Friday, February 01, 2008

At Rope's End

It's hard for me to blog and I don't know how often I'll be able to do it in the near future.

Presently I am pursuing electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) at hospitals in the Bay Area, as there is no such treatment available where I live.

It saved my life in 1983. I hope it can do so again.

Since Kathleen left on a trip to NY for her mother's birthday, all semblance of emotional maintenance on my part has departed. There's no one I have the strength of will to appear well for. I hope to have the good news of my impending hospital admission when she returns. As she says, “I just want my husband back. I want Craig back.”

The uninitiated cannot know how bleak depression can be, how physical an illness it is. It's as if there is an eternal well of sadness in my chest and it takes very little for me to wet my face with it. I have no confidence in anything. Little tasks are daunting. Everything makes me sad. What makes me saddest is the idea that anyone could love me because I feel so unworthy. I'm such a downer I wish that those who care about me might never have met me. Like Job, I wish I had never been born. It's a terrible thing to admit but it's true. To be born only to suffer like this seems a waste of protoplasm. A weeping willow is much more useful than a crying Craig. One provides shade and aesthetic pleasure, the other only takes up space and continues to eat food and consume other resources for no good purpose.

I don't know what to do with myself. I'm very sick and very stuck. The record keeps skipping, the tape keeps looping back on itself, there is no up or down or forward or backward, just this hole I have fallen into.

I believe the body and mind ultimately know what they need in order to get well and that they lead us to that. Strange that in my case all the wisdom my body has tells me I need ECT. Too bad I live in a state with the most impediments to having the treatment. In California we'd rather let the mentally ill be shot by the police on the street than force them into treatment. Protecting the victim's right to be crazy is much more important than intervening for their welfare.

I have an appointment to see a doctor who does ECT on February 6, for which I am grateful. I can be grateful, strangely; in fact the least kindness shown me makes me want to burst into tears because I feel so undeserving of it. It has been hard work on the phone talking to so many hospitals and doctor's offices and insurance people in trying to get a doctor to see me who does ECT. It's not always easy to obtain. Stanford, for instance, has a two-month waiting list for the procedure.

I don't want to think about what happens if ECT doesn't work. It is the single most effective treatment for depression. Cross your fingers for me. But if you notice I have no reflection in the mirror, hold a cross up to me and please, drive a stake through my heart until it stops spasming.

8 Kilorats,



  1. Anonymous9:58 PM PST

    You're a good man, C.E. You're a spark. Look after yourself.

  2. Anonymous12:18 PM PST

    Best of luck CE. Our prayers will be with you.


  3. I really hope you get the treatment you need, even in the midst of the awful time you've been through you manage always to be a witty, funny and thought-provoking writer.

  4. As one who has suffered from serious depression since his teens, I know how little words mean (and how little it means to be a "fellow" sufferer), but I hate to see your recent posts and not at least let you know that I am out here wishing you well.

  5. In a seige similar to what you have been in with our son, I have not been able to be the new friend to you I hoped to be these past few months. In a teleconference with his psychiatrist this week, after all these years, the medical profession has acknowledged what I have known for 30+ years...when we get better seizure control, we get psychosis. Thursday, someone finally told us the truth: Seizures are our son's ECT.

    We are changing course now. We'll take the seizures any day, the medications that lower the threshold for them.

    My best thoughts are with you and Kathleen. I know you will seek out someone who knows ECT well.

    I am hopeful we will get to really know each other soon.

    You take care, and Kathleen are in the thoughts and prayers of many.


  6. Our paths have probably not crossed much in the poetry blogosphere, but know that you are in my thoughts. I hope you are able to get the help you need.

    With hope,

  7. I wish you well on this venture, CE, you've done some good things for some good people, it's time you got some of that back.

    I don't pray, but I do think very very good thoughts at you. Be well.

  8. All the best with this CE.

  9. I don't pray because I don't believe in god.

    But I kinda like to think the big guy believes in me.


    But I will pray for you, friend.

    I hope ECT proves to be everything you want it to be.

  10. Dearest Craig,
    Judy Thompson from Wild Poetry forum connected me with your blog and I am very touched by your words. You have an amazing ability to express what depression feels like. I wish I had been able to do that when I had my first episode of severe depression a few years ago. I keep trying to write a poem about it, but I am always unsatisfied with the result.

    Please remember that depression is a temporary condition, no matter how severe it is or how long it takes. Please wait it out!Treatment and time will eventually have their effect.

    I'm so sorry to hear about your suffering and if it is any consolation, reading your article helps me understand and process my own recent depression. So, keep writing, you help your fellow patients.

    I also thought a lot about Job during the hardest days and held on to his words: Therefore I shall be quiet, comforted that I am dust. To me it meant that suffering is part of being human and that accepting it is easier than fighting it.

    You are not your depression, you just experience the condition of depression. Conditions change but you are still you, Craig, unharmed and well deep, deep inside. Right now you are living a nightmare, but it will pass. My brother's advice to me was: If you are going through hell, keep going! Keep going Craig, keep going and hold on to the smallest memory of joy and hope you manage to come up with.
    Much Love,

  11. Much encouragement and wisdom here. I am now writing from the hospital. I get my first treatment tomorrow. Meanwhile I'll attempt to blog about the hospital experience.

    Thank you all, kind strangers and friends (especially LKD who will pray although she doesn't believe and Norm who sends prayers but who I think is agnostic? ;-) That's quite a blessing!)

    Ingrid, your note was especially moving and reflects a great deal of wisdom about the disease.

    Pat, so happy you got the doctors to agree with the obvious.

    Thanks to all who commented and all who didn't and all who would have if they only knew what to say. There is love on the Internet. There is good done on it because you are doing me good.


  12. nothings_guaranteed@hotmail.com4:16 PM PST

    It was your Night Life sonnet which hit me first. I hear you loud and clear.

    I found your blog tonight by accident, the date you say you are having ECT. Your words resonate with me and some of my loved ones both here and gone. You speak meaning to more than you perhaps know - but it will not help you. You are more like the willow tree than you think, you provide solace and shelter for some - but it will not help you.

    Wishing you your own resolution to your anguish.

  13. May the goddess be with you tomorrow, Craig. At dinner every night, we speak of those who need our thoughts, prayers, love...however each of us believes we send out our petitions on behalf of others best. These past few months have been difficult for so many of our friends and family we care about and love. You can be sure you and Kathleen are on our list now.

    Hope to see you back home soon.



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