Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sick F**k

I wish with all my heart that I could report some kind of improvement in my overall mood. I don't want to bore the reader with yet another post on depression, but I have little choice if I dare to speak of my real condition. Sometimes I do write without regard to my mood; sometimes I even attempt humor while overwhelmed with sadness and anxiety. Because depression is utterly boring. As for writing as therapy, I wrote this today:

Depression #34

Keep on bleeding, you die;
keep on crying, nothing happens.
I'm just a knife away.

Beware this sorrow, it can gut you
the way ants hollow out
the carcass of a grasshopper.

I cannot shake your hand,
my eyes are in my palms.
That contact is electric--

(I'll suck your positive ions out!)
I'll have the pie with no filling.
What flavor is air?

Art is a crock. Witness to becomes
witness for, as in the journalist who films
the beheading of his countryman.

He doesn't interfere with history,
why the murderers let him in.
Try interfering with me.

I am suicidal but I am not at risk for suicide. I know I have had far too high an opinion of myself over my life, a brittle defense against the collapse of self-esteem, but it's of no good to me now.

Two days ago I did something writers are supposed to do: I sent follow-up queries to magazines with outstanding submissions; this yielded two more publications. Another editor took a new submission gladly, promising to publish several, calling much of it "pure gold." None of this made me happier in any way.

Yesterday in a trance I sent off a number of new submissions to both paying and non-paying venues. I did it to keep busy, because it's something I know how to do, like washing the dishes. An automatic behavior. I have no hopes for the submissions, but afterwards I could point and say, "Look! I did something. There are six more submissions in my submissions folder."

Why do have this overwhelming need to justify myself to myself, as if some authority lived in my head waiting for a report? Why do I pray generically when only medical intervention has helped me in the past?

This is not redemptive suffering. This is the suffering of a dumb beast. I don't get stronger or wiser from it; I get dumber. Depression wrecks my mind, I have no confidence in the facts I've already learned and find new facts harder to digest. Maybe part of this is aging, I don't know. Stick a blade of dry ice in my heart, that's how I feel. Beyond broken. Broken and discarded. A headless doll by the roadside.

There are those who love me, but I don't call them for the most part, I'm too depressed. That doesn't mean I wouldn't appreciate a call, only that I can't rouse myself to risk calling. What do I have to tell them, anyway? Only bad news. Eventually the depressive drives everyone but the most devoted away. I'm not a martyr and I'm not a saint. I'm just one mortal in the grip of a terrible illness, an illness that has destroyed better men than myself.

Today's post is not a turn for the worse but an admission of the elephant in the room. Beneath the plastic veneer of Adderall I am as sad as ever. Yesterday afternoon, after making it home, I began to weep. Beer drinkers know this as "popping the cork." When they first start to pee they're guaranteed to start peeing a lot. When I give into tears I'm guaranteed to start crying a lot, as I have most of today.

Logically, I responded to Cymbalta for one month, to Abilify with Wellbutrin and Prozac for nearly two months, and to Adderall with Abilify (and the others) for a few days. That anti-ADD effect I first experienced soon vanished. What I haven't tried is Abilify with Cymbalta. But I don't trust Cymbalta, it's so short-acting. Perhaps I should give Effexor a try again; formerly I couldn't tolerate it, but how could it make me any worse?

What I really need is ECT. Kathleen's insurance won't apply to me until March. That's when I need to get aggressive and insist on treatment, as April 1 will mark two years of largely being underwater. Not having medical insurance for a major illness is a terrible thing; it's also a terrible thing that insurance companies turn you down because you have a major illness. Insurance is so often for those who don't need it. How else can they keep their premiums down?

In all these years I've never thought of myself inwardly as disabled, despite the objective opinions of other doctors. That would have been too hard on my self-esteem. Yet as a doctor I would forbid me to practice medicine in this state, as I might endanger patients by my lack of confidence. (My back couldn't take a day's work in any case.) At least I've never broken down in front of a patient--and if I had, what would it matter in the grand scheme of things? And why do I mention this little accomplishment except to salvage a shred of pride for myself?

I just want to die, that's it. I'm tired of being sick. I've done all I can; I've taken my meds faithfully, continued to exercise, tried to stay busy, but for what? To pass the time. To kill time. I don't know how I fill a day but I manage to. I hate being a burden in print or in person, but here I am. I yell out "I accept myself as disabled" but there are no magic words. I am afraid of being accused of self-pity but it's not like that. I don't think, "Poor me, poor Craig." I think, "Help! Help! Help! Code blue! Somebody do something! Someone must be able to do something! There's a desperation under my skin and it's not silent. I know I'm sick.

Don't cry for me, Argentina!

7 Kilorats (I do feel a little better in the evenings, as in most depressions),

Captain Melancholy


  1. Anonymous5:27 PM PST


    Another young actor Heath Ledger dead today...probable suicide.

    It must be terrifying to have 'everything' and realize it isn't nearly enough, a gut-wrenching terminus. You always have 'a book deal' or 'fame' as a stalking horse, CE. Me too. There's that old Gypsy curse 'may your dreams come true'.

    keep striving in misery

  2. Sorry about Ledger, let's hope it's accidental overdose. Suicide is so sad.

    Are you suggesting that in mock pursuit of celebrity, revolted with ourselves, we are better off to still want it than to have it? Life is envy, death cures it. Nothing less. Is the dream fulfilled the dream ruined? Why should I envy anyone? Who am I to waste time thinking about myself? We bring the problems with us, circumstances are merely backdrop. The irrational trumps the real. I speak psychotically, I think.

  3. I wish I could be a better friend, get you out, feeling alive again but, I too, am up to my ass in alligators...not alligators, but an alligator for sure...one that I care for, love and am responsible for. Hang in there, Craig, snowdrops are beginning to bloom and I have one camellia blooming already...hang in there, pal, and we'll have breakfast again soon. Eggheads next time, Eggs Benedict on me!


  4. Anonymous8:18 AM PST

    Yes! We infer our problems onto our circumstances.

    I believe CE you are wiser than you know. Your mind self-sabotages in an effort to keep your dreams permanently beyond reach, as you have intuited at some level that 'consummate arrival' is fraught with peril, the death of striving. Only non-arrival keeps hope alive. Alas Heath was not so lucky getting 'everything' in his early 20's.


  5. This fascinates me as an excuse, more often labeled "fear of success." The more likely alternatives are, however, 1) lack of talent; 2) lack of fire in the belly; 3) lack of appreciation of commercial realities; 4) lack of a good business plan. And there is always the burden of a major mental illness. But I know whereof you speak: What keeps me (us) for going balls out for self-promotion? If we believe people will actually pay for our art, we need to put our money where our mouth is--I know you have a website that offers sales. I haven't established one yet. I'm ambivalent about starting one, but in that brief week of clarity before the Adderall failed, it definitely seemed the right thing to do.

    Even in my depression, my poetic vanity wishes someone had commented on the poem. Was it powerful? Did it grab you by the throat? That's how I want to write poetry if I resume. The contemporary poetry I read in the vaunted journals is anything but that: It's often "How to evade a real feeling and meaning in the astute and phonically pleasurable indulgence of lanaguage." I think we are in the elliptical age. What's a straight talker to do, even if the tropes are good? He'll be turned down at the top levels, but I get the impression that all the editors at the top level are busy reading the issues of their competitors to make sure their own publication has the right style and names, though I was blown away by William Johnson in the current issue of _Poetry_, I must say.

  6. "What's a straight talker to do, even if the tropes are good?"

    What's Good? What's straight? Success, by your own recommendation, is relative. None of it matters and we'll be dead soon. What's left? Well, the road's still there and since it's not likely anyone will notice if you decide to keep truckin' or not, why not step forward? Forward - another word with relative meaning.

    You write, create, something. Survive for another day. "Pure gold" or "pure crap" doesn't matter the slightest to anyone but the guy in your mirror. Really. The abyss doesn't give a shit one way or the other. At least you get SOME messages that indicate which direction is forward. So they bring you no joy. As if they're supposed to bring you joy.

    When you see enough roadsigns that tell you you're NOT heading toward the promised land, turn left at the next fork you come to.



    If the poetry in the zines doesn't grab you by the throat, why do you bother with them, submit to them? Cause they hold the key to the promised land? Sure, and pigs fly, you know?

  7. Anonymous2:23 PM PST

    I read the poetry in this month's New Yorker. Hmmm. Less than the poetry itself is the editor's statement sort of floating above the words: 'I am poetry editor for the New Yorker. I picked this. Fuck you.'

    I could be wrong. But that's the caption I imagine.


  8. Memory is important3:54 PM PST

    CE, you may want to go to zaprap.org and read some of the post from people who have had ECT.
    There have been posts from medical doctors who have had ECT and no regret it as they can no longer work because of the memory and cognitive problems caused by ECT.
    I lost over 20 points on my IQ from having ECT and can no longer work in my profession. Unless you are catatonic, severly dehydrated and starving, you may want to reconsider ECT. If you benefit from ECT the effects will not last more than four weeks. I understand you have more than likely researched this, but can tell you from personal experience and years of reading stories of individuals who have had this procedure the long term benefits do not outweigh the cost. Almost always the people claiming to have benefited are people currently undergoing the procedure. My advise is to never make the decision to have ECT while you are in a bout of deep depression as you will pay for it later.

  9. Remember that losing a child as you have can sometimes be fatal to perfectly "normal" people. You are probably doing much better than you give yourself credit for.

  10. "My advise is to never make the decision to have ECT while you are in a bout of deep depression as you will pay for it later."

    Who cares about IQ points when you're as sick as I've been? And, argumento, how can one make even make a decision in a deep depression? All I know is that ECT helped me immensely the first time and I was not in the hospital again for four years, and even that was due to an experimental drug trial in which I was a subject.

    Beau, why do so many artists so badly want to be recognized? We fear Mommy's not paying attention to our molded turd sculptures?

    As for good magazines, yes, there is a literary heirarchy, a lifelong competition for fellowships and grants and publications and lectureships and what have you. I started trying in my 40s, which is a little late. I would be happy to receive a mainstream or even an snobbish prize. I doubt, if either of us had the chance to be a "success" in its normal connotation, that we would turn it down.

    Thanks for the reminder about my daughter. That's one thing that brings tears to my eyes for sure, but they are the only tears that feel normal, tears with a purpose.

  11. CE,

    I don't know why "so many artists" crave recognition. I have friends who have won high prizes and others who have sold millions of books and records. They don't seem any happier or sadder than friends of mine who haven't won prizes and never sold a book. Personally, I think a little recognition would make it easier for me to complete the tasks I've set for myself. Maybe I'd get fewer people saying 'no' to my requests for them to appear in my anthology. Maybe I could convince more artists and animators to participate. Maybe it wouldn't make an iota of difference, who knows.

    I wrote a piece of software once that sold millions and millions of copies. It had someone else's name on the gaudy box. I was paid very well and it didn't bother me a bit that the Irishman became famous instead of me. The fame came with death threats, bullet-proof vests, body-guards and a series of lawsuits filed by money hungry shysters. But it WOULD bother me if people thought 'The Death of Gully Hand' was written by someone other than me. Mommy doesn't have anything to do with that, tho'. At least, I don't think mom has anything to do with it. But I don't care enough about knowing to search my psyche for the answer.

    I know that too narrow a definition of 'artist' exists. Like I've told you before, without my ability to write, I'd have never been able to keep any of the jobs I held during my career. To my way of thinking that made me a professional writer. And I know the narrow minded will laugh and call me delusional, but I know the truth of it.

    The literary heirarchy is corrupt. It's obvious to most everyone but no-one benefiting from the corruption will ever admit it. And everyone shut out by it will be labeled a whiner and sour-grapester for complaining about it. The best one can do is ignore it. The old saying goes, 'never complain, never explain, it never helps'.

    Would a snobbish prize make you less depressed? Not really, huh? Since the one really hasn't got a thing to do with the other. As far as the lit world is concerned, since there is no chance of my being a "success in its normal connotation" I don't have to wonder what I'd turn down. I hope one day you'll be given the opportunity to accept a mainstream, snobbish prize. I have a feeling, tho', it'll make me happier for you than it'll make you for winning it. Maybe not.



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