Friday, February 22, 2008

How I Am Currently Responding to Current

Two weeks into ECT and I'm not doing very well. I feel in danger of complete relapse. What precipitated it was my sister's generous suggestion to have a driver take me home for the weekend to Mendocino. My sister's too good of a soul to say, "It's been almost three weeks and you're a space eater and I'd like my house and nuclear family back," but that has to be part of it, too, and I understand. Even though I try to make myself scarce, hiding in the basement with a book, going for walks, I am nevertheless an interloper, a species not native to this house, like a northern pike in a trout lake.

The thought of seeing my one true love, Kathleen, while still depressed, was too much to bear. I so want to get well for her; I want her suffering to end, and because of the love she bears me her suffering can only end when I am stable and my depression is in remission. As my illness began on April 1, 2006, it will soon be of two year's duration, with only two partial and brief remissions. I'm a sick puppy. I can't imagine being in Kathleen's position; I have been with her during her depressions but she's never had one this protracted and treatment-resistantant since I've known her. Nothing makes me sadder than the thought that my presence will sadden Kathleen. We had such hopes for this treatment! Obviously I need more, but how much will be enough? And I'm wondering if I shouldn't be on stronger medications as well to try to help stabilize my mood during treatment.

In any case I broke down in tears in front of my sister after treatment today, not a good thing. I also forgot a lunch date I'd made with a poet from San Francisco; the overwhelming emotion of my situation caused me to forget. I did call him and told him I had a good excuse for forgetfulness: "Sorry, I had electroconvulsive therapy this morning." He likely didn't need to hear that and was probably relieved not to have lunch with me afterwards, though he said he still wanted to meet. Oh well. I wouldn't have been very good company in any case.

I just finished Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin, which my sister recommended. Atwood's work always humbles me and I did find this book alluring.

I got a note from Sam Rasnake today that soon a new issue of Blue Fifth Review will be out and had forgotten that I had a poem in it, "Home Surgery." I'll have another poem in Barnwood (a paying venue) and three in Umbrella. Niederngasse has also accepted a poem, as has Barefoot Muse. These are all pretty good venues and I'll post the links again when my work comes out. (Meanwhile you don't need me as an excuse to visit these fine e-zines!)

See that? Talking about something besides myself, like literature, helped the tears dry up. (I try to explain to Craig that he's not worth crying over but he doesn't get it.)

So, having mentioned a number of poems you can't see yet, here's one I wrote the other day in San Francisco:

Something Christian

Rheumy eyes, mahogany head;
tan polyester coat, white shirt;
no tie; septuagenarian
tiny Chinese-American
stood on a folding two-step
stepladder of aluminum
in Union Square and preached:

"Homo sick! Queer go to hell!
“AIDS wrath of God”

I must say I've never understood
why Jesus hates queers
more than other men.
Besides, if God has time
to invent new scourges
to punish the innocent--
babies guilty of birth,
patients guilty of transfusion,
doctors guilty of defective gloves--
maybe I'm on the wrong side?

"The city is filled with sin!”

How must it feel behind those rheumy eyes
to hate and think God's work is being done?

"You look unhappy,” I offered,
"Your eyes are filled with hate.”

“I hate the devil and I hate sin,” he said,
his thin lips set in a Maginot line.

"No, no, you hate yourself,” I said.

His look of incomprehension
was almost beyond redemption.
I should have passed and said nothing
like the other pedestrians
but something Christian wanted out.

Pray for me in whatever way approximates prayer for you; if you are an atheist you can wish for new treatments for depression, for instance.

In need of a miracle,



  1. You're a high-functioning depressive, that's for sure. You're reading Atwood, meeting with poets (or almost), writing your own poetry (and good stuff too!), and blogging. I've had depression in my life and couldn't get out of bed to flip on a light switch to save my life. Everyone's different, I guess.

    Trivia: Tammy Wynette, Vivien Leigh, Dick Cavett, Cole Porter, and Judy Garland all had ECT during their lifetimes. And they all went on to have pretty good lives too.

    Look after yourself.

  2. praying hard, praying hard.


  3. Thanks, all. Yes, from long practice I am a high-functioning depressive. Since probably a fifth of my life has been spent underwater, so to speak, if I hadn't done anything during those years I would have felt even worse. My reason for doing things in this state is, that since it won't make me feel any better or worse to do rather than not do, I go ahead and do. What have I got to lose? Only my mind, and that's gone. Or a loved one, and my daughter died last year. I suppose there's always more to lose but I couldn't bear to lose anyone else right now--and then there's the inner realization that I _could_ bear it, which for me simply means not committing suicide. To bear it emotionally, no. If I think about losing Kathleen or one of my other children I go completely to pieces, thinking "God" wouldn't be that cruel. But I have no control and "he makes the rain to fall on the just ant the unjust" so it's all a crapshoot, why we'd all rather be lucky than good, I think. At least I would.

  4. Anonymous8:56 PM PST

    You are indeed very high functioning to be depressed. Are you bipolar?

    I can say from years of suffering through depression that I can do none of the things you do. I turned to alcohol and still drink though I never get drunk.

    There are days I do well to wash my face or brush my teeth.

    I would say that considering how bad living with depression can be and how much one loses in a depressive state (libido, friendship, the ability to concentrate, the motivation to do anything, much less send poems out or meet with writers) that you are doing far better perhaps than you think you are.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you. My hope is that you can try to see through the mirror darkly how many blessings still exist and how you obviously are not giving up the good fight.


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