Major Depression

[Below is a true story about a very good friend of mine. Despite the overall tenor of many of my poems, I do not believe I have ever suffered to the degree described here. Most of what I have written here is a paraphrase of what my friend has related to me about his experience with the symptoms of major depression.

I believe there is hope for people who suffer from depression. In my friend's case, his illness was due to organic causes: a shortage of production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. He is currently on Prozac to restore this imbalance. He has recently married and has almost graduated with a degree in computer science after being hindered in this for many years by his illness. I believe he is successfully putting his life back together, and I sense that his overall outlook on life has improved dramatically.

When you're feeling bad, awareness of the cause is important, the real cause. When the body is weary from lack of sleep or exertion, it colors thoughts (and often colors them grey and blue). When the neurological processes are out of balance, it is only natural that psychological processes will be affected. If you recognize when your body is the source of your bad feelings, it can often suggest physical things that you might do to relieve the feelings. Also, you can rest assured that it's not because you did something morally wrong or that the world is by nature an evil place. The ills of the body can be better insulated from interpersonal and worldly events. You can say: "It's only the sickness." rather than searching in vain for external causes or personal faults.

G.C. April, 2000]

You say it's all in my head,
But I tell you, my friend, that's the worst.
My head, this bloody cistern of nightmares:
I can't escape it.
It's all contained and concentrated there
     My implacable despair.

No—despair isn't even a word for it;
It is a physical darkness,
A cloak of lead which pulls me down
And squeezes all inspiration from my soul
Like a boot crushing down on a dead animal
Until the blood jets out onto the pavement,
And whenever I walk I move like a zombie 'cause it's so heavy,
And I can't see because it's covering my head
Like the burlap sack of a condemned man.
I breathe slowly;
Life passes in the shadow of lingering death.

So I seek refuge in sleep and dreaming,
And the phantom pursues:
Visions of putting a pistol in my mouth,
Tasting the cold, acrid metal,
Feeling my thumb drawing back the trigger,
Then hearing the blast that ends all feeling,
And I know no-one gives a shit,
Not even God, though I hear Him often when I'm in this state.
He tells me I'm a selfish bastard and a drain on society.
I tell Him that He fuckin' did this to me, and He says,
"Well, it's not my problem," As He washes my brains from His hands.
My God! How can you say that you've ever known despair?!
Has your mother died, or someone you really cared about?
I die each day,
And I blame myself,
And everyone else blames me,
Says I'm lazy, a quitter.
They think I'm just spooning for sympathy.
They think I can make myself better tomorrow—
     If I only would.
But that's bullshit!
They don't understand; no-one understands,
Not unless you have what I have,
And I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.

"So what could possibly make you so miserable all the time?"
     You ask.
Depression is a mental illness, man. It fucks with your thinking,
Makes you see and hear things,
Makes you know that everything is hopeless,
That the world is evil,
And you can't even
     Reach out,
          Ask for help
Because it's futile—
     Why waste someone else's time with your problems
When they can't help you anyway?

So I work myself in deeper:
Shut myself up in my apartment and stare at the walls all day,
Won't answer the phone 'cause I don't want anyone to know
     What a mess I am;
And sometimes I write...
Words of pitch and gall which defile my notebooks with an ebon vomit.
I write about killing my father
Who used to beat me before I was twelve,
And I just keep thinking about how black the world is until
The suicide visions come
          Crowding around me like vultures
     (Which only I can see)
Until some kind soul manages to drag me into a psyche ward,
     This time.

George Chadderdon © 1994