Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Poem: "The Lying Glass"

I notice I last blogged 11/28/12.  I managed to get through Christmas, visiting my daughters, and have survived until now without attempting suicide, though I have been sorely tempted and have even done research on methods, indeed have at hand the necessary combination for my demise.  Why do I persist in living?  This question may seem utterly strange to those who have not navigated these dark waters, but to me it appears unanswerable.  The short answer is to spare my wife and children pain; the practical answer is that my wife would be destitute without my income; the deep answer is perhaps, just perhaps, I haven't entirely given up hope.

Yet the grand mistake I made in this, the Mother of All Depressions, is to have given up hope.  Yes, I despaired.  If there is an unforgivable sin, this must be it.  Saying "No" to God's creation, "No" to life and its unremitting requirements, "No" even to survival.  One of my delusions is that I already have cancer, though no identifiable symptoms.  Another is that I have to move and cannot organize my possessions in any way or imagine the burden of moving, not to mention I wouldn't know where.  Another delusion is that I am already dead and my body being animated by a ghost.  I am a ghost in the machine of my body, or worse, the ghost of a ghost of a ghost. 

I am amazed at everyday people who go about their business coping or even trying to improve their lives.  I am jealous of near everyone, wishing I could be them, from the ratty bearded homeless man with the shopping cart to the paraplegic in his wheelchair.  I have said many times that I would gladly have both legs amputated to be free of depression.  For I find that a severe psychotic depression like my own is an amputation of self.  Thus I find myself imitating my wife, mirroring her behavior since I left the hospital two years ago.  If she reads, I read.  If she smokes a cigarette, I join her.  Monkey see, monkey do.  I cannot seem to originate thoughts or actions which seem my own.  My head is full of truisms and cliche's to the point of madness:

God helps those who help themselves.

Grow or die.

He who isn't busy being born is busy dying.

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

And so forth. 

Another delusion is that I have Alzheimer's.

Use it or lose it.

I seem to have lost it.  And here I sit, typing.

In being alienated from myself I am also alienated from everything.  I often wonder if this is self-pity.  People tell me I suffer from an illness that is not my fault.  I reply, "But it is my responsibility!"  Which puts the ball squarely in my court.

How do I spend my days?  Television (mainly basketball) and cheap fiction (mainly mysteries).  Yet I remember so little, it is like a faint wind that blows through my brain and leaves only the finest silt behind--like remembering that Chris Paul was the MVP of the NBA's All Star game. 

I am no longer conversant in poetry, philosophy, medicine or religion.  I suppose I am only conversant in my psychotic symptoms and basketball.  My world has become so small it would be dwarfed by angels on a pin.  In geometry I would be a point, not even a line. 

Past experience taught me that miraculously, depression lifts one day--sometimes through medication, once by electricity, but never has it lifted through therapy.  I have been in therapy for two years without result save that I haven't tried to kill myself.  But in that time I have surely devolved.  I look at my garden, gone to seed, and do nothing.  I look at my bills and responsibilities and hide.  I won't even look at my bank account.  I'm terrible with money.  I eat and smoke out of boredom.  I quit drinking 90 days ago and have attended AA meetings, but I don't get the program, and besides, I am sober but not clean, since I take addictive medication for pain and anxiety.  My dominant feeling state is fear, but the antipsychotic medicine makes that more bearable, even if it makes me less human as it has dried up my tears.  All of this bores me beyond words.  I feel I am a human sacrifice to the existential dilemma of living. 

Man needs hope to live; man needs new experiences and challenges to thrive.  Man cannot really exist as a couch potato, which I have become.  I avoid every pressure I can unless it becomes absolutely necessary--as in the case of electricity being shut off or a flat tire.  Or perhaps a medical emergency, as when I took my wife to the ER this past Sunday for fear she had broken her ankle.  But even such activities, rarely demanded, seem unreal, as if I were observing myself from a distant planet.  And from that planet I appear as a grease smear on asphalt, a little oily bug, a sudden apparition without substance or being.  How can these things be?  As I said, I am psychotic.  As psychotic as I was during my mania in 2010, when I believed I was the new improved messiah for the age.  Yes, I believed that with all my soul just as I now believe that I lack a soul, that I am hollowed out like a stack of Russian dolls, that nothing I express is genuine.  Indecision and paralysis rule.  I can't make sense out of anything.  By avoiding pain and responsibility I have increased it tenfold.  But I don't know how to stop my downward spiral, truly, I don't know how to stand up like a man and say, "Enough!  I will face my life!  I will do my taxes!  I'll pretend to live even if I feel dead."

Feelings are overrated, I think.  It is will and action that count.  Once you lose your will to live, all else collapses, trust me.  You don't want to go there.  "Hold on to your dreams, for if dreams die / Life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly."  --Langston Hughes

Ah to have dreams again!  Ambitions!  Goals!  I am so thoroughly becalmed, so lost in the Horse Latitudes that I cannot leave the starting gate.

P. T. Barnum once charged suckers to see a horse "with its head where its tail ought to be."  He turned the horse around in its stall and attached a feed bag to its tail.  People were so embarrassed after paying that they wouldn't tell the others who followed.

Here behold a man with an ass where his head ought to be. 

Do you pity me?  Do you laugh at me?  Fault me for cowardice?  Have compassion?  Fear not, all responses are welcome.  I seem immune to intervention and advice.  I cannot grasp a twelve-step program, which requires hope.  I would like to drink but resist, yet as I said above, given my medications, I do not think I am clean.  "That's all right," others say, "that's between you and your doctor."  But is it?  Is it right to take medication for anxiety because you can't handle life?  Isn't that just like drinking?  Or narcotics because your pain is too severe to endure?  Isn't that capitulation to the poppy?

I long to be human again but I am an alien without feelings, self-indulgent and self-centered, avoiding pain and fear at all costs, lost in television and cheap fiction. 

I used to have an expansive mind; I used to love others and sometimes myself; I used to be and do a lot of things, but now I am no more than a shriveled balloon from an ancient birthday party discarded by the roadside, yet due to synthetic rubber, unable to be assimilated completely by nature, unnaturally pink against the brown dirt.  All these metaphors are inadequate, of course.  I am the living dead, I am a zombie, I am bloodless, I am an abject worm.  My therapist tells me, "You are not your depression.  That's stinkin'  thinking'.  But in my state I know no other thoughts. 

Sometimes late at night I have a thought that maybe things could be different the next day, maybe I could act, join a gym, quit smoking, write something, be something, serve somehow.  I don't know how.  What I do now is make coffee for an AA meeting once a week and help my wife as I am able.  But I'm not able to do much--taking out the trash and washing the dishes are big hurdles.  I rarely change my clothes.  I look like a slob.  I shower often enough (and that is an extreme challenge) so that I don't stink.  Sometimes I brush my teeth.  Sometimes I even floss.  But when I do, I think, "Why should I care when I really want to die?"  And then I think, "If I'm condemned to go on living it's a good idea to take care of my teeth."  You can see how the debate about living leaks into the smallest tasks. 

I think I'll quit there.  As I've said many times, depression is boring.  And depressives the ultimate bore.  Best to laugh at us, or with us; I like to be teased about it.  That gives me some perspective.  But most are afraid to tease us for fear of insensitivity.  Believe me, the depressive is insensitive to your laughter because he takes himself far too seriously and laughter would mean perspective and perspective would mean health.

What is health?  The ability to laugh at oneself.  The ability to receive a gift without the need to repay it.  The ability to love and be loved.  The ability to conceive of tasks and carry them out.  As Freud said, "To love and to work."  The depressive, that is, the severe depressive, can do neither.  He is in Plath's bell jar, he is walled off from himself and others, he is incapable of human sympathy or connection, he fears phone calls--(indeed if my wife weren't deaf I wouldn't answer the phone, I do it for her sake).  Nor do I call my friends or family except on rare birthdays or holidays.  I know at some level there are people I love, but I have no feelings for them and this makes me ashamed.  I think I am beyond feeling for myself as well.  I am numb, zombified, so distanced from myself that I do not perceive myself as having a self.  There, I repeat myself again....self, self, self, self!  That is the main problem.  There is too much "me" to go around.  Extroversion and extrospection are the only healthy approaches to life.  Introversion and introspection maybe healthy on occasion for the normal, but for the depressive they are poison.  The well is poisoned by a preoccupation with the self which, paradoxically, makes the self no more.  Only a vacuum remains after the ruminative accumulation of self-judgment and self-despite.  Do not take this road.  Save yourselves.  Look outwards for salvation, look to things and people and works and engagement.  Perhaps rare saints can meditate on the goodness within, but there I find only the cobwebs of Miss Havisham's cake. 

Below, a rare poem I recently wrote for reasons unknown; I can't speak of its quality, but it was a rare achievement in my condition:

The Lying Glass

Reclined upon the sofa
I heard a strange eruption
behind me, to my left.
My dog leapt at the desk
and on the windowsill
I saw a small brown whirling,
twisting against glass, a dull sparrow
trapped by false transparencies
into a suicidal thrashing.

Back and forth he battered himself
against the unforgiving pane
before I cupped him gently
as you would a butterfly
careful not to denude
the delicate wings of powder--
or of a small fish, trying not to scrape
the scales’ protective coat.  

Inside my fingers the bird
was lighter than a mouse,
a thing woven of air
in danger of unweaving
but softly I gathered it
and it calmed as if in death
my palms opened on the porch
and it stirred and twirled
in a spiral of confusion
before righting itself
with its blessed element.

It’s easy to draw parallels,
how in our skulls we thrash
against unforgiving glass
wishing only for beneficent hands
to scoop us lightly up
and free us from the prison
of accusatory reflections
distorted by self-loathing.

Ah to be free of ourselves
and the suicidal smell of blood,
coppery and cloying--
yes if only some giant hand
would deliver us from ourselves,
how miraculous our flight
into the vital air.

But I know of no such magic
save to write this and imagine
how incomparably pure
the unspoiled air might taste
to a tongue used to spiking
its own mouth in hatred
or how that air might wake
an ear bent on listening
to an encyclopedia of failures
from malice swallowed so young
we never learned the difference
between damned opinions and our gifts,
rather beat against the glass,
the lying, lying glass.

Tchuss, Ciao, Arrividerchi (sp.?), Sayonara, Vaya con Dios, yada yada,



  1. Dear Craig,

    Dear dear Craig. My heart aches for you after reading your post. If it's any consolation, I too am suffering at the moment, certainly not to the degree to which you are, but enough to stay 13 hours in my classroom and get nothing done, pass out on the couch and wake up with a startled jolt at 3:30 a.m. Early morning awakenings are the worst, awake while it's still nighttime by normal standards, with my heart beating too fast to consider going back to sleep.

    The line from one of your poems echoes in my mind, something about depression being the complete absence of presence. Yes, I too go to meetings, and for some reason, they help a lot. I also take 500 mg. of Seroquel, 300 mg. of Lamictal, 800 mg. of Tegretol, 2 mg. of Klonopin, 150 mg. of Zoloft, and 30 mg. of Restoril every night. But I consider myself to be sober and in good standing with my recovery because I can honestly say that I take the drugs as medicine to treat my condition, much like a diabetic takes insulin or a heart patient takes blood pressure pills. So there's that. For the record. It's a fucking miracle (as you may know) that the obsession to use drugs to get high has been lifted. So yay for that. Thanks, God.

    But enough about me. I agree with you wholeheartedly about the abject paralysis to think, write and/or talk about anything other than myself and how fucked up I feel. So I use all the kooky slogans, "act as if", "this too shall pass" and all that other bullshit. The truth is that this really WILL pass; I just don't know when. I like your old mantra when you were your old self many years ago: face your fears and take action.

    So I wanted to reach out to you as a friend, as someone whose life has been greatly influenced by you, even if you don't feel like that person anymore.

    I wanted to say...you're doing really good. Please don't off yourself. One day you may wake up and you will be back in your body. Don't give up hope. Even if it is the thing with feathers. I never understood what that meant.

    Love to you, my friend.


    1. Kathi, you are an angel, and I can report that a new combination of meds (cross your fingers) has partially returned my sanity for two days. I won't hold my breath or grasp this too hard; I know too well the lesson of relapse. Yet it is cause for some hope.

      You are brave to take your meds and quote slogans. Whatever it takes.

      Love back,


  2. Anonymous12:35 PM PST

    In this beautiful poem, you explore the way out of your inner pressure which stops you from seeing the beauty of life in the smallest things. By noticing the needs of the trapped little bird, and helping it to get past the barrier of the glass, this little bird itself helps you to see where there is an open space and an open window, to get back to ordinary life with pure fresh air. I am 85 years old and I wish you all the best and good recovery. EB.

    1. Truly a compliment to have an octogenarian reading me. I hope you have achieved some wisdom at your age. Everything I knew or thought I knew vanishes in my depressions. But you give me cause for hope.



  3. Anonymous9:52 AM PDT

    I love you Craig Eric ! Get a chance to read "Heaven" by Randy Alcorn. It is a book written by an author who describes what Heaven will be like through scriptures. If you are interested, give me your address via my e-mail and I will order you one to be sent to your home.
    Jennifer Danner

    1. Just read "Proof of Heaven" which I think is similar. Little comfort in what you can't conceive, however, yet medication in the last two days has given me some cause for hope. Cross your fingers and your legs.

      Back to you,


  4. Anonymous6:18 PM PDT

    My e-mail address is:


    God Bless You, my friend.

    Jennifer Danner

  5. Anonymous11:22 PM PDT

    thanks for share....

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.


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