Monday, July 30, 2007

Could the MIracle Have Begun?

The official Kilobunny, courtesy of Jennifer:

I don't want to jinx myself by prematurely pronouncing myself improved, but to hell with superstition.

On Saturday, July 28, I did not cry. I have not wept since. I have experienced hope. I have experienced pleasure.

At Kathleen's suggestion, with the small checks I recently earned for my poems, I treated myself today to an outlandish shirt, part of the Wrangler "Silver" series--a western shirt with faux pearl snaps, black with maroon and truly silver pinstripes--shimmering silver from some special thread. A shirt fit for a manic.

I shall wear it when performing. My next gig is at "Art in the Gardens" in the Botanical Gardens of Fort Bragg, August 11. Any locals should be sure to come as it is a grand party.

Just before midnight on July 27, an old friend and bass-playing band mate of mind called to say, "I love you, monkey." We have a long history of monkey speak. He's even crazier than I am. So we talked monkey-crazy for a while and I explained to him my ongoing plight. The next morning his brother, an old guitar-playing band mate of mine, called as well and was in good spirits. I hadn't heard from either in a long time. Coincidental conversations? Or was the universe winking at me?

The period of time for which I've been taking a full dose of the new medications I suggested to my psychiatrist is now about two weeks, exactly the amount of time one would expect before a response. Am I finally coming out of the woods when I was neck-deep in bear shit? After 16 fucking fucking fucking months, am I going to make it this time and finally feel like Thomas the Tank, "a useful engine?" As Captain Picard says, "Make it so." Please make it so. I will of course let you know if my euthymia holds.

Do you know how long it's been since I had a feeling of hope? A feeling that I am not entirely worthless and that my life may not have been entirely wasted? To not fear every phone call, to not perceive every detail of existence as an inscrutable, Sisiphyean boulder to push?

BTW, the Zyprexa, like the Seroquel, made me no better, perhaps worse. All it did was ratchet up my melancholic seizures to later, because I slept later. So instead of falling apart into hopeless tears at first at 11 AM each day, I would instead begin disintegrating at 2 PM. It fooled me early on the first day after a dose before I realized the new pattern. Sneaky, sneaky chemicals.

Cross your fingers and pray, chant, or meditate for me, send flaming arrows of good karma my way. If my mood holds you'll be treated to a different kind of subject matter, though naturally my readership will decline, since nothing sells like misery. I don't mean this as a criticism but a simple acknowledgment of human nature. Thank you all for sticking with me.

1 Kilobunny!

Craig Erick

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Black Bile and Toss-Offs

Here's a cross section from a liver containing black and green bile:

As you know, the ancients blamed melancholy on an overabundance of one of the four humors, namely black bile. I'm sure my liver looks worse.

Home internet service has been cut off for now, so I may be blogging more infrequently. If we do get it restored, it will only be dial-up, where there is enough time to commit suicide between downloads, and where such waiting may indeed drive one to suicide.

I woke up today at 1:30 PM due to a new antipsychotic I initiated (Zyprexa), though my shrink wanted me to wait a week. I couldn’t bear to wait. I’ve been so discouraged I’ve begun to think of depression as a condition not an illness. At the end of July I will have matched my longest depression of 1982, 16 months. That one was cut short by electroconvulsive therapy, thankfully, something unavailable to me now because I make too much for the government to help me but not enough to afford health insurance. I should apply for SSI but am told the process is so time-consuming that I had thought I would be out of this depression before Medicare would pay for ECT. 16 months later that appears as a very bad idea, but there is also a strong pride within me that would refuse government help. As a former taxpayer that is also bad thinking.

This depression has not been as intense as the 1982-83 depression, mainly because at 52 I have a foundation of knowledge that gives me hope beyond my present symptoms. It doesn’t make the pain less painful, just less final. But the idea that depression could be my life condition does scare me. (Here I would normally begin to weep but the Zyprexa has the upper hand.) Also, as those of you know who have followed my journey, I have had brief spells of euthymia during this depression, only to have them crushed. In my worst depression there was no relief whatsoever before Ben Franklin flew a kite from my head.

Imagine that your brain was your liver and you had Hepatitis C. Or say you were a kidney that needed dialysis but couldn’t afford it, or a hip joint whose pain no cane could ameliorate but without funds to be replaced. These are metaphors to help explain manic-depression to those who don’t suffer it.

Because the disease involves the brain directly, the ego, the consciousness that says “I,” the brain, in what normally would not be faulty logic, becomes convinced that it, the brain, is the cause of the disease rather than a victim of the disease. Imagine if the liver blamed itself for hepatitis when it was really a contaminated needle; if the kidney blamed itself when its demise was due to lupus; or if the hip named itself the guilty party when every septuagenarian suffers hip degeneration. The beauty of hepatitis, nephropathy and degenerative arthritis is that the organs and joints involved do not harbor consciousness, thus can’t blame themselves. Imagine: “I’m such a bad hip. I’m a complete fuck-up. Why did I let the protective cartilage wear down? I should have told her to stop jogging in her fifties. But would she have listened? Woe is me, I am only pain, pain is all I am; if only I could be replaced! If your brain were in your hip, that’s how it would sound.

This is an oversimplification of a complex disease, yet all metaphorical parallels for other processes suffer some distorting parallax; in this case I think the comparison apt.

On the poetry front, although I have given up writing it, I still have submissions pending. One I sent to New Zealand Magazine by post. Today I received an acceptance of the poem, “Strangers.” Per usual I thought it the weakest poem in the lot; it was a toss-off, something I scribbled down about an experience in a matter of minutes. I find that such toss-offs fare far better with editors than what I consider my best poems, poems not only inspired but also labored over, with each word and line mouthed out loud and carefully considered. This is no criticism of editors or this fine magazine; I'm glad to be accepted by anybody, seeing as how I can't accept myself.

What I think my best is not what editors want. They want fresh experience transmitted. Photos of the human condition. Home movie clips.

The death of Confessional Poetry, whose heyday was the 60s, has been much exaggerated, and with six billion humans, say 2 billion of them literate, our reserve of individual experience is still holding. Still, experience is not an inexhaustible resource. The Romantics, like Coleridge, Shelly and Keats, hailed “Fancy” (their word for imagination) as the basis of poetry. Thus we have great poems like “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “The Eve of Saint Agnes,” both of them imagined. Romantics thought imagination, or the power of fictional creation, to be the heart of poetry. Nowadays it is the reverse. Only real experience, or at best “creative non-fiction,” satisfies editors’ craving for the real.

What this means for me is that what I consider my lesser poems, my toss-offs, will always be preferred over my better ones. I ever return to writing poetry, I must throw away my classical prejudices and write for the moment.

My essay on inductive and deductive poetry will soon appear in Blue Fifth Review and does a nice job of dissecting these preferences.

Meanwhile, in between crying jags and thoughts of hopelessness, impending impoverishment and the annihilation of the self, I continue to labor over my “airport” novel. I’m three quarters of the way through but have come upon a knotty problem; the idea and the execution of the supposed climactic ending simply stink. There is less tension in the conclusion of the novel than what precedes it, a death knell for any story. So I must start nearly from scratch and re-think the whole section. My self-imposed deadline is August 9, when the writer’s conference begins. Kathleen has offered to read the first three quarters of the book to help me realize an ending; I am loathe to inflict such suffering on her but have agreed to do so, as I am neither at my wit’s end nor beginning; I am without wit and short on Fancy.

3 Kilorats,


Sunday, July 22, 2007


Wild ginger:

Despite my ongoing struggle with my mood disorder, I continue to expand my knowledge of local flora. Now for a rant:

Although they may beat me, stretch my skin on lampshades, inject me with polyphonic resins and ignite me with acetylene torches, I will not give up my secret.

My secret was passed down from generations, the secret that holds the universe captive, that makes the stars do our bidding and the planets follow meekly behind. To reveal it is not worth one life, much less many lives. No amount of organic matter can justify the telling of the secret for a mere reprieve from our planned obsolescence.

What is the secret? To ask that is to be a traitor to the living and no hero to the dead. When a secret is kept for generations, generations have agreed that its price is beyond rubies and gold, beyond a loft in Manhattan or a turn-of-the-century Victorian in San Francisco.

Many don’t understand that nowadays; many have gone over to matter absolutely, believing stuff is the central goal of our species. Perhaps it is. But my forebears and I resist the temptation. We consider our secret too valuable to sell.

The secret is obvious, of course; those who know it need not pursue it and those who don’t, well, no amount of money could secure the wisdom they seek.

I met a panhandler the other day in a greasy orange parka with a watch cap of green wool, straw-colored hair issuing beneath it, and the au courant, open-fingered gloves revealing dirty fingernails in the standard urban cliche'.

“Can you spare some change for a Vet?” he said.

“Let me see your discharge papers,” I said.

“Man, you some kind of hard ass? You don’t believe me? Agent orange wrecked my mind.”

“Agent Craig wrecked mine. Pull up your sleeves,” I said. He wouldn’t. Too many track marks, obviously.

“Go away, man, you’re bringing me down,” he said.

“Sorry,” I said, “As a general rule I don’t give money to liars.”

I relate this to tell you that mercy is not enough. Mercy has been hornswaggled, kidnapped, sucked up like nectar from a flower. If a con knows you’re giving something away, by God, he won’t lift a broom for it but his practiced, heartfelt earnestness will strive to unlock your heart.

So much charity is wasted on the persuasive.

The ones in real need are rarely so verbally gifted. And how many of us commit charity to make ourselves feel better, hmm? The better they say, "thanks," the better we feel.

We have the highest incarceration rate in the world, over 2 million prisoners in the U.S., approaching 0.5% of our population, easily outnumbering doctors. Our charges have a 67% recidivism rate within three years.

Half of our inmates committed non-violent crime, usually drug-related. If we released them, the money saved could fund universal health insurance (this is just an estimate of mine, when combined with present programs; I don't claim to have the math down, but the savings would be 300 billion).

The cost of maintaining one prisoner for a year in California is about $30,000, a figure above the poverty level for a single person, even if that person is forced to live in an 8 X 6 cell, sometimes with two other roommates.

Is this crazy or what?

And some guards, with only a high school education, overtime included, make over $200,000 a year--more than some wardens.

Upon discharge a prisoner gets a bus ticket and the clothes he came in with, along with any money he earned (at 10 cents an hour) that he didn’t spend on deodorant or cigarettes. God bless America. If there’s no “home” to return to, the bus takes him nowhere. Bleakness. Repetition. Devaluation. Reward for predation.

Everyone's corrupt. But society would collapse without enforcers. Who would police Iraq? Who would punish Scooter Libby? Who would object to political firings of federal DAs when the executive branch has full power to fire any they please?

The greatest danger to Plato's Republic is not poets but literacy. Especially literacy in the pursuit of facts. God forbid. Put on a dark suit and answer your roll call vote. Constituents are barbituates.

I listened with great interest to a medicinal herbalist the other day. “Milk thistle gives you a positive glow,” he said. “It’s good for your liver. Figwort helps in detox.”

Why do I bring this up? Because he’s dealing drugs and giving medical advice. Shouldn't he be in prison if the law were applied equally?

The worst doctors go into enforcement; those almost as bad go into business.

I have often said that if every statute on city, state and federal books were enforced, we would all be in prison. How would we then pay the guards? By making license plates?

Good and evil are not absolutes in society; they are defined by current culture. Heretics were formerly burned and now drug dealers are incarcerated. Witches were put to death but now Wicca is chic. Debtors once went to prison but are now offered more credit cards.

By the way, I apologize again to anyone I called “stupid” in the comments section. Especially if it was Jennifer. I need every friend I can get.

Am I arrogant? Is it arrogant to spew the truth as I see it without need to please any constituency?

I think not. People don’t have to read me. Take me off your bookmarks; to otherwise complain is a self-pitying paradox.

I can’t wait for sleep to come. Being awake is so much work. I’m so tired of the player piano of my brain. If only I could come by some new rolls.

Fuck everything that moves. Bless the rocks.

I hate you all as much as I love you. I flagellate myself to please you. How I wish for ataraxia!

Please receive this rant as a rant and not as an essay. Or don't. Eat me.

2 Kilorats,


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Poem from the New Yorker

Just when you think you know what kind of poetry The New Yorker publishes, they do this:

The Cold Hill Side

As months and years accumulate,
I miss you more and more.
Forgetting where I put the key,
I sometimes find a door

and other times feel stunned and lost,
though living in my own
body and life, presumably,
bewildered and alone

as the knight, kidnapped and released
to a dim world, who said
And I awoke and found me here
on the cold hill side.

--Rachel Hadas

The New Yorker, July 23 2007, p. 28

In her bio, of course, she's "published many books." The poem has merit, but not in the climate of most contemporary poetry. If I sent this piece to an online journal of moderate quality, I would have very little hope of it being accepted. Go figure.


I'm working hard at revising my novel for the upcoming writer's conference, again no great work of art but a stab at making money. Kathleen tells me my characters must be more human. I think there's not enough action and too much characterization. The important part is just to finish it, and if the hook is adequate, an editor can always fix it. I'll also have a book of essays and two of short stories tidied up for my pitch.

My mood is a little better; I haven't felt like crying yet today. I'm happy to work. A mild cold has prevented me from exercising.

I keep adding different ground covers to the exposed hill in the garden, hoping something will take. Erigeron, gazanias, heather and succulents are all hanging in there for now; as they grow it will be an eclectic landscape. They can't grow fast enough for me.

I love heather, calluna vulgaris. Here's "Warwick flame":

Still, "the weeds you have with you always."

2 Kilorats,


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Nature Boy and Cucumber Toxicity

In my last post I promised to tell the tale of the wild cucumber.

When I belonged to a sober backpacking group in my late thirties, before my back could no longer be packed, I earned the sobriquet "Nature Boy" for my indefatigable interest in wild things along with my uncanny ability to lead the lost back, cross-country, to wherever they wished to return. I have a compass in my head and know the lay of the land--it's a background software program I take for granted. Apparently many folks don't have it.

Nature Boy is willing to sample anything that looks faintly edible, usually accompanied by spitting and washing of his mouth, occasionally by gustatory approval. I have yet to find a poisonous plant that tastes good; that would be fundamentally unfair, unless the Devil has twisted creation more than I thought God would allow.

The wild cucumber is a new plant I learned here in NorCal. The plant's common name gave me hope of sustenance, and I didn't run across any statements about its edibility in my guides. Besides, I love cucumbers--English cucumbers, that is, the kind with ridges.

I watched the vines flower and mature. Their little white flowers arose on vertical stalks like crabs' eyes. I waited for the fruit.

Two weeks ago on a Saturday, despite my soul-killing depression, I suggested we hike to Cabrillo Point for an outing. On the way to the beach I noticed wild cucumbers fruiting. I picked one of the spiny fruits, broke it open, held it to my nose and took a bite. It was extremely bitter, bitter beyond vanilla extract poured directly on your tongue. I washed my mouth out repeatedly. Kathleen sniffed it as well, but she swore it never touched her lip.

Two days later, Monday morning, Kathleen awoke with a reddened philtrum which later peeled. My nose was red as well, and in a few days my philtrum, cheek and nose all began to peel. It's only just healed. Our skin felt fiery when the eruption began; we shook our heads trying to deduce a cause.

Then it came to me: delayed cellular immunity, as in poison oak. On first exposure the body has to manufacture new antibodies to cope with a menace not previously encountered, first firing the cruder IGM and afterwards the more specialized IGG. A 48 hr. delay between exposure and symptoms was about right for this scenario. I must have kissed Kathleen with the antigen still on my lip for her to have been affected.

Beware of geeks bearing lips.

Moral of the story? Craig, beware of putting things in your mouth. Most kids learn that before the age of three. Alas, all who know me know that I am socially retarded but adventurous as well, with little respect for my own safety. For my daredevil behavior in high school I earned the nickname, "Crazy Craig," despite my valedictorian academic status.

If I had been born into a primitive tribe most concerned with survival, it is possible my manic-depressive disease would never have manifested itself. Nothing brings me out of depression (if only temporarily) so quickly as a life-threatening situation, especially if someone I love is threatened.

Freeway fist fights, unfortunately, have no survival value in our culture. Nevertheless don't fuck with me or mine on the road. I'm a bad enough driver without someone endangering me. A month ago I chased a sports car down the street in San Francisco, intent on pulling the asshole out the driver's door to sweep the street with him. Unfortunately he escaped.

Kathleen said "fortunately."

There are so few opportunities to be a real man in our culture. I tend to take the window for righteous action seriously. If life is incarnation and not some video game, when an asshole smugly endangers others just because he has a plastic bubble to protect him, I think he should be faced with reality--the reality of a fist or a baseball bat--to disabuse him of the notion that his personal reality of technological isolation is in fact, not real.

People are brave with their Internet aliases and behind the wheels of their Hummers, but we all know the overwhelming majority of humans are craven cowards.

Since telling my shrink what I needed Wednesday I've been better, but I'm not out of the woods by any means. I cried too briefly for Kathleen to notice this morning and got busy with other things. Later we took Kenyon swimming, and in a battle between river and ocean currents he was able to retrieve his bottle from fifty yards, for minutes appearing stationary in his attempt to best the currents, but paddling courageously on. I thought I was going to have to swim out and save him, but Mr. Intrepid made it to shore. He is our champion, God bless him. We think swimming keeps him alive.

I've gone easy on myself since my appointment with Dr. K. I quit pushing myself to finish the novel revision. My chief writing activity has been to go through unpublished poems and delete them forever, in the equivalent of a digital bonfire. There are so many efforts of mine I don't want to be caught dead with, literally.

One benefit of this depression has been to curb my narcissism towards all my work. I am a journeyman poet, no genius, much of my work forgettable. I've put more energy into feeling neglected as an artist, I fear, than I have into my art. How's that for childish?

I'm as self-centered and easily hurt as the next guy, maybe more. Especially in depression my self-esteem, when it hangs, hangs by a fine thread.

I hope for the sake of entertainment the day comes when I feel hypomanic and blog accordingly. Then all will fear to pull on Superman's cape!

3 Kilorats,


Friday, July 13, 2007

Empowered by Desperation; New Publication

I wanted let my readers know that I'm slightly better since my 5 kilorat nadir on Tuesday. As I wept at my psychiatrist's office on Wednesday, I told him I wanted off the Cymbalta, as I didn't trust it anymore, and that the Seroquel, according to Kathleen, was making me much worse. And it was.

I asked for an antidepressant combination that helped me ten years ago: Prozac + Wellbutrin. Though at first he didn't agree, he later did, saying that he had to "listen to his patients." I was empowered by desperation: "These are the medications I think I should be on." Having him concede made me feel more in control of my fate. I haven't cried since that session.

I don't claim to be well, just not as sick.

I want to be well. If Jesus were nearby I would outshout the lepers.

Despite my depression, over the last four months I've had four magazines pay me for poems: Byline, Astropoetica, Grasslimb and Contrary. I had an essay published in Umbrella and have another essay coming out later this month in Blue Fifth Review. Meanwhile Sam Rasnake (whose blog I recommend, link below), editor of Blue Fifth, has honored me with a broadside--an independent feature, so I understand it--where a poet reads his poem on audio. Mine is "Almost Eden," a love poem.

Although an ex-poet, I can still send old ones away. And however small the check, I can call myself "a professional"--even if I can't make a living from it, not by a longshot.

I'm too tired to write more, but in my next post I hope to tell the tale of the wild cucumber.

Until then, at 3 Kilorats,


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

At 5 Kilorats

Despair is giving in absolutely to catatonia, immobility, infantilism, hopelessness, bowing down to the darkness, agreeing with the Devil.

In depression you experience the temptation to all these things but persevere in the face of them, acting as if, pretending to hope, believing one day you will be better.

My weeping spells generally occur around 11AM or 4PM or both. Today I was hit early, in the shower, around 10 AM. What triggered it? I was remembering my last hospitalization in January of 1996, when it took all the strength I had to get out of bed and get into the shower. I mean all my strength. Every last jot and tittle of my conscious will.

Afterwards I tried to tie my shoes. I couldn't remember how to tie my shoes. It was as if I had to re-think every step of the process, to learn all over again as if I had never done it before. It was extremely puzzling but I finally mastered it.

Likewise as I was showering today I was forgetting how to shower; in what order did I apply shampoo? Had I shampooed already? When to scrub my back? I burst into tears because I was reminded of trying to tie my shoes in '96.

When severely depressed you can't take any automatic behavior for granted, and it's a terrible thing to have to start every task from point zero, to have to look up your own phone number, to try to remember anything you've read. Depression is much harder on the memory than ECT; how I wish I had insurance and could afford ECT! So on with the drug trials.

You see, my present antidepressant is Cymbalta, which has a short half-life, which means the blood levels rise and fall quickly, much more quickly than Prozac, for instance. Therefore missing a day or taking a half dose for two days can completely undermine any progress. Thus I wonder if part of this roller coaster is because mornings my blood level is lower, and perhaps I have another drop in the late afternoon--then this is my usual pattern in depression of sadness seizures, so who knows?

I think it may be time to change my antidepressant. This one has me sputtering; it drops me like an eagle drops a fish back in a lake, where I wait for another eagle.

"Tears on my keyboard..."

Finished 26,000 words of novel revision. My how it sucks! Of course I think all my work sucks in this condition. I've been going through my unpublished poems and deleting liberally, poems that failed, poems I never want to see again.

I do feel better after I cry; numb, perhaps, but the tension is somewhat relieved. In my grief my infant self cries out for Daddy/Mommy/God. Pitiful, huh? But human, so human..

I don't know God. He may know me. Let him worry about me; I'm too sick to worry about him.

5 Kilorats,


Monday, July 09, 2007

Depression, Money, and My Dislike of Dogs

The sun is just lighting the east side of the redwood trees on this overcast morning. I prefer overcast when depressed; the sun seems an oxymoron.

I wonder if I can write anything more about clinical depression. It's been a rough ride. My shrink added antipsychotics last Wednesday, so I'm half-stoned most of the time, though I care less about my deeds and misdeeds than otherwise. Still my crying spells and interior self-denigrating thoughts persist.

I know this is depressive thinking, but it is not without merit to believe I have wasted my life. That thought brings tears to my eyes, bringing up the chicken and egg conundrum where the sad thought induces the sad affect; we've been over that already and you know that I believe it is the sad affect which generates the sad thoughts.

I've had all these years on disability with dreams of being a writer but no practical plan for marketing and making money from it. I would like to make money, a lot of money, and I can say that for the first time in my life, an ambition that most us come to in our twenties. I'm only thirty years late for that train, although a bad long-term marriage with a non-working wife and three children took their toll in alimony and custody. Nevertheless I always took money for granted and lived hand-to-mouth, save a few years I had some equity in my home. My interests were always "beyond" money. But nothing's really "beyond" money unless you're a monk. And by not paying enough attention, I'm now in a position where money controls me, not the other way around; if the flow stopped tomorrow Kathleen and I would have to move into a tent. Since my disability was yanked in the fall of 2005 (subsequently restored in December, although in the interim all my savings were taken by my first ex-wife), I have been understandably paranoid about having no income tomorrow, which doesn't help.

Premature old age is another symptom of depression. You start dwelling on penury and poor health and how will you get your medications and where will you live and such things. You wonder how you will die. Cancer runs in my family and my cardiac risk is now low without the smoking. But instead of making plans for today and "smelling the flowers," you can only see the brown blooms of winter on the denuded rose bush.

Here's a poem from my first and only book (I have stopped writing poetry):

A Time to Uproot

It shot forth one thin stem
from the waxed, purple stalks.
Suddenly they yellowed, wilted,
a sickness had taken hold.
I waited but no new shoot
grew fine and green between the thorns.

While weeding one day
I placed my hand around the branches,
testing them a little,
when the whole thing sprang into my clutch.
I inspected the roots:
an army of translucent termites
was feasting on the soft wood,
each a hideous jewel of pale yellow.

The bush left a wound in the ground,
dark and pleading, a crumbling mouth.
I salved it as best I could
with powdery white pesticide.

I'm working on my airport book thriller again so that it's ready for the writer's conference in August when I'll have the opportunity to meet with agents. It's designed to be a page turner, though I dwell too much on conversation and character, I fear. I stopped revising the Eliot book for now to revise the novel, as it has more potential for earning money.


I was going to write about dogs and how I didn't like them today: How they haul in every burr and frond into the house, how a house is impossible to keep clean with a big, hairy dog, how I hate the consistency and smell as I mix the wet food in with the dry food in the morning before I have my coffee, how I wonder when a long hair squats how fecal matter can possibly be spared from hanging from its fur (which helps me understand why they cut off some dogs' tails for cleanliness, among other reasons). I hate picking up their poop in public places, I hate waiting around while they sniff in circles making up their minds where to poop. I don't like sticking my fingers down my dog's throat to make sure he swallows his medicine.

Dogs are gross: messy, stupid, smelly, and they demand a lot of care. I love Kenyon but I don't like him as a dog; I wish he had scales instead, that he were as clean as a lizard. There, I've said it. I'm more of a cat person at heart. They're cleaner and smarter. But you can't have nice furniture around them, and if they get mad and start pissing on things you're in big trouble, as the scent is impossible to remove.

One last thing: I don't know if I shall continue this blog after its two-year anniversary on July 27th. I don't know how much good it does me or anyone else. It helps most when I'm very depressed and the act of writing takes my mind off myself for a while. But today it's just making me cry.

4 Kilorats,


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

4 Kilorats; On the Infantilization of Depression

Do you ever feel invisible?

I mentioned that at my men's group no one asked me to "check in" and it wasn't noticed, though only four men were there.

Last night at a preparatory meeting for our yearly retreat, this year focused on the Jungian archetype of the King, many made suggestions. At first I decided not to speak, as it was my first visit to this meeting. But after a while I joined in, offering the idea that the King could not abdicate, as in King Lear's mistake; I pointed out the idea of the wounded King in the idea of the Fisher King; that a king could never really take a vacation from his responsibilities; that a king needs the humility to repent, and that we should first concentrate on the barriers that kept us from envisioning "the King within." All well and fine. But when the leader summed up the meeting, though he included some of my ideas, he curiously credited everyone for their ideas except me. As if I hadn't been there. As if mine were a disembodied voice without a person attached.

I know I tend to be overly intellectual; I mentioned some literary sources, like Nathan's famous upbraiding King David for the Bathsheba affair, the Grail legend, King Lear, and I hope none beyond that. Perhaps what makes people forget me is that I always feel the need to cite a reference for an opinion; maybe I know nothing except references; maybe I don't exist and have no opinion, substituting references and the opinions of others to shore up my own lack of identity. How do I come across to others? It's nearly impossible to say, but I fear I come across as cold and intellectual, separate, someone not involved in the social flow, someone who doesn't get the "hints" from other people about the social process, someone who throws red herrings on a pile of sardines.

Strangely I brought a notebook to the meeting, and it was the same notebook I brought to last year's retreat when I was seriously depressed-- as I am again now. And it contained notes on the very same problems I still experience, mainly regarding narcissism. Why must I be critical of others in my mind? Why do I suffer from jealousy? What infantile psychology lives in me to make me feel as if I ought to be up on the stage, the center of attention, instead of that person with the microphone?

Naturally depression causes psychological regression. (I'm crying as I write this.) I'm so tired of this journey. I feel like a raw nerve. Friendless. Worthless. Obviously too self-involved, but not knowing how to escape the bell jar.

I have had one good thought in this relapse of ten day's duration; I have prayed for a teacher. I guess that's another way of saying I want more than medications, I want "therapy" as well. But it's not psychodynamic therapy I seek; it's just a wise man to help guide me. All my life I've resisted trusting most authorities or teachers, to avoid the disappointment of overidealization and the subsequent devaluation, but I don't fear that now. What I fear is getting stuck here longer.

It's good to write because that gives me a brief respite from talking to myself inside my head, a habit I can rarely shake. Was I so lonely as an infant and toddler that I had to create all this noise in my mind? Ah to be cooking and not think about cooking, just to cook... the Zen of being wedded to the action without thinking, just doing... I went fishing yesterday and caught nothing from the rocks, I never do... but I couldn't just fish. I did think about making a catalogue of all my fears so that I could look at them and tackle them as best I could. Maybe I'll do that. But not on this blog.

Meanwhile I've been learning many new wildflowers here in my wanderings. Here's the coast onion, Allium dichlamydeum:

Here's sky lupine, Lupinus nanus:

Come July 27 it will be the two-year anniversary of my blog. I don't know how many have visited it as I've only had a tracker since October '06. Since then a little over 11,000 have, more than a thousand a month. Most are, no doubt, recurrent visitors, the rest find me, sometimes serendipitously while looking for something else, by searches.

Why do I persist in blogging? Mainly because it's therapeutic. I never believed in diaries; this is my first.

Since I sank into a depression on April 1, 2006, I've probably had less than two months relief--not of feeling happy but feeling normal. I most regret the burden my illness has placed on Kathleen. She is wonderful. No doubt if I were utterly home alone I would be much worse.

The problem with the psychological infantilization of depression is that one cannot receive the very praise and recognition one craves; it is suspect. Only when my chemicals are righted can I receive such things, but when my chemicals are righted the problem seems to disappear. So it's not worth thinking about. But I can't help it!

Depression is not a choice--why would anyone choose it? It is a curse, and in my case a familial, genetic curse. I got the bad genes. End of story. And I'm weak besides, while depressed; I don't always act in my own best interest because of the underlying hopelessness always whispering: "What's the use of doing this or that?" Yet I continue doing. Without doing I would go utterly under.

Thanks for listening.

At 4 Kilorats,


Unexpected Light

Unexpected Light
Selected Poems and Love Poems 1998-2008 ON SALE NOW!