Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Ghazal: Reality Bites; On Self-Esteem

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

11 comments:

  1. Anonymous7:08 PM PST

    Ok, well .. I could remove my rubber soled shoes and scuffscuff my fuzzylittle acrylic sockies all the way across the carpeted sky -- reach a finger out and touch
    you -- perhaps.

    effin effy yrs! well, I was given cellXa and it made me feel as an un-oiled tinman, though in a woman's body --so I called and said forgetaboutit.iain'ttakinit.

    Figgered I had a Re:ason to be de/pressed.did/do.

    Ok - have you ever had an MRI, by chance?
    off the wall, I know, but that's the way my little pea-brain works.lol.
    Also, have been batt-ling the weight thing myself of late -- I'm thinking of the metabolic changes after 30/40 .. every .. how many years?:)
    well, it only makes sense, though some German philosopher -- (Steiner?) once said that seven was the keynote number -- ah , who knows.
    speaking of
    Thresholds..

    have you seen Patch Adams? and isn't it interesting how they give kids with that Add disorder speed?

    one would think they'd need a depressant, logically, no?

    Well - someone's got this thing all figured out.. but I don't think it's human.
    :)... and as far as this:

    "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."

    Shuttttt ..... Uuppppppppppp.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dunno if it helps, CE, but I do and have always thought of you first as a writer and editor, and next as a 'retired' doctor. The depression probably feels like part of you, but from the outside it looks like a heavy lead blanket that's mashing you down, rather than something inherent to your being. That said, it sometimes takes more than one man's hands to lift that kind of a blanket.

    ReplyDelete
  3. funny but when I read how you described your life -- fishing, classes, writing, gardening, time with the dog -- I thought, my god, what the perfect life.

    Accomplishments -- ha! I work all day and end each evening deeper in the hole.

    I don't take meds, but I drink.

    I envy you, CE.

    I need to sleep.

    ReplyDelete
  4. nothing worth living for?
    then nothing worth dying for either :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. In my stupidity I forgot how hard most people work at jobs and how 85% of the working populace dislike their work. I can see how Jim would envy me, and Anon said "shut up!" My normal self would count my blessings.

    My depressed self would actually rather be occupied by work. My senior year at UCLA I took 16 units and worked three jobs because, in my second-worst depression ever, any minute left over was a minute to dwell on myself.

    My point in describing my life was to show that I don't give in to paralysis. I continue to act, even if making coffee is an anxiety-provoking trial-- (Will I be able to do it? My hand trembles and I spill coffee.)

    As for income, I purchased private disability insurance prior to my last debacle. I highly recommend it to anyone working. It's hard to work at anything demanding when you're crazy.

    Thanks, Valerie. I guess our mutual knitting acquaintance has contacted you. Are you still publishing your journal, was it "Grass Limbs?"

    And Anon, you touch on so many subjects I can' do them justice here, but you can always e-mail me.

    Funny, no one mentioned the poem. I guess the silence tells me it didn't make much of an impression. But it's only my first ghazal.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous8:51 AM PST

    'I go over and over rehearsing in my mind what I will say to my shrink today.'

    You're the trained expert CE, but doesn't rehearsing for your shrink, shrink the therapeutic benefits, or he more drug courier than psychoanalytic transferee?

    As I recall from somewhere else, you're somewhat the cynic on the whole Freudian talking points?

    norm

    ReplyDelete
  7. For the two major mental illnesses, schizophrenia and manic-depression, I am a firm believer in biological psychiatry with only supportive therapy.

    Regarding psychotherapy, the most definitive factor in measuring effectiveness is whether or not the patient liked the therapist.

    Before I was diagnosed, I didn't like my analyst. Studies have shown "deep psychotherapy" to be of no benefit in severe mood disorders. The same is true for schizophrenia.

    ReplyDelete
  8. BTW, I am still publishing Grasslimb, CE. I sure miss the Melic boards, though.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yeah, it was sad the way the boards self-destructed after the invasion of rude Philistines. One bad apple spoils the whole barrel. Glad Grasslimb is stil around.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Susan Balée7:22 PM PST

    I have only recently discovered your blog, but I love your openness and honesty -- and your poetry kicks *ss! No kidding. I love good poetry and the poem just before this post (the knife to the heart) is incredible.

    I suppose you've read Kay Redfield Jamison's "Unquiet Mind" and some of the other books about bipolar disorder. I used to teach a class on "memoirs of madness" because there are so many good ones -- about depression, manic depression, multiple personality disorder ("The Magic Daughter" -- an amazing book), and so forth. I think you should use the material in this blog to write one yourself.

    You could make some money and pay for health insurance. (My husband and I cover our family's -- we're both writers -- and it does cost a lot, and that without major pre-existing conditions.)

    Lastly, you have a lot of guts. Sometimes it's hard enough to get through an hour of pain, much less the years of it you've documented here. I salute your bravery.

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  11. Susan--I'm brave because I've had to be. I don't know how to be anything else. To practice medicine, even perform surgery while psychotically depressed--that is certainly sucking it up. Back then I didn't really know any better. It was on the schedule, I had to do it.

    Yes, I mentioned Jamison's book in today's post.

    Glide you liked the previous villanelle.

    Glad of your success as writers.

    Do come back!

    ReplyDelete

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