poemless. a slap in the face of public taste.

June 25, 2010

Friends! Romans! Countrymen! Lend me your eyes!

Filed under: Too Much Information — poemless @ 4:25 PM
Tags: ,

Apologies for being remiss about keeping my blog updated with the most exciting stories about Russia you could hope to find online. All you really need to know is this: Dima ate a burger, therefore the Cold War is over. Also Nashi played a soccer match with Yabloko for the prize of a cow. Soccer. Cow. Burger. International friendship. It’s the circle of … well, something profound. I’m sure of that.

The thing is, I’ve not been well. And by not well, I mean I have these migraines with what appears to be residual optical and brain damage. Though it could just be a sinus infection. No one knows for sure, and the plan is to keep it that way by bouncing me like a pinball between people with medical degrees and people with certificates in administration and people who want my money. If the invisible hand of Capitalism works, I get to find out what is wrong with me. And if I’m one of the chosen ones, I may even receive treatment. Until then, I have prolonged episodes of blurry vision, nausea and vertigo if I look at anything too long. Especially words. There are few demands on the blogger, but being able to read and write are among them. Along with having an inflated ego and anemic social life. Being able to read and write are coincidentally among the few demands of my job. You’d think that after hearing those stories about kids in chocolate factories that I’d come home and not want to read and write. Oh, but you would be wrong! So as you can see (and I cannot), I’ve painted myself into a bit of a corner, and am now at the mercy of the -HORROR- American healthcare industry to get out of it. Hell, in other words.

“But how are your writing this now, poemless?” Instinct, desperation, nose buried in the glare protector, guided by the other invisible hand, that of pharmacopoeia.

“I think I know what is wrong with you, poemless!” Keep it to your damn self. I have enough to worry about without your theories of brain fever and cancer and whatever gruesome ailment your cousin with the exact same symptoms had and would have died from without that emergency medical excursion to Thailand to have an eyeball transplant. Besides, brain fever would be a romantic way to die, like a character in a 19th Century novel. And brain tumours? Pshaw. My brother was diagnosed with one of those, and it turned out to be a brain cyst, which turned out to be treatable with medication, that is, without cracking open his skull. See, you can’t scare me. No more than I can scare myself. Which I am doing just fine without your help. Speaking of romantic ways to die like a character in a 19th Century novel, if I am told I will never write or read again, I’ll have to go out like Anna Karenina, or pray I live near someone with a hatchet and point to make.

Brains are funny things. Well, actually they are gross things. And most people are not funny. But I was watching, nay, listening to a programme on Charlie Rose about the human brain. (Not being able to look at a tv for very long, I’ve begun judging programmes on how they sound. Charlie Rose and Euronews are quite soothing. RT and the World Cup are intolerable.) In this episode, “experts” were discussing brain pathologies. What was fascinating to me was that a few days earlier I’d been having a discussion about the nature of “depression.” It began with my assertion that throwing a puppy at some Hell’s Angels and stealing a bulldozer is a not a symptom of depression. It evolved into people forming camps. The opposing camp asserted that depression means you feel worthless, dead inside, dismissive of the consequences of your actions because the world sucks anyway. My camp asserted that depression doesn’t actually mean you feel worthless, dead inside, dismissive of the consequences of your actions because the world sucks anyway. That this was a sophomoric understanding of human nature. My theory is that if there are not things that hold value, create meaning, give one joy or if one does not have a sense (even if distorted) of self worth and right and wrong, then what does a person have to be depressed about? Besides how can you have acute psychic pain and be numb at the same time? Well, it all made no sense to me. It doesn’t make sense to Kalil Gibran either.

Back to the Charlie Rose show. Every single freaking expert took the position of the opposing camp! Fail! I cannot figure out if this is just one more instance of the status quo being inexplicably uniformed and wrongwrongwrong, which is not uncommon among Charlie Rose guests, who tend to display an oblivion to reality in direct proportion to their intelligence. So maybe this was just one more example of experts getting it wrong. Russia invaded Georgia, Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, regulating oil companies is bad for the economy, depressives have no self-worth or interests. But then I thought, perhaps they are correct. Diagnosis of depression is based on anecdotal evidence, so a lot of people must being showing up at the shrink’s to announce they feel worthless, dead inside, and don’t care about anything. Otherwise those symptoms would not make it into the textbooks. Right? Right? Don’t make me become a conspiracy theorist.

What does this have to do with my failing health? Fear of misdiagnosis, for one. Because I’ve been told I have depression my whole life (though I’ve certainly never described it that way), but I most certainly have never felt worthless, dead inside, uninterested in life, dismissive of the consequences of my actions. Just acute, paralyzing existential pain. Not unlike the migraines I have now, except emotional and intellectual rather than physical. It’s environmental, not some disease I was born with. I don’t need to go into the sources of it (read some Fedya D.) because that is neither here nor there. My point is, whatever the experts are talking about when they are talking about depression – I ain’t got it. What if they get my eye/brain disease wrong too? Fuck. Maybe if I am lucky, I will get a brain transplant and the donor brain with come with more faith-based neuro-synapses.

Oh, I don’t want your sympathy.

Just your eyes.

Your beautiful functioning eyes that I have so cruely subjected to this unseemly confession.


  1. Ok, I have no idea what the fuck is wrong with you, but I don’t like it.

    Yes, doctor’s get things wrong sometimes. It is an art, as much as they want it to be a science … and sometimes they’re wrong. But a lot of the time they do get it right. They know a lot. They don’t know everything, but they wish they did, and would very much like to know more.

    Of the sciences, I think the science of psychology/psychiatry is perhaps the least … advanced. They have a ways to go yet. Neurology, on the other hand, is doing OK.

    Your acute paralyzing existential pain does not sound like depression to me. I don’t know who told you you were depressed… but I don’t think that’s it. Not that I have an alternative diagnosis. I am not a doctor, and don’t even play one on TV.

    Comment by Melissa — June 26, 2010 @ 12:18 AM | Reply

    • But you advise wannabe doctors, don’t you? :)

      Thanks- I genuinely don’t think of myself as depressive (and I try not to be too depressing!)

      Comment by poemless — June 26, 2010 @ 10:14 AM | Reply

  2. Having already lent you me eyes…

    To be numb to the world outside you is to block the drive to live, to perceive, to enjoy life – that beckons the existential pain which you describe as `psychic pain`. That drive to live etc can be seen manifested in the fact that we breathe, we think, our body functions and our mind functions and even our ‘heart’ functions, no matter how numb to the outside world we might be.

    If you’re numb to absolutely everything, nothing will drive you, and nothing will move you – you will be a dead body. See ‘Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb’ – which captures the mood of the lull before the storm of death.

    And if you feel ‘worthless’, its because you feel you should be worth more, i.e. you deserve better. So a feeling of worthlessness flows out of a self-bestowed-lordship/kingship – something which holds for every single person Ive known who has felt worthless at any point in time [not excluding myself] – the arrogance of a supposedly worthless person can be astounding.

    It isnt that a joyless person has nothing that gives them joy, they just dont like the terms on which they get what they get. Being a king/queen, they demand it on their terms, and refuse anything which demands their adapting/being flexible.

    In other words, they suppress their joy with their insistence on every experience following the rules they impose [their own self-imposed 'morals' - anything that goes against their terms & conditions is 'wrong' and 'bad'].

    And the world is far too chaotic [anarchic if you prefer] and uncontrollable to allow any such insistence to succeed.

    So the world sucks, and like a little kid throwing a chocolate away because it isnt the ferrero rocher they were promised, it is dismissed.

    And given enough angst, even life isnt too big for them to throw away, to fulfil the demands of the lord and ruler that they are, in a cruel and ignorant world that denies them their due.

    Comment by blitzen — June 26, 2010 @ 12:20 AM | Reply

    • A few thing.

      First, I don’t think depression or wanting to die is analogous to throwing away less than ideal chocolate. It really is the brain getting stuck in a loop. Being clinically depressed is no more a choice than getting cancer. Your biology is on the fritz. In fact, no one blames and judges a cancer patient who used to smoke. They are sick and deserve dignity. But people who enter a hospital with depression are very rarely afforded that luxury.

      Also, I am still not sure of the dead/numb characterization. A lot of people we would call depressed turn to alcohol, pills and heroin precisely TO numb their pain.

      Comment by poemless — June 26, 2010 @ 10:32 AM | Reply

      • 1. The brain loop etc i.e. the physiological consequences of depression are the consequences of both mental and physical issues.

        While I’m not commenting/concerned on how the depressed are handled (where you may have a valid point), treatment has to happen on both fronts, not just one. And this doesnt obscure from our view the root without which the issue falls apart – the need to control ones experiences.

        You could go so far as to say that reversing the need to control ones experiences would inevitably drive one through all kinds of experiences that would lead to physical catharsis as well.

        Ironically, reversal of such a need can also be kick started through a physical process of purging [not simply controlling the issue temporarily]. Ones physicality can force the mind to live through experiences which it cant hide from, and which *can* cause it to let go of the need to control experience.

        [This is just my view, right now, and may be nothing more than valid in a small corner of the universe]

        2. We need to be clear about where the pain is coming from.

        The pain that is numbed by alcohol, cocaine, and a world of milder stimulants, is in this case the pain of not being able to have an experience of choice [putting it very crudely]. Alcohol, cocaine, etc, cause your perception to shift away from the reality you are facing, and thereby blunt its sharp edges. For instance, a sharp edge that alcohol blunts may be that you take your reality too seriously, so that hurts you when you fail – and alcohol can make you feel, albeit for a while, that it doesnt really matter, that you are fine.

        Similarly, a sharp edge that a stimulant blunts may be that you feel dim/down in a given experience, and the stimulant gives you the mental and physical boost required to make you feel on top of that very same experience.

        Existential pain comes out of the tension between an individual and their destiny, or if you like it, their reality, their life, their existence. It comes when they start losing their ability to feel connected or aligned with the experience they go through – hence a feeling of disconnectedness, or numbness.

        Being numb in one part of you doesnt exempt from you from terrible pain because deep within, you have the need to experience, to live, to be free.

        And so, you find a way to kill that pain, by seeking an elixir that will take you to a point where you feel alive, where you experience, where you feel free – where you are no longer numb.

        It isnt hard to identify such an issue because quite frankly, while none of us may be clinically affected, most of us in the modern world are affected by this tendency.

        So all we have to do is look within ourselves and identify the roots.

        Comment by blitzen — June 27, 2010 @ 2:36 AM | Reply

  3. And boy is it too late for me to be writing. “Doctor’s” indeed (2nd para). Since when do I add unnecessary punctuation, one of my least favorite things?

    Comment by Melissa — June 26, 2010 @ 12:20 AM | Reply

  4. That’s too damn bad that the stupid Russian government doesn’t recognize you as an important agent of influence, that’s why you can’t get whatever aid you would need from the Russian FSB.

    Yet, there are your thankful readers. If you run out of resources, let us know, possibly we could attempt doing something.

    Comment by Evgeny — June 26, 2010 @ 7:44 AM | Reply

  5. Meanwhile, aren’t you overworking? Why won’t you take like a single month break away from computers, newspapers and the TV, just to see how beautiful is the world around, how awesome are your real-world friends and relatives? If that won’t help you, it won’t harm as well. As per my personal judgement, the Internet IS depressing, especially the western reporting about Russia.

    Comment by Evgeny — June 26, 2010 @ 8:00 AM | Reply

    • Maybe you misunderstand? I am not depressed. I did take the better part of the week off work and walk away from by blog for over a week. Globetrotting vacations are limited by time and money, but I do get out and take advantage of things like beaches, museums, parks, farmers markets and make time to see my friends.

      Comment by poemless — June 26, 2010 @ 10:39 AM | Reply

      • Lucky you. :-)

        Comment by Evgeny — June 26, 2010 @ 1:23 PM | Reply

  6. I did not want to write but since you have depression or it seems so I can say that is natural feeling for human being. I doubt animals ever feel this way, even when they are distressed or lament loss of close relations. Despite my thousands of contacts I lead mostly solitary life, and often feel depressed actually. I don’t know any receipt to get out of such state, it’s very individual. Mostly I feel better if I can experience stronger emotions, even surrogate emotions after reading or watching or listening. After years of work as radio DJ I don’t listen to popular music, but I like to tune in soundtracks, for example Gladiator, Alexander, Mongol, Anna and the king. I have also all these movies and more, recently I rewatched “Anna and the king” with Jodie Foster. My first impression was – such ridiculous twists in plot, absolutely not possible in Siam of 19th century. But later I somehow managed to separate the fact and fiction and truly appreciate underlying emotions in Anna Leonowens story, for example her desperate pleas to save life of Tuptim, the king’s concubine. She had failed, the concubine and her lover were mercilessly executed. But it was deeply touching moments, which I remember so vividly. Though the movie was not shot in Thailand, cinematographists chose so beautiful landscapes, truly Thailand-like, I can attest as I am in the middle of Thailand travelling. Yesterday I spent the whole day in Sukhotai historical park – it’s so breathtakingly beautiful, it’s more than paradise, it’s idyll. Also I am not short on making friends though Asians are usually very reserved, emotionally cold people, but so far I was lucky. Just today in my hotel’s restaurant I met lovely Thai couple, Fa from Bangkok and Bpeng from Si Satchanalai. The girl did not know English well but her boyfriend, (he was looking like Asian Austin Powers) was talking non-stop. So charming moments. I am sure you would find your moments to remember.

    Comment by FarEasterner — June 26, 2010 @ 8:50 AM | Reply

    • Thank you for sharing this. Yes, it is individual. Happy memories actually make me sad.

      Comment by poemless — June 26, 2010 @ 10:45 AM | Reply

    • Oh and – have known pets to get depressed when someone close dies. Who refuse to eat, drink or socialize for weeks or more on end.

      Comment by poemless — June 27, 2010 @ 6:08 AM | Reply

  7. Poemless, for what is worth, I used to have very very bad migraines (including nausea) and NOTHING helped. Tried many painkillers, had a brain scan, once I was injected with Imitrex–a new medicine back then. All for nothing. Then a doctor gave me some Relpax (which just came out) and, wow, it worked like magic. Now when I feel that a migraine is coming I take a Relpax. It has been years since I had one of those bad migraines that used to totally immobilize me for a day or two several times a month. (For some reason those migraines came in cycles: I would not have any for six or even eight months, and then came a period of frequent migraines that could last for up to three months. Then things would quiet down again…) Not all migraines are the same, but Relpax may be worth a try if you have not done so already. Best of luck!

    Comment by Kolya — June 26, 2010 @ 11:28 PM | Reply

    • Thanks. I am now being sent to a neurologist because they think it is my brain and not my eyes. I will bring it up with her. Glad you got some relief. Mine come in cycles like yours did, but now I have what they call a “static” migraine. As in, permanent. No fun.

      Comment by poemless — June 27, 2010 @ 6:15 AM | Reply

      • No fun. I hope the neurologist helps you. Do mention Relpax, just in case. A pill of 40 mg is usually enough for me. And who knows, there may be something even better out there. Take care, poemless. I know how what a pain a migraines is… not something to dismiss as “another headache.”

        Comment by Kolya — June 27, 2010 @ 7:07 AM | Reply

  8. Well I don’t really have anything to say except – that sucks! I hope the doctors figure something out. Soon!

    Comment by maryb — June 27, 2010 @ 7:49 PM | Reply

  9. poemless, what’s up with you? just for you – check wiki-like encyclopedia of Russia on lurkmore.ru, it’s 100% better than its English variant (on lurkmore.com), with around 5000 articles which offer unpolished, humouristic description of modern Russia and its people as well as internet slang. Enjoy!

    Comment by FarEasterner — July 5, 2010 @ 5:17 AM | Reply

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