Wednesday, August 16, 2006

battling a minor case of the blues at the moment. ain't no thing, everybody gets it. could be because last week i was sick with flu-like symptoms that put me down for the count a couple of days, then anna gets it friday night. originally thought it was, for me, exhaustion, but when anna got it we remembered that nicholas probably had it the week before, for he was sleeping a lot and not holding down his milk, which again we thought the cause was a bad batch of milk. whatever, were okay. and i plan on taking a 3-day weekend. friday to catch up on a couple of overdue writing projects, saturday to go to the fair, and perhaps hang with my friend b. at the drive-ins. b. and i are long overdue for an evening in the open air, not paying attention to what is onscreen.

depression seems to be an occupational hazard for writers, tho i hesitate to give writers a priviledged status among the mentally ill, since that leads to romanticizing a horrible, potentially, debilitating condition. and that clinical depression affects so many who are not poets. perhaps writers have access to language, an articulation of illness, which makes it appear they are more susceptible to mental illness. just the same, the condition is real suffering for a lot of poets.

how do you cope with depression, or the blues, as a poet? i ask as a fellow traveler on our wild journeys. last night i ran across one of the first blogs i ever read, tom bell's forthehealthofit, which has been inactive since '04. bell is a clinical psychologist and poet whose sign-off on his posts, not yet a crazy old man, and his researches into depression caught my attention. he used to be quite active on the buffalo listserv and blogs, but i've not seen/read anything by him for a long time. here's to hoping he is still not yet a crazy old man.


At 10:04 PM, Blogger Steve Caratzas said...

What a question - how much time do you have for an answer?

Seems like I've been battling some form of depression for my entire life, as I come from depressive stock.

Writing definitely helps to exorcise it, though going through the difficulty in order to get the result is frequently an exhausting process. Though rewarding, ultimately.

It makes perfect sense to me that I have chosen poetry as my vehicle, since - to my mind - it is chiefly concerned with the conveying of feelings. If I don't feel a poem, it's not working for me.

At 1:20 AM, Blogger richard lopez said...

absolutely. tho i don't think of writing has any sort of theuraputic value for me, i do think that the health of my writing is closely allied with the overall health.

i've battled panic disorder all my adult life and when i hit that black back wall my writing, my language, and thus my world, is halted.

i don't know whether writing keeps me sane and balanced, i must include reading too, or that i'm fucked up without them.

At 10:54 AM, Blogger Okir said...

That story on forthehealthof it is scary.

"depression is a complex of interest, shame-humiliation and anguish so it is not the absence of emotion but a complex of affects which he defines as the depressive posture"

From the Buddhist perspective, depression would be part of the complex conditioning that we get hooked into -- shame-humiliation, fear, painful feelings of vulnerability, anguish, drama.

While I think most folks see depression as "feeling" bad, oddly,for me it starts out initially as a kind of automatic numbing, anesthetizing reaction, which would seem a logical way to deal with anxiety or whatever, but ironically it just ends up feeding into the cycle of all of the above. Writing, especially writing poetry, allows me to cut through the stifling numbness and feel again, in an unconditioned way (maybe because when one is writing poetry, one listens, tries to be more open to change (real feeling, rather than conditioned feeling); as a result, one is more present in the world.

I hope you feel better, soon, Richard.


At 1:12 PM, Blogger richard lopez said...

thank you, jean. good way to put it, i agree that writing, and reading, makes one more present in the world and starts to dissolves conditioned responses/actions that has ossified to cliche and rote thinking and speech.

i think depression, mental illness on the whole, are physical illnesses. i know my thinking changes entirely when i hit the black back wall. the chemical structures become an other thing altogether. thus, suffering for some become so intense that the only relief is oblivion.

not so paradoxically i have found that thinking of my suicide, and again i don't mean to sound dramatic or grossly grandiose at all, self-extinction is a horrid loss for the person suffering -- since the catastrophe of mental illness can be dealt with and is usually not a permanent condition, even tho it seems so at the time of suffering -- and his/her friends and family, is a coping mechanicanism and increases overall my health. it is because it allows me at least the faintest hope of self-control, and loss of self-control, the betrayal of mind/body, is one of the worst aspects of suffering.

i know my experience is not unique, esp. among poets of all persuasions. perhaps dialogues can open among writers about the real facets of mental health that would dispel popular myths of the correlation between madness and genius. suffering knows nothing about genius or talent or love or friendship, since the sufferer is mute and alone, and that what illness destroys is not just the loss of work and reading from, but the terrible tolls it takes among family and friends.

At 7:30 PM, Blogger Okir said...

When I hear friends talk about depressive illness, I realize that I can hardly count my own current bouts of depression as such -- I don't think I can ever know what it's really like to hit that "black wall" for lengthy periods. Umm, well now that I think about it, I do remember when I was a youth, experimenting w/various substances that a few times the come-downs were devastating, black holes indeed, where one had to wait for some sense of physical balance to be restored to the metabolism before one could feel better. And if that's how it feels, then labeling it "illness" seems to make sense.

Yes, it could be useful to open up discussion, as you say about the myths of "madness" among poets and other artists; such romanticizing can't really be doing anybody any good.


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