Poems are like Rorschachs and reveal the man within. In “Ode to a Grecian Urn” Keats achieves almost a manic transcendence, while Hardy’s “Neutral Tones” is a dark depiction of a failed romance. In my first Ghazal, then, given my current state of mind, it is not surprising that I dwell on the dark side of reality. Since I chose to submit it to a journal, however, I had to delete it from above. It was called, "Reality Bites."
I go over and over rehearsing in my mind what I will say to my shrink today. I feel a bit ashamed that I have been so public with my disease, almost as if that’s the only thing I’ll be remembered for, though the same can be said of Robert Burton and Kay Jamison. And it is therapeutic to put these things in writing, which helps objectify my plight to myself.
I want to say that “trying” to fight depression only worsens it in my experience; acceptance is all until it passes. If your truck is stuck in the mud, you can spin your wheels or take out a good novel and wait for the mud to dry. You can’t dry the mud yourself. Those who are not manic-depressive tend to overestimate what behavioral changes can do for a deep depression.
Look: I just took a class on mushrooms and went mushroom hunting. I’m in an HTML class where I’m building a website. I start a master gardener program in January. I try to walk an hour a day. I’ve lost a little weight on Kathleen’s high protein diet. I’ve written a poetry review for a major newspaper. I finalized three poetry manuscripts and have them all floating in various contests. I correspond with literary friends. Sometimes I go fishing. I do household chores like vacuuming, the dishes, cooking. I spent a long time nursing a vegetable garden along until October when it essentially died. I give advice to friends and family about their mood disorders. I help take care of our old dog, Kenyon. I pay the bills. I have to plan for medication refills through the net from Canada. I help with shopping. We watch good movies come nightfall. But this little bit is not enough to justify my life. Not even a Pulitzer would justify my life. The question is, why do I feel it necessary to justify my life? Because my self-esteem, especially when depressed, is based on achievement, not loving acceptance. I wish I could change this about myself; when my mood is up I can approach this view. Alas, for now it remains as distant as Antarctica.
Thine in Truth and Art,
C. E. Chaffin