Monday, September 24, 2007

Cry me a river

I wish I had better news. I wish I could say, “I’m well! I’m well! Thank God Almighty I’m well!”

But I’m not. I’m sick. I’m very sick.

Since Friday, soon after I wake up I burst into tears and sobs and they last all day until my tear ducts are just burned out by nighttime. Even yesterday, when I hiked with Kathleen along the beautiful cliffs of the coastline, I couldn’t stop the tears running down my cheeks beneath my Ray-Bans. I called my doctor but we did not connect. I don’t know how to stop crying. I don’t know what I’m crying about. It’s as if someone left the alarm clock on and it won’t shut off.

I am overcome with grief. Yes, I miss Rachel; yes, I can’t believe she’s dead. Yes, that thought makes me weep. But my grief, my physical expression of grief, triggers self-denigrating thoughts as well: How incompetent and incapable I am. What a failure I am. I couldn't get a job at McDonald's. I would never learn to flip the hamburgers properly. My back hurts always, yes, and my mind seems like a tattered kite hanging from the telephone wire, but I feel as if I deserve to be thrown out on the streets and given a shopping cart. Or perhaps I could join a freak circus. “The Saddest Man Alive,” the marquee would read. The curtain would open and there I would sit, watering the tulips.

I want to look “well” for Kathleen. But I can’t dissimulate in front of her. I tell her of my little triumphs, how I put shelves in the coat closet, how I cleaned out the entire refrigerator. During these tasks I continued to weep. Obviously I can function in this state, though it feels as if I can't.

What am I crying about? I don’t know. It’s like a record skipping. I should have had ECT a year ago, but who knows whether my daughter’s death might have sent me off the deep end again anyway? I took an antipsychotic this morning hoping it will calm me some. I called my doctor again. I try to be responsible about my illness.

Netflix sent me “The Elephant Man,” which I apparently ordered long ago. Terrific movie. I understand John Merrick, as I think most of us do. Not that I have actually suffered as a sideshow freak and been beaten by a drunken handler. It’s just the feeling of being so very different when I know I am not, just as he yells at his pursuers, “I am a human being!” And because he is befriended and loved, he receives more happiness than any of us can imagine—who can imagine being lifted from such a wretched state to become a favorite of London society, and that not because he was a freak, but because he was human despite his unfortunate appearance.

I have a friend who suffers from the same disease, neurofibromatosis or “Von Recklinghausen’s disease.” Like most cases, his is much less severe, though the fibrous tumors have necessitated multiple surgeries on his foot. I’ve never heard him complain about it.

I recently read an article in the New Yorker about those rare individuals afflicted with Lesch-Nyan syndrome. Because of one random mutation in their X chromosome, they chew their lips and fingers off and react oppositely in their emotions—that is, if they like someone they may cuss at him or punch him. If they dislike someone they may say something polite. Their hands must be covered with mitts because their fingers frighten them, as they feel suddenly compelled to bite them. Most have no lips, having long since chewed them off. Often they ask their caretakers to restrain them when they feel the self-destructive compulsions coming on. To think that one base pair askew in the DNA chain could result in such specific behaviors is frightening and raises serious questions about free will.

Kathleen tells me, “It’s not your fault. It’s your genes.”

But I don’t know any other me. Just because some genetic abnormality makes me cry for days on end doesn’t mean that that crying feels any less like me. And I don't dwell on suicide, a thought that more hounds me when depressed.

Nevertheless, if genetics is destiny, can I make myself stop crying? Can I will myself into sanity? Of course not. I can’t control it any more than an epileptic can control a seizure. This is not a failure of courage or anything else; it is not a failure at all. It is a biological sentence that differs from grief.

I don't feel sorry for myself; if I grieve, I grieve for the whole world, because I feel as if the object of my grief has become diffused and fills the universe.

If you asked me why I weep, I could only say, “For nothing. For everything.” My sadness has no limit except this body. Still, my state is not like a pure biological depression. It is something new. I have never cried this much when depressed; in that state there is too much of the bitter, metallic despair in me to do so.

I don’t feel inhuman. I feel too human, even if the capacity for sadness is only one aspect of being human.

In writing this I have temporarily stopped crying.

I feel like an emotional astronaut. I try to report the journey and it doesn’t have to make sense.




  1. Anonymous6:51 PM PDT

    "I feel like an emotional astronaut. I try to report the journey and it doesn’t have to make sense."


    I suspect your adept reportage is helping someone. There's reason enough to carry on. I think of our friend Becker who said the neurotic feels everthing and lacks the filters to cultivate an appropriate lie or credo to live under. So I think your 'too humanness' notion may have a certain validity.

    If only you could 'notice less', but your intellect is a relentless vacuum-cleaner.

    my best as always,



    Ed Just

  3. Coralpoetry2:48 PM PDT

    Hi, CE,

    I sent you an email today, before I read your blog. How could I have misread your situation so badly?

    I am so sorry, I did not know you are grieving too. I have only just read your blog after a few weeks away from connecting with anybody.

    I wish you everything I could ever wish for myself. I wish a miracle to greet you as you wake up. I wish you each and every guiding star to shine over you as you sleep.


  4. Anonymous6:01 PM PDT

    yeah, one time I told my mom on the phone, maybe these are tears of joy -- but that was really just to shut her up as she was tell me not to cry... I had/have a right to cry.

    I don't know if others' have a right to harrass another though, if the cyclone next door should have been taunting me about growing pumpkins so that I can make the five grand prize they give for the largest one in half moonbay, simply because he never had any luck with his garden or that he wanted a piece of my rose, not the young sprouts but the more mature stalk part... or telling me he can[t seem to figure me out... what's to figure ,, I'm a 3. I told him flat out.. it's not about money, I have that -- quote unquote.
    I've never been cute on camera, my daughter however, thank jeans got her fathers jaw, and that made all the difference,,, although my brother did tell her when he saw her after many years that "she was me" --

    Hardly, if that be the case pro me,,, as a teenager I was hot And oblivious about it all.

    aww to be young
    at heart
    and innocent

    I liked your glasses, and your letting your hair grow out,,, you were right -- loose the visor.

  5. First of all, I am sorry you are feeling so low...the loss of a child, a loved one is a different kind of depression, a situational one that is expected, will lessen with time, tho never go away...but when combined with chronic depression, I can only imagine how difficult that would be. You mentioned crying while walking the headlands...sometimes, particularly this time of year in autumn light, they are so beautiful, I cry at the sheer beauty of them so you are not alone.

    My son recently lost a peer to Lesch-Nylan, and we mourn his loss and the loss of his parents who were way beyond heroes. Jed lived a full life that touched all who knew him.

    And I agree with Kathleen and you:

    I can’t control it any more than an epileptic can control a seizure. This is not a failure of courage or anything else; it is not a failure at all. It is a biological sentence that differs from grief.

    Living with a son with frequent seizures for 32 years, I assure you it is not a failure of courage...not a failure at all....and indeed it differs from grief. There is sadness, stress, but it is different from grief.

    We need to treat ourselves to a big breakfast, I think. You name the day! : )

    And please know you both are in my thoughts...


    Sorry...I posted this in the wrong place first...age is a terrible thing. : )

  6. Anonymous8:56 PM PDT

    You should check out Wal-Marts pharmacy if Wal-Mart is not anathema on moral or political grounds. You can definately get prozac there, and maybe blood pressure medication. A 30 day supply of generic drug is $4.00. John and I get several drugs there since we don't have insurance either. Some of them cost $9.00. It's worth a try. Just look up and check on pharmacy.

    Robin reads your blog every day and lets me know when you have something to say about Rachel. A sweet child, indeed, she was, is.
    Some of the Summers family members are getting a butterfly tattoo, not Keturah, of course, but me, Sarah, Louise, maybe my mom and Becky. Born to be wild!


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