Saturday, July 08, 2006

How this Blog Came to Be About Bipolar Disease and Poetry

Naturally I don't share everything here. I share what I can while preserving a modicum of privacy, because of this medium; and I don't want to pander to Peyton Place voyeurism. But today I think people thirst for the authentically personal because their lives are inundated with impersonal information.

It's odd how this blog has evolved. I started with humorous essays, of which I've published dozens elsewhere. They weren't very popular. Then I related our difficulties in Mexico, where Kathleen's hearing-ear-dog was held for a $10,000 ransom. I would have paid the money if I'd had it. Instead there were six months of captivity in a land I have come to detest. People were interested in that struggle.

Finally, after that stress was over, and we got our own place back in California, I sank into a depression. It's somewhat typical for a bipolar to react after the stress is over, much like migraine sufferers get their headaches when the final is over. How I wish I only suffered migraines! But suffering is not ours to choose. "Adventure is chosen, suffering is imposed."

So now my blog has morphed into two streams--probably the two things I know most about on this planet--manic-depression and poetry. I dread the former and love the latter. The fact that the two are inextricably linked through history makes for a nice fit, though I'd rather talk about poetry than mood disorders.

I teach poetry online. I also counsel bipolars. And many of the poets I know are also bipolar. One student, long since graduated, has been in the bughouse nearly 30 times, and she goes on. But she's in that "lucky" 15% of bipolars who suffer more from mania than depression.

On the net I'm best known as a poet. Yet in my bios I pointedly included my bipolar disease for the sake of honesty. Am I proud to be a bipolar? No, that would be like being proud of my height. I had little to do with either; they were the cards I was dealt, along with lumbar scoliosis, and later, severe degenerative disk disease.

Frankly, I resent the hell out of being manic-depressive. It has been a curse and also the strongest single determinant in the major choices of my life. My great burden is that I have been able to function at a high level even while psychotic, which prevented treatment. I've won many academic awards while essentially psychotic and wondering why they were given to me.

Thus I came to treatment late. In my psychiatry residency I was the golden boy so no one on the faculty considered the possibility I might have major mental illness when I got sick and had to drop out.

So, in a sense, my intelligence and the stoic endurance my mother instilled in me have worked against me. I never knew when to say "uncle." When I was finally diagnosed it took a good friend, also a psych resident, to persuade me to come to his hospital for treatment. And in my 30th year I finally met a doctor who made the diagnosis in all of half an hour. And so it goes.

Today I'm probably at 1.5 kilorats. On the bright side, when I awoke, I did have feelings of love for my beautiful wife. It's good to know they're still there, since depression reduces all feelings to a flat landscape of obsidian squares beneath a brass sky.

I'm laying off posting poems for now. If any readers wish for me to post them more often, I'll be happy to comply.

Thine in Truth and Art,



  1. Interesting blog you have here. I've just discovered it and look forward to reading your stuff. I even went over your old e-zine a little and look forward to exploring it some more.

    Kathryn (my daughter and my husband also write at our crazyinshreveport blog)

  2. Glad to hear that you are feeling again. :-)

  3. KiloRAT. That kills me. I love it. What a great way to measure mood. Or lack thereof.

    It's good to hear that you're feeling again, sir.

    I'd never thought about those times when I'm not depressed as a kind of remission but the term does fit. I'm not bipolar. I do feel my depressions are cyclical though. I tend to bottom out during the months I shouldn't--spring and summer. I think I have an adverse and I guess reverse reaction to light. I'm happiest, or happier, in the autumn and winter months when everyone else is dragging their asses around moaning about how down and out they feel. Metabolically, I seem to run faster in the cold months too which I know goes against the norm. Summer....oh, I just hate it. Summer makes me feel hopeless and lethargic.

    I like your comment below about depression being a death and a birth. I know emerging from one does feel like a birth, and god, the depths of one is death, isn't it.

    Have you read William Styron's account of his depression? It's called "Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness." I haven't. It's one of those books on my I'll get to it one of these days list.

    KiloRATS. I like it.

  4. Always good to hear from you, Laurel, one of the best that ever frequented the now defunct Melic board.

    Three best books I've read on depression/manic depression:

    Darkness Visible (depression only)

    An Unquiet Mind (by a world-renowned expert who is also bipolar)

    The Noonday Demon (mainly depression; a layman's miscellany coupled with a compelling personal narrative. Not at the literary level of the first two.)

    There's also a short account by Tolstoy that's priceless. I had a book with takes from many writers once, but it's lost to the ages.

    Sounds like you have Reverse SAD.

    Did you know most suicides occur in May?


  5. I really appreciate your honesty. This has instantly become one of my favorite blogs.
    I have had pdocs say I am bipolar and others say thatI am not. I definitely suffer with depression, OCD and ADD and GAD. I think I am bipolar, but the label isn't that important as long as the meds are working, I suppose...and I am currently on medication that works.(hallalujah!)
    I haven't been working for almost two years now, but I am planning to do so in the near future. I have been taking this job search very seriously and even rejoined my Adults w/ ADD support group to help me out.
    Anyway, it is nice to find your blog. I look forward to visiting often. (I write poetry as well)

  6. Where have all the Melicans gone?/Long time passing/Where have all the Melicans gone?/Long time ago...

    Well, if it isn't the grand pooh-bah Melican that I've stumbled across this morning!

    Maggie here.

    I am about to complete the book

    The Best Day The Worst Day--Donald Hall's book about his life with Jane Kenyon. I've always loved her work (not Hall's so much). He discusses her mood swings, but the book is largely devoted to the love and life they shared and her illness.

    I am better in some ways (now that I am post-menopausal, 47, and slowing down a bit). In my thirties, I don't know how I managed to stay out of the hospital. Mostly I was manic, and when I did bottom out, it wasn't for long. But mania is such a dangerous state of mind. You do and say and live and love and eat and drink with such intensity that you don't realize the harm you bring to yourself and those who love you. I am calmer now, but deeply saddened and still suffering from panic disorder. I lost my father in April and miss him so terribly I can't describe the constant longing and disquietude and despair I feel.

    I'll start grad school in the spring--Psych--Mental Health Counseling or MSSW (Social Work)...can't quite decide which direction I want to go. Having lived with mental health issues my entire life, I would like to be a help to others who suffer so.

    Good to read some of your thoughts on the matter, C.E.

    Although you generally bashed the hell outta my poetry, you did provide a forum for me to hone my craft, and I did get better, and I have written some fine poems over the years (I've been told they are a bit Kenyonesque). I thank Melic for giving me a place to get started.

    Thanks for that.

    Take care,


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