I recently wrote here that I would try not to write about myself but about things outside myself.
I saw my shrink this morning and he changed my antidepressant. I couldn't help weeping in front of him, something I've tried to spare others in my latest strategy of ignoring depression.
It's the first day of spring and the raven in the tree outside is honking annoyingly. I love ravens, I love to watch them in flight, but I must admit their vocalizations leave something to be desired. Their calls remind me of those old brass car horns with the black rubber bulb. What does it mean that a bird calls at a lower register? I have no idea, but it is clear that larger birds tend to have lower voices, as the flock of wild turkeys outside demonstrates.
There are mountain lions in this area and we can't figure out why they don't make a quick snack out of this flock of wild turkeys. I'm tempted to wring some necks myself for a feast but can't face the boiling and plucking it takes to get the carcass ready to cook. These turkeys ought to taste good, though. The only food I see them eating are insects in the abundant grass, and they are definitely free-range turkeys. Who began this flock and when and why are questions we have yet to answer. But it is fun to see the turkeys line up at twilight near the eucalyptus grove, waiting for the precise moment to fly up into the branches to roost for the night. They tend to ascend one by one, occasionally two flying up together. And once they are ensconced in their protective grove, they know that they have succeeded in surviving another day.
Although it caused me great anxiety, I looked up six vegetarian dinner recipes and made a list of the required ingredients and went shopping for them. The anxiety might be normal, in that it's something I've never done before. Last night I made a swiss chard fritatta, which Kathleen truly enjoyed. Today I have made a mushroom-barley soup. I had to do it this morning because I won't have time when Kathleen returns from work, so I have it all done and refrigerated already.
Having something to do with my hands is a blessing. I recall prior to my ECT that I generally made Kathleen lunches and tried to make dinner, but just like my former exercise regimen, ECT seemed to amputate my past from my future. The threads of things I was doing before the treatments I have had trouble reconnecting with. There was a chapbook contest I intended to enter, for example, and I had the chapbook done, but I no longer know where to send it. And I found myself published in a journal I didn't know was publishing me. I think the entire experience of ECT resembles a major concussive syndrome, with selective anterograde amnesia and a general disconnect with one's former life. If I were to do it over again, and I never plan to given the recent results, I would take the time to write down in a notebook beforehand all my ongoing activities and goals in a detailed fashion, so that I would have a guide for resuming my life. As it is, things crop up--”I was going to do that?” “I had promised to do that?” “There's a deadline for what?” “I owe whom a letter?”
ECT is a great interruption in the flow of one's life. Naturally anyone considering it would not call their life normal. But even depressed, as I have been, there are connections and recollections that seemed to have been whited out by ECT.
Of course, underneath the inevitable progression of my bipolar disease lies the grief at the loss of my first-born daughter, Rachel, on July 29, 2007. At the time I welcomed the sad feelings because they were legitimate grief, and grief felt better than depression, but in the emotional economy of the human psyche one wonders if that great loss has not been feeding my depression at some level. Experientially I can't say so; theoretically it makes sense.
I've been worrying a lot about old age lately, where we might live, how we will afford to live and all the attendant worries. But I like what Bob Dylan said: “He who isn't busy being born is busy dying.” Also, T. S. Eliot: “Old men should be explorers.”
Fine quotes to live up to. Fear is the mind-killer. Once faith in yourself is undermined, faith in anything else becomes near impossible.
So, outside myself, I've shopped and cooked two meals. Tonight I will be playing a tune I wrote for a Spring Equinox ceremony. The performance, of course, fills me with fear. But the way around my basic fear of non-being, or global incompetence of my person, is to do the things of which I'm afraid. I know this and have done this many times in my approach to life. I even called the Medical Board about the status of my medical license renewal today. (They told me to call back Monday.)
Oh, I fed the cats and brought Kathleen coffee and provided her with a lunch today. Every little useful thing helps. I don't know how it is for others, but in my advanced mental illness I have so much trouble trying to inhabit my body. My body becomes a thing, not part of my person, and to heal my mind must slow down or speed up to the rhythm of my body, so that in washing dishes, for instance, my hands and mind can work in concert. This idea hearkens back to the “moral treatment” enlightened Christians first used on the mentally ill after saving them from asylums. Farming was a big part of that therapy. My capacity for abstraction puts me at risk of losing contact with the material universe and my necessary role in it.
I have tried to keep today's post from undue solipsism. This does not mean that I am necessarily better, only that I am trying to follow my own prescription for improved health.