Saturday, June 05, 2010

A Note on Bipolar Disease; New Poem, "Foxgloves"

There is much to tell, yet little again.  I have ascended out of my 4 1/2-month depression after a washout of all psychiatric medications and the re-introduction of Lamictal which previously kept me stable for nine years.  I did not blog about this except through my "Dark Sonnets," essentially, because I had little more to say about the black dog, and after having been underwater more than above the last four years, I am hopeful for another long stretch of relative sanity.  No need to repeat the experience in detail as I did from 2006-2008 (when, not unexpectedly, my readership was highest).

What people most need to understand about my disease:

1) External circumstances, though sometimes involved in a "trigger," in general bear little relationship to one's prevailing mood.  The two proceed in separate arcs, and any intersection is largely coincidental.  The mood disorder goes on; it is "endogenous," or self-generated.  One question I used to ask patients to distinguish depression from the blues was their reaction to winning the lottery.  If no reaction they more likely depressed.  No external happenstance can cheer one when in a state of severe clinical depression.

2)  The horror and self-despite of clinical depression cannot be adequately communicated to one who has not suffered it.  Think of the worst day of your life and the associated feelings; multiply that exponentially and extend it for months, even years.  Suicide begins to appear as heaven, and resisting it takes much fortitude. 

3)  If truly afflicted by manic-depression, only one thing helps in treatment: medications.  ECT ought to be included except that it failed me in my last attempt and I will not try it again--combined with the heavy psychiatric drugs they gave me at the hospital (Invega), I actually became worse.


Now for a new poem:


Mozart does it so neatly,
answering every question posed.
I swear his concerto billowing out the porch
attracts birdsong.

                                              Their song
is not so neatly balanced as the master’s.
Their melodies can end in queries
or falter in mid-arc without resolution
while no matter how far Mozart’s questing strays
it always folds back on itself to the origin
not just by counterpoint but reaffirmation
as if the world made sense.

Beyond the porch the shaggy foxgloves
droop their furiously maculate lilac bells,
broad leaves uneven, some prematurely yellowed
and these are nothing like Mozart,
more like life, shedding and beautiful,
its messy menstrual necessities
even in crescendo trumpeting decay.
In fact when earlier I tried to straighten
the foxgloves’ winding stalks
they would have none of it.
See how they curl like snakes?

Thine in Truth and Art,

C. E. Chaffin


  1. a great poem....this is a great one..."even in crescendo trumpeting decay." That does what it's supposed to do. It says something universally vital about our time on the planet. THANK you for sharing this one today. And for the blog entry--everyone needs to be reminded of those 3 points, even those who suffer.

  2. Thanks, Ms. Long. If I can be spared the compunctions of humility for a moment, I think this definitely one of my better efforts in some time, reflecting my recovery from depression (once more). How I hate these cycles!

  3. Add my praise...this one is a beautiful keeper, CE.


  4. I love the poem. The words don't get in the way of the meaning. Nice job!


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