Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Captain Melancholy

I have thirty minutes today to blog something for my official 400th post. One wants to be profound in such cases, but profundity can never be summoned by will, it begins with an idea, and I'm short on ideas right now, a rare occurrence when I'm well but not surprising when I'm depressed.

I checked out several books from the library yesterday on getting published. The first tells me in no uncertain terms that I must choose a specific genre and target market and market, market, schmooze, go to every writer's conference, etc. I don't particularly like to hang out with writers, especially poets, as egotism tends to suck all the oxygen out of the room. I include myself in that atmospheric phenomenon, of course.

One question the book asked of me is why I write. As for poetry, I've written it all my life and mainly felt compelled to write it. With regard to prose, it started in my last depression of '96. Not being able to work as a doctor I had to think of something to do. So I started writing to keep my brain from feeding on itself (a diet of smaller and smaller portions). That year I wrote a book of short stories called "The Eric Chronicles." I'm still proud of them. I think they have commercial potential, but who knows? One agent said they were neither adult nor young adult fiction. That left me with infants and the senile.

Thus ultimately it is my depression that gave birth to my fiction and non-fiction endeavors; I have my illness to thank for my writing.

Speaking of my illness, I'm really sick right now. The happy pills (Abilify), even though the doctor doubled the dose, quit working after two months, the same experience I had with other cocktails that began to work this year. Now my doctor and I have agreed to do something radical; I'm tapering off all the expensive mood stabilizers and will take only the antidepressants. This runs a slight risk of mania, but I have an antidote (Seroquel) at home in case I start crawling the walls like Spiderman.

Perhaps I could be a super hero? The super hero of depression? What should I call myself? Captain Melancholy will do.

Imagine, Captain Melancholy goes to a Christmas party. Instead of a tight-fitting spandex suit he wears a friar's robe with the rope around his neck, not his waist. He enters the party, head down. When he makes eye contact with anyone he starts to weep and then avoids them. Within fifteen minutes Captain Melancholy has sucked all the joy out of Smallville. People are hushed, feeling guilty about drinking. Every woman wants to crawl into a closet because she now knows her outfit is awful. All the men think their packages have grown smaller, their heads balder and their wallets thinner. Anxiety rules. Drinking increases. Guilt increases. Finally, after about half an hour of sinking spirits people begin to leave without saying good-bye; they are afraid of the human contact saying good-bye would entail.

How should this superpower be used for good? If only I could be invited to a White House affair, maybe Cheney and company would get a dark view of themselves, one more consistent with reality. Or maybe wives could hire me to crash their husbands' Super Bowl parties as payback for all that lost time on the tube.

This follows in a great tradition of Eeeyor, Marvin the Paranoid Android and many other literary figures, including Lil' Abner's Joe Bfltstyk, the character with a rain cloud always over his head.

I am without a computer or net access at home now, so I can't even write--I have nothing to type on. There's a story behind this but I won't bore you with it. Suffice it to say, if I did stay home alone all day and could not write what would I do? One of the tragedies of my form of depression is that I am usually a very active person with many goals, so that when I'm depressed I feel I should always be doing something. With nothing to do, I don't know what I'd do. Gotta get my crappy computer back; unfortunately the repairman has taken ill. I sure hope he doesn't have what I have.

All my poems, columns, books, etc. are now maintained on one 4 GB memory stick that can easily be carried on a key chain. I lift the small plastic device up to my stepson and say, "Here's my life. My life is in this plastic thingamajig." And I am both amazed and disappointed.

Everyone's a writer but only some are worth reading. The last good book I read was The Historian. I have trouble getting into books in my condition. And I feel guilty about returning to the pit in my blog, but what can I do? I could "smile through my tears and sorrow" but that gets old after a while. I could try to "change my thinking" but it's really my feeling that needs to be changed; I'm biologically stuck. I don't usually worry or suffer from delusions, as I do now, as in "I might be dying from a mesothelioma," even though I forced myself to swim over a mile yesterday. I get short of breath because of anxiety. I don't get short of breath while exercising. Exercise itself is no worse than anything else and no better except that it is physical. I could cry while swimming if I let myself, but as I said in an earlier post I find that redundant. The swim goggles can't keep the water out if the water comes from within!

Thus ends my 400th post. I write for the sake of my sanity. I'm trying to transition to writing for money, but I don't know if it will work out since my motives are not commercial, thus my projects aren't pre-planned for a known slice of the market.

There is only one fruitcake, you know, and it gets passed around to everyone every year. "Figgy pudding," FYI, is much like fruitcake. Remember that if you find yourself singing, "We won't go until we get it."

4 Kilorats,



  1. Anonymous3:46 PM PST

    You had me laughing out loud about Captain Melancholy, CE. He reminds me of the Yiddish definition of a nebbish: One who, upon entering a room, gives the distinct impression that someone has just left.

    take care

  2. Anonymous5:20 PM PST

    I, too, found the Captain hilarious, particularly the uses to which he could be put. Only you, my dear, can transform such agony to merriment.

  3. According to Dr. Sward's Cure for Melancholia

    Chocolate, a Cure for Depression

    But I understand it is as expensive as happy pills. Tastes better, I suppose. Goes well with coffee. Brandy. Christmas. Miles Davis. Naked women.

    AND undone buttons.

    Now, naked women cost a WHOLE lot more than happy pills, you know that right?


  4. To know that I made one person laugh is a great comfort to me in my melancholy. Beau, is that Robert Sward's site? If so, what medical school did he attend? Due to dial-up I was not able to read his blog entries but look forward to them.

  5. CE,

    It IS Robert Sward's site. "medical school" huh?

    What, you think it takes a medical school cause you're brainwashed by happy pills and multiple years of indoctrination by mystics in black robes and sheepskin skin? Ha! I thought so!

    Wise men know just when to laugh out loud at being cheated out of 820 years, Methuselah! It's just not FAIR, but well, we're all doomed. It don't take a medical school, to learn to laugh about it.

    It takes chocolate and whiskey and women and not in that order. And words well spoken to anyone who'll listen about how important rocks are. It's true.


  6. Captain Melancholy, friend... We've been in touch, I have your emails. Anyway, the Dr. Sward in question is a Russian-born podiatrist who died in 1982. My father, he is the primary speaker in "God is in the Cracks," (Black Moss Press, 2006) and also in new book, work in progress titled "Dr. Sward's Cure for Melancholia." That's it. For more, update since our last exchange of email:
    and the Blog, new...


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