Posted by: Harold Knight | 10/05/2009

Gee, thanks, Carson McCullers

People will say they're in love (with someONE)

People will say they’re in love (with someONE)

To anyone who reads my posting of yesterday and thinks, “Poor thing, he had a bad day, and he thinks he’s different from the rest of us,” let me say this:

The difference is in the feelings behind all of what happened to me (what I did) on Saturday and what other people might feel if they had a day like mine. At every event of the day, I was ready to—and a couple of times did—break into tears because I felt as if I simply couldn’t cope. When I got back to my apartment with the bundle of unread mail, I cried. Silly me. The difficulty was all my doing, all my fault. Just go to your mailbox everyday, stupid! The operative word is “stupid.” That’s one of the constants of my PhD generated self-understanding. The mail is still in the bundle in which I received it. I’m terrified there’s something there I don’t want to read; my friends in my sobriety program will have a different explanation for my behavior than I am giving here, and theirs certainly—even after 23 years—identifies at least part of the problem.  (I’ve learned to make footnotes rather than write everything out. See note 1.) The fact remains: at every turn in the day on Saturday I wanted to, and several times did, cry. Not buckets. Hot angry tears mostly choked back. Not self-pity (believe me, I have experienced both and know the difference) but a kind of frustration that makes it impossible for me to see any way out of the momentary situation (one of the drug company’s descriptions of depression includes “helplessness”).

Yesterday I felt that way only a couple of times. Some day I may write about what going to church and participating in Holy Communion and playing the organ/piano a little bit does for my frustrations. Then you can tell me (or my shrink can) if those things are part of depression (the drug company calls it “increased religious activities” –I’ve always been actively religious, but so have many of my friends who are not, I assume, disordered).  Let’s just say that I—yes, it’s true—have a pipe organ in my living room that I sometimes go for weeks without playing even though I should know from experience that will change the way I feel (“Loss of interest in pleasurable activities”). At that point, I don’t think anyone can say I’m being lazy. I just don’t think of it, or, when I do, there’s something in me that utterly rejects the idea that I have any reason to make music. I think that’s depression whether or not I’m being affected by some disorder or another.

Back to yesterday. When I wrote in the morning and then when I got home from church, I was not depressed (as I say, that’s not necessarily an indication of anything). I wrote, I did some paper grading, I answered some emails, and I watched TV in the evening without feeling guilty or depressed. In fact at one point as I was watching “Raging Planet” (I could not concentrate on “Masterpiece Mystery Theater”—I was confused for the first ten minutes, and simply could not follow what was going on—not “disorder,” just a badly written film?), I was feeling quite jolly. Not a scintilla of depression. Eating a healthy supper and playing with the cats. I did, later on watching “As Time Goes By” burst into tears at one point in the story, which I’ve seen probably half-dozen times, and wondered what that was all about.

You name what was going on with me Saturday and Sunday. I can’t. Maybe everyone in the world tears through emotions the way I do. I doubt it.  Perhaps all of my experiences are reflected in some golden eye that distorts what I see (See note 2).

(Note 1) From the abstract for:
Winokur, G., Coryell, W.; et al.  “Familial alcoholism in manic-depressive (bipolar) disease.” The American Journal of Psychiatry 152.3 (1995): 365:
“This 5-year follow-up study was designed to explore the factors that might lead to alcoholism in patients with bipolar disorder….The patients with primary alcoholism had significantly fewer episodes of affective disorder during followup, suggesting that their type of bipolar illness was less severe and may have needed the added insult of alcoholism to make it manifest. Conclusions: The study supports the idea that not all alcoholism is primary with a corresponding familial diathesis. Rather, alcoholism associated with bipolar disorder is often a secondary complication.”

(Note 2) An example perhaps my hypergraphia in full bloom. Part of a 5000-word writing I did on January 7, 2008:

But I’ve mostly talked ‘around’ this and never tried to talk or write all of this through and it’s probably useless to do it now, but I’m ready after the events of the last month to try to figure out (some of my friends tell me it’s not necessary to figure it out, just to change the behavior, but it’s not only behavior, it’s feelings that are stuck like cement in my head or wherever feelings get stuck) why I can’t live like others in society and someone should have known that when they had to make exception for me in high school because I wore my JS Bach sweatshirt and my hair long when both were forbidden at Central High School, and they caught me smoking in the men’s room at the Sheraton Fontanelle Hotel in downtown Omaha the night I was there to receive the Rotary Clubs award for the outstanding high school citizen of the year (shall I once again point out the irony?), and didn’t anyone—besides me—see what a constant contradiction my life was?
I fall to pieces, each time I see you again.
I fall to pieces. How can I be just your friend?
You want me to act like we’ve never kissed.
You want me to forget, pretend we’ve never met.
And I’ve tried and I’ve tried, but I haven’t yet.
You walk by and I fall to pieces.

Wouldn't you have fallen to pieces?

Wouldn’t you have fallen to pieces?

I fell to pieces again and again over the next few years (many years?) maybe because I just couldn’t get it that I was the cause of all of these problems and maybe because I am crazy and/or a criminal or just an addict. Or maybe because all I ever wanted was someone to fall to pieces over and I perhaps had him in Jerry and now he is dead, and so is my mother. I’m not depressed or completely self-absorbed. I am, for once, hoping to move on. Speaking of falling to pieces: Hypergraphia in 1968?—part of the evidence  collected in our apartment was the long, meandering, crazy thing I wrote that morning they took me away to the hospital or wherever it was in red ink with a drawing of a horse’s eye at the top. (We saw the movie version of Carson McCullers’ “Reflection in a Golden Eye” the night before. You know, Lt. Col. Marlon Brando, married to Elizabeth Taylor and both of them in love with Private Robert Forster—that’s him a year later in “Medium Cool”—who rides nude on horseback through the film, as does Elizabeth Taylor. Who wouldn’t fall to pieces the morning after that?)

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