Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Weeping and the Glass Giraffe

My mind is blank from crying. Crying empties the mind and exhausts the body; it is a blessing under normal circumstances but in my case more of a reflexive seizure. I cried through most of my appointment with my shrink today; I think I conveyed the sense of utter hopelessness I experience. I have withdrawn from my pain medication and am not drinking, the former at my suggestion and the latter at his insistence. Whether his insistence is enough for my resistance is another matter. I fear not drinking; how else can I numb my mind at night in order to watch basketball on television, literally the only time in my day when I feel almost neutral?

In my present state it is hard to stay on one task for any amount of time. I try to read but find myself reading the same paragraph over and over. I am blank. The pressure will heat up again, however, after my brain begins to castigate me for all my failures and derelictions until a lump rises in my throat and the faucets come on again.

I did manage to throw out the Christmas tree last night. Being just a local redwood sapling it was rather sparse, but it never shed a single needle while it was up. I threw it out from the deck out back, and we (stepson Derek and daughter Sarah) put our hands on it to transfer the past year's sins onto its innocent bark as a convenient scapegoat. Afterwords I launched it like a spear out into the woods where it will feed the nitrogen cycle.

I ran across a curious article today in which it was shown that men who cease religious activities are actually at lower risk for anxiety and depression, while women who cease religious activities are more likely to suffer from them. They think it might have to do with different social networking styles. I thought it funny in light of my discussion with friend Eric about Christianity and my depression. Religion is toxic for me in this state, something he has difficulty understanding.

Wait--that little possessive adjective ("my") is part of my problem --I want this to be your depression, too! I should not hog all its glory for myself; you, too, can help carry the burden. So if any of you wish to undertake this, please write me and I'll instruct you in the fine art of breakdowns. Chemistry aside, there are some ways to achieve depression without being born into the disease, but it takes a big commitment.

When you get as bad as I am now, the main survival tool is to accept your depression. Like a winter tree, think of yourself as dormant, not dead. Oh, you feel dead, you feel worse than dead. It's a living hell. No one has described it better than Jesus, who said of hell "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth," except that he left out the anxiety part. Simply put, the emotion of despair includes sadness, fear and anger, the anger usually self-directed. In psychiatric terms this constitutes dysphoria.

What surprises me about this depression has been its gradations; at times I can laugh, at other times not. Twice I had temporary responses to medications. In the past when the worm turned it was sudden and for a long time; I can remember distinctly noticing the beauty of a fern while hiking during another depression, and afterwards realizing that in that moment of aesthetic appreciation I had flipped out of my depression. Nothing had been beautiful up to that moment for the longest time. Suddenly I was well. This is why I don't get psychotherapy--it just makes the disease worse, since the complaints I bring to the therapist are mainly biological in nature. I wrote a poem about this once, below:

Glass Giraffe

When my soul was sanded so raw
the capillaries couldn't even seep,
I questioned the value of pain.
"You must experience your feelings of abandonment
until you are comfortable with them," you said.

When my suicidal doppelganger
turned me inside out, pulling my anus
through my mouth, you said,
"Now that you are stripped of defenses
you have a better chance of changing them."

When I called you up one weekend
to say I was terrified of inanimate objects
like doorknobs and tea kettles, you said,
"Stay with it. Globalized fear indicates
a necessary therapeutic regression."

Finally the antidepressants kicked in
and I felt like myself.
When I left you gave me another card
since therapy was “unfinished”
and I might be back
on your couch or another’s.

I gazed at your office figurines,
crystal leopards and pewter trolls,
porcelain ballerinas and kachina dolls,
and imagined the souls of all your patients
trapped inside them-- those, who like me,
sought relief through words
when only medicines would do.
I could have been the glass giraffe.

7 Kilorats,



  1. Masale.Wallah2:38 PM PST

    Happy New Year, CE!

  2. Anonymous7:02 PM PST

    20,000 kilorats under the sea...

    CE, while you're in the well, why not plumb it? This blog has become like reading a bathosphere's (sic?) drop to the bottom of the sea. At how many kilorats do your fingers become unable to manipulate the keyboard? Not to be morbid, but your ability to convey with prose would offer a fascinating though perhaps harrowing glimpse of inky blackness.

    take care

  3. Norm, are you saying "write it out" like some would say "ride it out"? If so, I agree...Write it out,'s your strong suit...and the best way to weather it.


  4. Good suggestion, Norm, but I would hate to be remembered for my description of the nether world. I think William Styron, in _Darkness Visible_, did the best job I can imagine. If I am really sick, I will write about it, as I did yesterday. It is therapy of a sort. But Styron's short book is a masterpiece I encourage you to read. Thanks for the encouragement, as always.

  5. "there are some ways to achieve depression without being born into the disease"

    I'll say! It's easy to achieve depression. Maybe not in your league, CE, but still, it's easy.

    Take poetry zines and publications. Did you know that 99.9% of poetry zines and publications submission pages have no way of dealing with what I call poetry? Not even an attempt to accommodate any but ink-bound writers. Same thing with all the lit prize venues. Even the "animated" poetry crowd thinks 'animated poetry' is text swimming around on an internet page. Talk about depressing.

    So you're depressed for chemical reasons. I'm down 'cause there's no place on the planet that'll recognize what I do as poetry. At least with the chemical imbalance, you can search for remedies and potions and happy pills (booze, mota, etc.). With being completely out of step with the art form, there IS no remedy. Except to abandon the effort and return to ink on paper. Which won't really end my depression. In fact, it'll make it worse.

    So the depression is easy to acquire. What to do? Sing the blues. At least, listen to a blues horn tell me everything will be all right. Even if it is a lie, I always feel better afterward. At least until the next time I realize that, try as I might, no one cares what I do. Whether I'm dead or alive. And, after I'm gone, whether I EVER lived. Is that a 7 kilorat calamity or what? Most times I think so.

    Take health. Did you know that arthritis in one's spine is at times debilitating to the point of complete helplessness? I can personally testify to the fact. It's a good thing Miles Davis made so many records. Reading your blog today told me that Miles was a fern. I never knew that before today.

    You ever find soemone to take your picture, front and side? What about sound files? This is the last year for the Cafe, CE, I'm giving up at the end of this year. One more year of attempts and I'm finished. So times runnin' out. Put your depression to work (or can it all together) and send me some stuff, OK? No one but me will care if you're one of the poets to appear in the Cafe, but my caring is what's important to me. So, help me out here. OK?


  6. you leave nothing to the imagination...i can definitely feel this with you. the poem is just...amazing. glass giraffe...yeah...that is...perfect. i am feeling on the brink of my own depression and wondering why it is coming again. maybe i should just accept...slow a still.

  7. Beau, I am trying to accommodate you with the necessary files but have failed so far due to technical difficulties.

    Another thing: Just because your cafe is not as popular as you envisioned, it is a great boon to those who enjoy it, like myself. I will be honored to be included when I get the necessary files together and likely mailed to you on a CD. Sometimes we must re-define success as contentment with what we've done well, even if no one notices. Just remember how unpopular poetry in general is, and how few read it except poets. You have done something new; you deserve some props.

    I have suffered from severe arthritis in my lower spine (scoliosis) most of my life and appreciate the pain of that, though it doesn't compare to depression for me. Depression is my chief horror.

    Merelyme--thanks for your praise, it means a great deal to me.

  8. And sometimes you have to quit deluding yourself and accept failure for what it is .. a message to move on to something else.


    Maybe playwriting or oil painting.

    Weapons systems design? Nah, I've done that already.


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