Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Trip to the Psych Ward

Follow the link below to an absolutely harrowing account of depression by Daphne Merkin in The New York Times. This essay had me chained to my desk--- I couldn't stop reading. The clock was ticking. I was due in class in seconds, but it didn't matter. This is far better than William Styron's Darkness Visible. This is no gentle poetry of madness; the dull gray film that descends upon your life like falling snow. No. This is brutal. The cocktail of psycho-pharmeceuticals. The shrinks who push shock therapy--- yes, they still do this. Apparently, it isn't as extreme, but once hospitalized, she reported a man obsessively walking up and down the hall saying, my brain is gone. She had voluntarily checked herself into a nuthouse.

I clearly remember the fall afternoon in 2006 when I asked my best friend to drive me into Manhattan so I could check myself into a nuthouse. St. Vincent's Hospital on 14th street. I walked in and faced the same kind of bland institutional culture that Merkin describes so well in her essay; the green walls, the battered couches, the same insouciance of the staff. Their generic indifference to your insanity. I told the receptionist I needed to see a doctor ASAP. I said, I'm falling apart. The receptionist was like--- whatever. I remember that her nails were tomato red, she was cracking gum, the radio was playing. The staff was in a great mood!

It was a bad day. It had been a bad week, a bad month. However, I've never descended into the hell Merkin writes about. Not that I couldn't. I could. Very easily. But I got to get my ass out of bed every morning. I have bills to pay. And I often have the same voices screaming inside my head--- lacerating, eviscerating. But I run two miles on the treadmill, do crunches, lift weights, fifteen minutes of yoga stretches, ten minutes in the steam room, followed by a hot, stinging shower. I've read studies that depression responds best to exercise, not medication. I think medication makes it worse. I do. Leave my brain chemistry alone.

She survives of course as I did, and wrote this beautifully articulate essay. Above all I applaud her honesty. I know there are many vociferous critcs of her work, but still--- it takes cojones to write like this.

No comments:

Post a Comment