Today I had my second ECT treatment. Although my alarm was set for 6:25 AM, I woke up several times beforehand and never needed it, due to anticipatory anxiety. Although my instructions, so I thought, were to show up at 7 AM at the outpatient surgery center, when I arrived I was mildly castigated for lateness and hurried to the treatment room in short order, except for my feet, which hung far over the bed.
The psychiatrist seemed more relaxed this morning and spoke with me longer, peering down with his half-glasses over the stainless steel railing. I think there are few positions more avuncular than a doctor at your bedside, especially given the vulnerability of a hospital gown. But was he more personable or was I less desperate? He told me the brief improvement from the first dose was typical, and that three or four doses into the treatment would be more indicative of the outcome.
The young anesthesiologist tried to tell me, somewhat awkwardly, that the procedure was “not without risks,” after I had already signed my life away and indemnified the hospital and doctors in triplicate. I informed him the mortality was in fact 1/20,000. He said, “Really?” and thanked me for the information. Amazing what they don't teach doctors anymore.
This time the short-acting anesthetic, whose name I could not parse, burned considerably upon entering my vein despite the local. As I felt woozier upon waking half an hour later, I assume the doctor increased the current discharge. The only hitch in the procedure today was emotional. The nurse who disconnected all my lines and wires after the doctors had left attempted light conversation, asking me about my children—where the recent death of my beloved Rachel instantly reduced me to sobs. But it was grief, not depression, as I was crying over her loss anew. It's something I'll never get over, something I can only get through. But its occurrence has complicated my case to a degree, because when I start weeping for good reason, I fear I shall soon be weeping for no good reason and plunged back into the Black Hole of Mybuttah.
Afterwards I had a delicious omelet at a local cafe, the “Omelette Monterey.” It was a thin, three-egg omelet containing artichoke hearts, chicken apple sausage, green onions, mushrooms, Monterey Jack cheese, and smothered in Hollandaise sauce. I ate half of it for breakfast and half later for lunch. Re-heated it was not as good, naturally, and the toast turned to rubber. Do not nuke old toast, especially if you wear dentures.
So much useful information I have to impart!
I napped for two hours then went for a walk after the late lunch (whose deficits made me wonder whether the famous “rubber chicken” so prized at conferences could be improved to “super rubber chicken”). I was interested in buying a pair of shorts, but in this tony suburb of San Francisco the cheapest pair I could find was $50.00 and the only pair I liked was $70.00. And you thought it was just the housing that was expensive in California, when indeed it is a locale where a man cannot afford to lose his shorts. Nevertheless I bought myself a new Lakers hat and a slim volume of poems by Charles Simic, Sixty Poems—a new collection of favorites in homage to his being poet laureate. (He was born in Yugoslavia and emigrated at age 16, which may explain his relative lack of lyricism. What, aren't there enough native-born poets to choose from? I think I'll start a jingoist movement against him. Has England ever had a laureate who was not a native? Hmmph.) As further evidence of my kindness to myself I also had one scoop of lime daiquiri ice at Baskin Robbins, a chain now perhaps better known for its crusading vegetarian heir than its ice cream.
Another good sign? I didn't really feel like blogging tonight because of my interest in other matters. I didn't need the therapy. And I almost forgot my medications today, a sure sign of improvement. Yet however superficially improved I appear, I know that the demon of depression is still burrowed deep within my soul and lives on. It will take more current to render me emotionally current than I have received as yet, as this disease is sneaky and if not properly extinguished can quickly and exponentially multiply again like roaches in my brain--which reminds me of two unpublished poems, one about depression using a roach as a metaphor and one purely about roaches.
The world's expert on melancholy
cringes in the corner.
“It's just my mood,” he says
then scurries under the refrigerator,
safe in the compressor's hum.
Herky-jerky he scales the wall.
“Where are you going?” I ask.
“While that sweet motor still sings in my head
like the blessed cicadas, I must seize
this absence of self-absorption to scavenge.”
“When will you return to human form?”
“When my shell chafes and I crave light
and faces don't look alien anymore.”
“What about my face?”
“Don't make me look.”
Silent and sticky, yet awkward and almost blind
their glistening shells scatter at light,
their frenzied, diagonal courses unwind
in the kitchen, foraging at night.
They come in all sizes; the larger, the more repulsive:
Oblong brown jewels with pearly yellow highlights,
motile, feelers twitching, bodies convulsive
at any sounds, at any human sights.
When you smash them with a shoe or a book,
white squish exudes from their armored hulk--
and then you wish you hadn't perhaps looked
so closely at their wriggling bulk,
Bulk on an insect scale, I mean, their size
only sickens because insects should be small--
O God! I hate their tiny primitive eyes,
the way they zigzag on a bedroom wall!
(written in Galveston, TX)