Sunday, July 09, 2006

Sadness Is Not Depression

Good morning. In writing about my mood fluctuations, I do not for a minute consider my experience unique. And I don't write primarily for therapy or renown. I think, given my training and literary bent, that perhaps, as in poetry, I may be able to capture something in words that other sufferers may lack words for. One function of poetry is to say for others what they wish they had words for.

Yesterday I was tearful most of the day. If I began to speak to Kathleen about how I was feeling, tears would start. I did my best to halt them, as in my experience, as a manic-depressive, when tearfulness turns into crying jags you're worse off than before.

But yesterday was different; as I said, I'm at 1.5 - 2 kilorats. (For those new to this blog, that's a measure of depression. It's explained in a previous post.) Yet my tearfulness was not from despair; it was not the chemical hopelessness depressives know. I was still human. I was grieving about my past. I had objects to be sad about, history, and my life stretched back like a dark road between blasted trees narrowing to a sky pregnant with black-bottomed clouds. So my life appeared. But I was not in despair; I was grieving. "Regrets, I've had a few." Grieving feels so much better than the black hole of despair, where tears are pointless because they are disconnected from any objects. To put it simply, I was feeling sad more than depressed, a distinction many bipolars have trouble making, since our sadness is too often a gate to despair.

I wrote yesterday about how coming out of a depression is like being born, like having a new personality, indeed being a new person. At first it's a bit frightening and you try to re-acquaint yourself with the simplest things in order to get your bearings. Below, a poem from the second half of Sine Wave about coming out of a depression after electroconvulsive therapy, where the simple thing is my moustache.


“That’s me in the corner, losing my religion.” –REM

Each day for years
I sacrificed my heart to God.

My smile got so tight
I had to eat through a straw.

Every sin in my head
brought the same familiar sirens

until I recognized myself
in the silver lenses of a policeman

who looked like me. It was then I knew
all the wanted posters of Jesus were meant for me.

I peeled them off like a bad paint job—
underneath was a darkness more terrible

than a starless, starless sky,
the pupil of a salmon’s eye

staring through display glass, black as hell.
After the electrodes and the gel

and two weeks at Hospital Hotel
it was enough to finger my own face.

Was that my moustache?
Will anyone recognize me on the street?

Prepare a face to meet the faces you will meet.


  1. I enjoyed the poem as well as the post.

  2. i could not help notice the reborn stuff well tell me being reborn is just like starting the whole cycle again sounds much like toucher to me but i could be wrong of course everybody is different at the end of the day.

  3. I have to admit you took great efort in your post this I comend you on 10 out ov 10 well done


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