Friday, July 29, 2011

Dark Sonnet II, revised


In horror of the groaning of the reef

At one more wave’s repetitive onslaught,

I listen to the outboard for relief,

A healthier racket than my jangled thought.

You there—do you cognate in straight lines?

Do thoughts follow each other, hand in hand?

Or is it that your insight’s without spines

Like a sea urchin’s skeleton on sand?

Vanilla life, vanilla in your veins,

Uncomplicated, unexamined days?

If only I could tender you the reins

To my life, could I sail through the quays

Untroubled, hoist martinis to the shore?

I’d give my soul for your white bread rapport.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Surprise/ Dark Sonnets Revised

For three days almost I have felt slightly better with no explanation; no change in meds or therapy.  Less rumination, esp. about suicide.

I've been reading "The Noonday Demon" again by Andrew Solomon, an excellent book I recommend.  He subtitles it "An Atlas of Depression," and certainly the moniker is deserved. 

Meanwhile I summoned the courage to revise some of the "Dark Sonnets" posted here before.  I hope to offer the revised series in the coming weeks, beginning with today's "I."




Once more this fell infection of the mind
Galls itself, one wound gouges another.
This pus of pitted surfaces will find
More cells to infiltrate, more smooth to smother.
I put a stethoscope upon my head
To eavesdrop on the stuttering machine,
Heard nothing but the clawing of the dead
Inside a skipping jukebox’s routine.
I dream of pills and guns and mangled cars,
The sordid images of methods used.
They haven’t answered “Is there life on Mars?”
As yet. From judgment shouldn’t I be recused
Until they do? Because no life in me
Obtains beyond blessed fatality.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bad Dog. Over and Out of It.

Today, unusually for him, our dog Scout scooted out the front door while I wasn't looking and went for a long romp before I whistled him home.  He didn't come quite home--he was cowering in the driveway, knowing he'd been bad.  He'd been out playing with other dogs, so I assume, and wouldn't come right to me--I had to pick him up and then enforce solitary confinement in the bathroom for a spell.  He knew he was guilty!

But he is not troubled by it; animals don't feel guilt, they only know certain behaviors issue in certain outcomes.  Lacking self-consciousness, they are in no danger of becoming Presbyterians.

Guilt.  Why I can't attend church.  In a depressed state one only hears of one's shortcomings, not the grace of God.  Just as in reading the bible, all the condemnatory verses echo in your head and none of the saving verses obtain.  For me religion was all or nothing--either we attained the ideal of Christ or we failed.  Lukewarm rehearsals and socialization in a religious pattern I could never accept at face value, the role of religion in general society.  I wanted New Testament purity, something I sought early on in my faith, attending any number of sects striving for the same thing.  Alas, these sects were built on personality cults and forms of brainwashing to attain a false purity, but they helped fill in an identity for me.  Anything's better than a vacuum (including a broom for sweeping linoleum).

See?  I refuse to lose my sense of humor.  I'm a refusenik.  Also a beat-up-on-myselfnik. 

My therapist keeps me in the woodshed with CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), telling me not to wallow in depression but climb out through positive thinking.  She's never been depressed as I have, but she makes a good point.  If one can't control one's feelings, the best approach is to control one's thoughts, however difficult.  Nevertheless (and I have polled those bipolars close to me about this), for the sufferer it seems the feelings always precede the thoughts, one reason for medication working when talk won't.  But my medications are barely doing the job, despite my shrink's best efforts and the huge expense. 

Did you know that the new atypical antipsychotic, Abilify, costs $800 for thirty tablets in the USA?  I order 100 tablets from Canada for $400 for a net savings of about $2000.  But the drug companies want to outlaw even this loophole.  Greedy SOBs.  And Obamacare, dispensing with the cherry-picking of insuring only those without preconditions, won't be on board until 2012, and I'm sure the insurance companies will raise everyone's premiums to compensate. 

Trying to get private insurance for my mate has been a nightmare, especially in my condition; I finally settled on something called "CIA!"  I had to cancel two other policies that I'd patched together to resemble something like major medical insurance for her.  And over the phone, all the companies badmouthed each other.  Beware of Patriot health care for one; they're useless.  And NBLA won't refund your joining fee and premium for one month.  When you try to cancel, both entities send you to salesmen who try to talk you out of it, and in my condition it was hard to stand firm against their wiles, but I did.  Predators.  Capitalism is predatory, but at least it offers choices.

I have a choice to go camping with my daughter and a friend tomorrow down in Santa Cruz and I think I shall try to do it, although the first image in my mind were the high cliffs of Highway 1 where I could conveniently drive off.  I won't fall for it, but recall in Annie Hall where Woody Allen is being driven to the airport by Christopher Walken, who says "Sometimes I get the uncontrollable urge to cross the middle line and head-on another car."  However neurotically, Woody clings to life, so the look on his face was priceless.  They made it to the airport.  But I'm acquainted with such fantasies when I drive, though God knows I wouldn't act on it, since it would harm others--why a cliff is more inviting.  But I won't do it--my daughter wants me around to walk her down the aisle some day, and there are others who want me to stick around.  My therapist encourages me to stop all like thinking so I will at this moment.

Yesterday wasn't a bad day.  I did four loads of wash, did a large amount of grocery shopping, washed the car and cooked dinner.  Today I look back in amazement.  Two steps forward and three steps back.  Whoops?  Three steps forward and....clunk, down the basement stairs.  One step forward and vapor lock.  One step backwards and off the dock.  Tickety-tock, tickety-tock.  There's a crack in the engine block.

Quaker state will sludge your engine, avoid it.

Pennzoil rules!  Or Castrol.


Gomer Pyle saying "Shazzam!"  I dream of Jeanie.

Heironymo's mad againe.  When then Ile fit you.

These fragments I have shored against my ruins.

Shantih Shantih Shantih

Over and out of it,


Monday, July 11, 2011

Vultures and a Tune

I mistook a vulture for a raven this morning, high above my garden.  Either because of the hour, or because he was very dark on his underside, I was briefly fooled until his flight pattern became evident.  Vultures are some of the smoothest gliders among birds.  I watched him, without flapping his wings once, afterwards negotiate the high branches of a eucalyptus, tilting slightly to avoid them, banking eloquently on the thermal.

When I was manic, which began almost a year ago before my great January crash that put me in the hospital for 45 days, I decided to change my favorite bird, the raven, for the vulture, because vultures clean up the detritus of death and their utility in the chain of nature's degradation is invaluable.  Life issues in death, whatever we do.  My father used to say, "None of gets out of this alive."

The Parsees, who are Zoroastrians, have for over a millennium disposed of their dead amid the towers of silence, where they are quickly consumed by vultures, a practice called "Dokhmenashini."  Their consecrated ground, in the middle of pricey Bombay real estate, has now become an embarrassment, I found out through this link.  Apparently the vultures have been devastated by a virus, and without their consumption of the corpses, a stench has risen in Bombay deemed a public nuisance.  Nevertheless the orthodox Parsees are resisting any interference in their ancient practice, hoping to raise vultures to replace the flock.  Given that timeline, Bombay will continue to reek.  But I hear the city doesn't smell too good to begin with. 

I "decided" to quit smoking today, but quickly succumbed to the habit, as I had four cigarettes left.  I ratiocinated that it's better to quit on a day with no cigarettes, i.e. tomorrow.  To quote the bard:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Coincidentally my father used to recite this speech from time to time, a vestige of his brief career as a thespian in college.  Pretty dark stuff from Macbeth.  I do not wish to embrace this existential void, but in my present state I'm much more comfortable with death than life.  I've never really been afraid of death; it's life that scares me.  Not that I intend to do anything about it, but when I examine my habits--a lousy diet combined with too many cigarettes and only a daily walk for exercise--I see that I'm not caring for myself, that I may be hastening my death in a sort of slow suicide.  In this I am hardly alone.  But at present I have the willpower of a mayfly, having little to do and resenting whatever is required of me, or I deem required of me--like taking out the trash and paying the bills.  I'm a minimalist, reading mystery novels and chain-smoking, for the most part avoiding human contact, though I am not a misanthrope.

I'm not in a "pure" depression, as I'm not suffering weeping spells, but I suffer mightily from indecision and anxiety, not to mention the warring voices in my head, which I know are my own, which avoids the diagnosis of schizophrenia.  I know all of us are plagued by voices in our head, or sometimes tunes we cannot extirpate from consciousness.  I've had just such a tune in my head for several days since I thought of going to a studio and recording a new album, something I haven't done in almost two decades, despite the plethora of songs I've meanwhile written.  Here's a link to the tune, "Act Like a Man."  It's a solo acoustic version for which the original title was "Killing the Goddess."  Its 4/4 beat drums in my head.  If I go to the studio I will fill it out with harmonies and a bass line and drums and the rest.  If you listen to it, I hope you will not be haunted by it as I am.

If I had to summarize my present diagnosis, I'm a nutcase.  In interactions with others, or even posting here, I can pass for normal, just as Ted Bundy did so well, though I don't consider myself a Republican, as he did.

Not that I have it in me to be a serial killer, if you discount my drowning Raisin Bran with milk.

All for today,


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Poem: "No Need for a Narrator"

Here's a rare poem in my recovery, as I haven't been able to write a lick:

No Need for a Narrator

The shadow of a raven’s wing
sweeps across the garden like a scythe.
Hummingbirds sample the centranthus,
hearts beating a thousand times a minute,
prehensile beaks straining for nectar,
sucking twice their weight in a day.

Bumblebees hover in poppies,
those frilly bowls of pink
whose bottom petals are marked
with four bloody dots.
For two days of high summer
they bloom until the northwest wind
strips them, leaving green bulbs behind,
strange spheres suspended
on pipe cleaner stems-- not opium poppies
although their milk is just as bitter.

Himalayan blackberry,
each purple branch thick with thorns,
encroaches on the buddleia.
They will smother anything
if not pruned back.
Gloves help but not enough.

A heron flies over, gangly in flight,
its thin legs trailing wasp-like
beneath the great gray wings.
Its bullhorn honk silences sparrows,
even the ubiquitous squawking of jays.

No need for a narrator
in listening for the thrush
and the call of sea lions echoing up the dell
above the ocean’s thrumming--
all anthropostulates have disappeared.

As to my mental state, to my great surprise, I had a good day yesterday, though I didn't do anything different.  The new antipsychotic medication, combined with a therapy session where, through my thick Neanderthal skull, the therapist managed to communicate to me that I had a choice, may have something to do with it.  I am not merely a molecule in Brownian motion; this molecule can choose.

She also pointed out that I had taken my marbles and gone home, said "Fuck you!" to the universe, that I refused to do anything required of me beyond absolute necessity.  I concur.  I do walk the dog, take out the trash, last night I cooked.  Nevertheless I am much like a self-centered infant who won't have his freedom abridged by potty training or any other requirement or limitation of my oral-gratifying, chain-smoking self.

(I do still go in the toilet.)


Friday, July 08, 2011

My Illness, continued...

I've already made my private suffering public, and if this blog is of any use to other sufferers, perhaps the invasion of my privacy I have so willingly invited can serve some useful purpose.  The two comments on my last post seem to support this hypothesis.

Clinically I don't know how to diagnose myself exactly at this point; depression and anxiety fill the bill with the occasional relief of getting outside myself in viewing a raven's flight or watching my little dog prance in the high grass. 

Our garden flourishes besides, to use that cliche' a virtual "riot of color."  Nasturtiums spill out onto the path and up the deck; centranthus waves its pink efflorescences above exploding pansies; lavender is near full bloom and becoming too large for our little plot (I prefer the more compact bloom of the Spanish lavender to the usual Provence lavender); six dahlias are climbing up to the sun for their August revelation, and the heath called "Purple Beauty" is just that.

I dread my 2 PM appointment today with my therapist, who is using her own style of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  For those not familiar with this term, the principle invoked is that thoughts precede feelings and only by changing our thoughts can we change our feelings.  Paradoxically, as a manic-depressive, I have always experienced the opposite, that feelings precede thoughts.  I am overwhelmed by feelings when a depression strikes, the same with the rare mania.  And then the thoughts follow.  I can't think myself into a mania or a depression.  But once the mood takes hold, my thoughts naturally follow--I feel so low that I think I ought to do the world a favor and commit suicide, for instance, or as my past mania demonstrated in these pages, I feel so high that I think I am the new messiah and can solve all the world's problems in an eyeblink.  What has helped me in the past is medication, not therapy.  And on one occasion at the age of 30, ECT turned me around.  Sadly in '08 (thank you Sis, for your help) and this year, ECT did nothing but render my noggin even more foggy with no essential  relief.  It was like a good hangover, clearing the mind of anything but immediate survival, but like a good hangover, it didn't last.  The one tangible benefit of my 45-day hospitalization at UCSF was that I was discharged no longer "actively" suicidal.  That does not mean I am by any means cured of the thought, only that I recognize (and here CBT obtains) that my thought of suicide is a globalization for intolerable feelings.

How do I spend my days?  Reading, mostly, mainly brain candy--mysteries by P.D. James and Elizabeth George et alia, the latter being my favorite, as her deep characterizations qualify as "literature."  There are so many hacks out there, like James Patterson, whose cartoonish books I have suffered without much pleasure.  The point of reading, however, in my present condition, is pure escape.  Escape.  Escape seems to be my M.O. these days--to sit and have to listen to my twisted thoughts is a toxic experience I would wish on none.

At the base of it all is a lack of confidence, to put it mildly.  Lately I had to make a decision on a new vacuum cleaner and it taxed me to no end.  I finally settled the problem by buying the exact same kind, belt-driven, when I knew I ought to have bought a self-driven vacuum, but I was so anxious about the decision that buying the same vacuum seemed the easiest way out.  I found, push come to shove, that I couldn't really wrap my brain around an independent and logical decision, so I just went with habit.  Now I can look forward to ten years of changing belts and the burning smell that comes when the roller snags a long string of carpet.  Ecch.

I could list the cornucopia of symptoms for depression and anxiety, but there is no need, as they will come out in examples.  Suffice it to say that getting through a day for me is extremely heavy lifting, from the simple activity of washing the dishes to the more extraordinary courage it took to actually reveal myself in this blog.  Blog as therapy, I might add again.  Do not attempt this at home!


Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Manic Posts Deleted

It's taken me a while, but I managed to delete nearly all my manic posts, when I was clearly delusional, because I could not endure the embarrassment of having them publicly displayed.

I began by saving them as a record of my insanity, but this became tiresome so I deleted the rest en masse, with the exception of "The Goodest Samaritan" series which I thought, though laced with some delusional content, an interesting narrative.

In my last post I said I would write about things only external to myself, but alas, I am not able to.  The maelstrom of my psyche forces me again and again to return to that slippery notion of self, and my self has vanished into a stream of voices that argue, but mainly condemn my being.  I'm working in therapy to rid myself of self-critical thoughts, but the fact of the matter is that I am nearly psychotic in my continuing depression and self-despite, though slightly more functional than when I was hospitalized for acute suicidality.

If anyone reads this, I do not ask that you should pray for me, although that is welcome, but rather that you embrace the light and try your best to ignore the darkness that threatens to swallow up our souls at every minute.  Nature abhors a vacuum, and darkness inevitably, insidiouly, invades--at least in my case where my defenses proved inadequate. 

"God is light and in him there is no darkness at all."  Hold on to the light within your own psyche as much as you can.

I have lost belief in my personal myth, the foundation of the self.  I am at such loose ends; the cat has unraveled the whole ball of yarn.  I don't know where to begin to ravel it up.

If I begin writing about my struggle with manic-depression again, forgive, consider it therapy.  Forgive the manic delusional content of my postings in the latter half of 2010, else laugh at them as I must, though my laughter is laced with pain.

Thank God for Kathleen and all who have stood by me in this indescribable roller coaster of pain.  To think oneself divine and then have the worm revealed, the self obliterated, is a death worse than death.  After the death of the self, how does one construct another to replace it when the basic faith in having a self is lacking?  This is my conundrum.

I have no poetry or wisdom to offer, just my suffering, and my caution to other bipolars not to buy into their grandiose delusions.  Alas, by the time mania takes over it is too late to get through their thick messianic skulls how far from the path of sanity they have strayed.



Unexpected Light

Unexpected Light
Selected Poems and Love Poems 1998-2008 ON SALE NOW!