
spawned a single fossil.
-------------------------When light illumines
the Grand Canyon in winter’s slant at sundown,
the stripes of ages burn with every visible color.
What is the color of a radio wave?
Only a man asks that.

(I had to used dashes because I couldn't figure out how to html the spacing; published in Poetry Now)

I’m proud of today’s poem in that my ambition in poetry has always been to combine philosophy with music, substance with form, and I thought this one turned out pretty well. That I can say this may indicate my depression is not as severe. If so I can only credit the addition of an antipsychotic drug two days ago. In addition I’m taking two mood stabilizers and two classes of antidepressants. Since 1996 this combination has not failed to eventually lift me out of the doldrums, and I say doldrums ironically, since the word sounds so harmless and normal. It’s not doldrums, it’s a maelstrom.

What the antipsychotic seems to do, besides increase my appetite, cause weight gain, and other fun side effects, is to dull the inner fear, the apprehension that constantly accompanies depression.

I wanted to mention another symptom of depression, which you likely won’t find in the textbooks. I call it dysynchrony. Here’s what it’s like: I go to make coffee. I have trouble remembering how to do it, and anxiety pushes me forward in time or keeps me behind, so the feeling is that there is an ideal time, a synchronous time in which I might make coffee smoothly, but I can’t drop into that stream of time. Instead I fall behind or clumsily speed ahead. I’m spooning coffee into the filter, for instance, but I spill because I’m thinking of putting the water in. Then the grounds that fell out into the plastic cone have to be washed out, and I shudder at the extra task, fearing the detour will ruin my chances at making coffee. It’s as if the linear progression of a nearly automatic task has been fragmented into pieces, and I’m trying to put them together in a row but they keep moving about. When I finally succeed in making the coffee, it seems like a miracle and I wonder how I did it.

The worst experience of this, which I think I already mentioned in this blog, was when I was hospitalized for depression in 1996. I was trying to figure out how to tie my boots. I stared and stared at the eyelets, I didn’t know where to begin, or how to pull the laces diagonally across the tongue. I thought I would never figure it out, that I might never wear shoes again or that I might have to go barefoot about the hospital. I was too paralyzed to ask for help, but I finally managed it myself. That depression, incidentally, lasted eleven months, and necessitated my going on disability. Since I have not had to work as a doctor I haven’t been hospitalized again. But I’ve also become more skillful in managing my meds.

I don’t want today’s memo to sound too hopeful. As I re-read it, it sounds much too positive for my present state. I’m far from being out of the woods.

All for today,



  1. Your account of the pain of making coffee brought tears to my eyes, as it triggered a memory. This last January I started on a regiment of Biaxin for a lung infection. Biaxin is a powerful and scary drug; one which I stopped taking after about 9 days. I suffered every imaginable side-effect except death and one of them included depression. It was possibly the worst month of my life. I had never experienced depression before, other than what I might call 'teen angs't, but this was so debilitating that I wish I could forget it. My moment was the morning I thought I could come back to work, and all I had to do was arrange a meeting for my manager. Like making coffee, it is a task that should take less than three minutes and not be a big deal. I went home not 30 minutes later, and didn't return for almost 3 weeks, once the drug finally left my system. I remember now the overwhelming feeling of not knowing how I could ever accomplish that simple task, and couldn't remember right then what it was like to be able to do things anymore. Simple things. Rolling over to shut the alarm off kind of things. Your story helps me realize that I was, in that moment, crippled by the drug and its side effect of depression (amongst other side effects). Your story gives me a small clue as to what it must be like in the long term, and for that I empathize and honestly would offer you a hug if you were here. I suppose I don't wish that understanding-via-depression on anyone, but I thank you for putting that kind of moment into the most real of terms I've ever known. Truly, thank you.

  2. Thanks, Rea.

    Sounds like Biaxin threw you into a major depression, which 10% of the population will suffer in their lifetime.

    Horrifying, isn't it?

    How you have to concentrate on automatic behaviors?

    Loading the dishwasher becomes worse than Rubik's cube.

    Thanks for stopping by,


  3. CE..

    You also triggered a memory that only happened about a year and a half ago. I was on cytoxan and prednisone at the time (100mg of pred) and i was slowly sinking in a morass of feeling. I lost my short term memory for awhile and I couldnt' remember what I was saying or what I was doing the minute before.

    I can only remember bits and pieces of that time. My husband said that the same time every day (about 5 p.m.) I would start screaming and would not stop for about an hour.

    At that time, it would take me hours to figure out how to sort my pills, tie my shoes, take a shower, ...any of my morning routines. I would look at something until my husband would have to tell me how to do it. It was terrifying. I thought that I had lost everything including my intelligience. I wanted to die.

    I wondered if I would survive the collateral damage of the disease.

    Thankfully, my doctor reduced my pred and cytoxan... and then my head came back and my more cheerful spirits.

  4. Thanks, Ladies.

    In initiating tracking for my site I noticed both your sites were far more popular than mine. I think you do me a great favor by posting here. Happy I struck a noive.



  5. I will help you with your spacing here. :)

    I wanted to ask - have you been out toward point reyes? ever seen the ship on the shore that is behind that market? when I think of sadness, it takes me back to those few days, where I have been beside it... I cannot explain the silence nor the sorrow that one feels being near - it is a sort of emptiness that follows you for the rest of the day. the boat sits on tomalas bay, where the sea has moved out. I will show you the photos someday.


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