I was cured, alright.

Last Friday night I drank one cocktail (a bit strong) and one dropper of my THC tincture. When I went to bed I was looking for something to read and opened John Berryman’s The Dream Songs, and it clicked for the first time in years. I wrote a half dozen lines, finished them the next day and read them at the Maple Leaf on Sunday to a polite reception. Got home and wrote another poem, my 2nd in seven years.

“I was cured, alright.”
— Alex DeLarge, A Clockwork Orange.

The above was a Facebook post from last Sunday. It seems I am somehow crawling out from under the shadow of Risperidone. I sorely needed some sort of intervention eight years ago, but what was chosen completely silenced the power of creative associative thought and language necessary to write.

I had to go look at the last prescription bottle to remember it’s been almost a year since I discontinued this drug, and not long after started this blog to chronicle what I hoped would be the road to recovering my full self. A glance at the timeline here shows I didn’t keep it up. There was no remarkable recovery. I continued as the productive, bill-paying drone I was for the last seven years..

Until last weekends sudden awakening.

Today I woke up from a restless night of stressful vivid dreams, and sat in my office chair staring at the pile of unopened mail and unfiled documents, piled stop the work laptop reminding me I must go back to my increasingly in uncertain job. I sat paralyzed, feeling like someone had laid a large, lead blanket over me.

I recognized this state, and realized that perhaps I am cycling again. Rather that dispair and pick up the phone to make an appointment with the pill doctor, I resolved to find some way to manage this myself. Then I remember the germinal line of a poem which occurred to me as I fed the crow cousins their breakfast of raw peanuts. And I resolved to turn that line into a poem. And did.

I was cured alright.

If writing is the channel for a certain level of mania, and the cure for episodes of depression then I will not go back to psychopharmacology to resolve this. Instead I see a path to management that Risperidone robbed me of. I can manage this. I no longer live alone with my familiar deamon. I have my partner and sister to slap me upside the head if I beer too far off course.

Real recovery is not an absence of symptoms, but a return to my truer self .

Here’s the poem. Fine enough but not amazing enough to worry about wasting a chance at real publication elsewhere.

How do the crows know
when I am awake, caw-ling
For the peanuts I will
Scatter in the street?
I have made this arrangement
To rekindle every morning
A forgotten relationship
With Creation, to unbuild
The walls our so-called
Civilization has erected
Against Nature. I call them
The crow cousins, adapting
The Native arrangement
Of a family of life.
Someday I will shut-off
The alarms demanding
Timeliness in obeisance
To the unnatural construction
Called modern life &
Wake when the cousins call.
I will make another New Covenant
& abandon dominion for
The company of familiars,
Bring back the magic
We have abandoned
& repose in a whole world.

And now, for something completely different.

I just wrote what I think is a thoughtful, coherent political think piece of 691 words. It is the longest thing I have written in the last several years. And I have a lot more to say. The secret to returning to a life of writing is to start writing. So I am going to move beyond the original intent of this space, my experience with psychopharmacology and its deleterious effect my on writing life

And just write what I have to say.

Ten Years After

It has been four months since I stopped Risperidone, the drug which lobotomized the creative part of my brain which danced hand in hand with Bipolar Disorder. And I have not kept this blog up, which is not a good sign. And I still struggle to read serious poetry, which was at the center of my life–reading and writing–ten years ago.

Perhaps I set the bar too high by diving into John Berryman’s The Dream Songs as my acid test, poems as much sculpture as language, incantatory magic of a sort which I once sought to model my own writing after and to which I have lost the underlying text or language. Today I decided to read Timothy Donnelly’s poem “The Cloud Corporation”, which spawned a prairie fire in my brain when I first read it in the last decade, and raved about it being “The Wasteland” of our generation.

And today I began to see a glimmer behind the clouds. Somewhere the fires of inspiration are banked behind the clouds, and my largest goal in life is to find them I still hope to find them.

I am also heartened that I wrote a brief, political think piece about the Trumplican hysteria over inflation, and I think I will share it here. This will generalize the blog beyond its original intent, but I once again feel compelled to write at length Even if it is not poetry, it is a start.

I am sharing the poem below without prior permission of the author, although I plan to go ask forgiveness. Found at The Poetry Foundation.

The Cloud Corporation



The clouds part revealing a mythology of clouds

assembled in light of earliest birds, an originary

text over water over time, and that without which

the clouds part revealing an apology for clouds

implicit in the air where the clouds had been

recently witnessed rehearsing departure, a heartfelt phrase

in the push of the airborne drops and crystals

over water over time—how being made to think

oneself an obstruction between the observer

and the object or objects under surveillance or even

desired—or if I am felt to be beside the point

then I have wanted that, but to block a path is like

not being immaterial enough, or being too much

when all they want from you now is your station

cleared of its personal effects please and vanish—

not that they’d ever just come out and say it when

all that darting around of the eyes, all that shaky

camouflage of paper could only portend the beginning of the

end of your tenure at this organization, and remember

a capacity to draw meaning out of such seeming

accidence landed one here to begin with, didn’t it.


The clouds part revealing an anatomy of clouds

viewed from the midst of human speculation, a business

project undertaken in a bid to acquire and retain

control of the formation and movement of clouds.

As late afternoons I have witnessed the distant

towers borrow luster from a bourbon sun, in-box

empty, surround sound on, all my money made

in lieu of conversation—where conversation indicates

the presence of desire in the parties to embark on

exchange of spirit, hours forzando with heartfelt phrase—

made metaphor for it, the face on the clock tower

bright as a meteor, as if a torch were held against

likelihood to illuminate the time so I could watch

the calm silent progress of its hands from the luxury

appointments of my office suite, the tumult below

or behind me out of mind, had not my whole attention

been riveted by the human figure stood upon

the tower’s topmost pinnacle, himself surveying

the clouds of the future parting in antiquity, a figure

not to be mistaken, tranquilly pacing a platform

with authority: the chief executive officer of clouds.


The clouds part revealing blueprints of the clouds

built in glass-front factories carved into cliff-faces

which, prior to the factories’ recent construction,

provided dorms for clans of hamadryas baboons,

a species revered in ancient Egypt as attendants

of Thoth, god of wisdom, science, and measurement.

Fans conveying clouds through aluminum ducts

can be heard from up to a mile away, depending on

air temperature, humidity, the absence or presence

of any competing sound, its origin and its character.

It is no more impossible to grasp the baboon’s

full significance in Egyptian religious symbolism

than it is to determine why clouds we manufacture

provoke in an audience more positive, lasting

response than do comparable clouds occurring in nature.

Even those who consider natural clouds products

of conscious manufacture seem to prefer that a merely

human mind lie behind the products they admire.

This development may be a form of self-exalting

or else another adaptation in order that we find

the hum of machinery comforting through darkness.


The clouds part revealing there’s no place left to sit

myself down except for a single wingback chair

backed into a corner to face the window in which

the clouds part revealing the insouciance of clouds

cavorting over the backs of the people in the field

who cut the ripened barley, who gather it in sheaves,

who beat grain from the sheaves with wooden flails,

who shake it loose from the scaly husk around it,

who throw the now threshed grain up into the gently

palm-fanned air whose steady current carries off

the chaff as the grain falls to the floor, who collect

the grain from the floor painstakingly to grind it

into flour, who bake the flour into loaves the priest will offer

in the sanctuary, its walls washed white like milk.

To perform it repeatedly, to perform it each time

as if the first, to walk the dim corridor believing that

the conference it leads to might change everything,

to adhere to a possibility of reward, of betterment,

of moving above, with effort, the condition into which

one has been born, to whom do I owe the pleasure

of the hum to which I have been listening too long.


The clouds part revealing the advocates of clouds,

believers in people, ideas and things, the workers

of the united fields of clouds, supporters of the wars

to keep clouds safe, the devotees of heartfelt phrase

and belief you can change with water over time.

It is the habit of a settled population to give ear to

whatever is desirable will come to pass, a caressing

confidence—but one unfortunately not borne out

by human experience, for most things people desire

have been desired ardently for thousands of years

and observe—they are no closer to realization today

than in Ramses’ time. Nor is there cause to believe

they will lose their coyness on some near tomorrow.

Attempts to speed them on have been undertaken

from the beginning; plans to force them overnight

are in copious, antagonistic operation today, and yet

they have thoroughly eluded us, and chances are

they will continue to elude us until the clouds part

in a flash of autonomous, ardent, local brainwork—

but when the clouds start to knit back together again,

we’ll dismiss the event as a glitch in transmission.


The clouds part revealing a congregation of bodies

united into one immaterial body, a fictive person

around whom the air is blurred with money, force

from which much harm will come, to whom my welfare

matters nothing. I sense without turning the light

from their wings, their eyes; they preen themselves

on the fire escape, the windowsill, their pink feet

vulnerable—a mistake to think of them that way.

If I turn around, the room might not be full of wings

capable of acting, in many respects, as a single being,

which is to say that I myself may be the source of

what I sense, but am no less powerless to change it.

Always around me, on my body, in my mouth, I fear them

and their love of money, everything I do without

thinking to help them make it. And if I am felt to be

beside the point, I have wanted that, to live apart

from what depends on killing me a little bit to keep

itself alive, and yet not happily, with all its needs

and comforts met, but fattened so far past that point

I am engrossed, and if I picture myself outside of it

it isn’t me anymore, but a parasite cast out, inviable.


The clouds part revealing the distinction between

words without meaning and meaning without words,

a phenomenon of nature, the westbound field

of low air pressure developing over water over time

and warm, saturated air on the sea surface rising

steadily replaced by cold air from above, the cycle

repeating, the warm moving upward into massive

thunderclouds, the cold descending into the eye

around which bands of thunderclouds spiral, counter-

clockwise, often in the hundreds, the atmospheric

pressure dropping even further, making winds

accelerate, the clouds revolve, a confusion of energy,

an incomprehensible volume of rain—I remember

the trick of thinking through infinity, a crowd of eyes

against an asphalt wall, my vision of it scrolling

left as the crowd thinned out to a spatter and then

just black until I fall asleep and then just black again,

past marketing, past focus groups, past human

resources, past management, past personal effects,

their insignificance evident in the eye of the dream

and through much of the debriefing I wake into next.


I finally had my long meeting with my practitioner about my medication experience. I covered my last five years of symptoms that are either in regression or at least euthymic. I had been inclined to first stop the Prozac, as that seemed the medication I was least in need of. My down cycles were never terribly profound, and never rose to meet all the diagnostic criteria. I was mostly given it for generalized anxiety disorder, which was what led to my first encounter with psychopharmacology: the benzo Klonopin.

I kicked the Klonopin almost five years ago after taking 4-6 mg a day for almost eight years, and my anxiety is manageable. And I’m allowed 30 Klonopin if it really kicks in, which lasts about six months, so I consider that well under control.

To my surprise, she instead recommended I first discontinue Rispiredone, because of its much larger foot print of side effects. I’m thirty pounds heavier than when I started Rispiredone, which is not unusual. I had been inclined to start by discontinuing Prozac because my Bipolar II expression was much more severe than anxiety or mood-disorder associated depression. As we discussed my symptoms and history, I described how I had not had an incidence of hypomania in years. So it’s the little brown pills that go first.

I started out on Risperidone about five years ago, and my dose has been reduced over that time down to 0.25 mg. Still, the weight stays on. The impairment of my creative output, what started this entire discussion, remains. And I worry as well about what seems to be increasing cognitive issues with word recall and other memory functions. So starting last night, I took a pill cutter and divided one of my last two pills. By Monday, I should wake up free of Risperidone and its active agents.

I’m putting my practitioners name and phone number up on the fridge, as I had done several years ago at my partner’s house. Just in case. But I think I can handle this. Only time will tell.

I mentioned to my practitioner and in prior posts how I had read James Joyce Ulysses almost every June for decades. I ever restarted Bloomsday readings in New Orleans a few years ago. My current trade paperback it tattered and full of little yellow sticky tabs. But found a few years ago I couldn’t get through it. Then I stopped trying. That is one of the symptoms of what I believe are the effects of my medication on my higher executive function. In a few months, I will find out if that has changed.

Becoming and Unbecoming

Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.

Anais Nin

Every year in June for decades I would read Ulysses in June, in celebration of the day in which Joyce’s novel takes place. It is a difficult book, but it helps to have a sympathetic mind, one that is drawn into decoding the marvelous language and story. A few years ago, well into my remission and on my medication, I failed to get through it, and have not attempted it again.

I have always been a bookish person, as or more comfortable in creative if fictive worlds that in the one in which I carried on my life. I am not asking the reader to be my psychoanalyst while I recapitulate my life, I won’t go into why. It was simply my nature in the world. This sort of personality can go two ways: vanishing into easily-digestible genre reading, or by diving deeper and deeper into increasingly complex works. Consider the child who is said to read above his grade level. That was always me. Tuning out boring high school classes to sit against the back wall with my nose in Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow at sixteen. Even during the most ordinary parts of my life–good job, house in the suburbs, two wonderful children, nothing more outré than being the only person in Fargo, N.D. to wear a beret, my ex-wife was amazed and a little proud to be married to someone who lay in bed at night reading Shakespeare. I have read and enjoyed poetry since my teenager years, and met my first wife in a Early 20th Century Poetry class.

Something changed about six years ago. I had been clearly hypomanic in the prior decade and made some disastrous life choices and lived dangerously. My last truly manic-depressive cycle occurred in 2015 when I was involved in a horrible job, with ridiculous hours dictated by an intercontinental team, and rife with incompetence. I had been flat broke before getting this job and felt I needed to hold onto it at any cost. I needed to come out of the dysfunction that exploded when I was suddenly laid off from my job, and separated from my ex-wife, from the crazy years from about 2008 until 2014. I was on medication that seemed to help–Risperidone and Buproprion.

But something else was changing. I stopped publishing the Odd Words literary listings. I began to back away from the Toulouse Street blog. And I began to retreat into childhood favorite books. Wind in the Willows, A Wrinkle in Time and its successors, Out of the Silent Planet. I was not reading, or writing, poetry any more. At the time I thought it was a depressive cycle which caused this change in my reading habits. But even after quitting precipitously the job from hell and taking months off to reassess my life and condition, I did not go back to poetry. That’s when I found I could not read Ulysses. At one point I read every book from Terry Pratchett’s Diskworld series, one after another.

Some part of myself was switched off, and it was not just the depressive episode around the job from hell. It persisted into the mildly manic months that followed. And beyond. In April 2016 I started driving for Uber and Lyft because I could not find a job. (My favorite theory is: nobody wants to hire the old guy, when they can get a kid cheaper). As I settled into a routine with no significant hypomanic or depressive events, I found I just could not focus on poetry, or Joyce, or anything challenging. The parts of me that were drawn to these works had shut down.

I’ve been reading some works about my condition, and some scientific articles on my medication. One thing that jumped out at me was a finding in one long study that people prone to bipolar disorder tended to score very high for intelligence and creativity in childhood. This seems to track my life. I read elsewhere the people with bipolar disorder were prone to a certain level of cognitive decline. But most of the studies were of inpatients, suggesting they were likely bipolar I with more severe symptoms, and we perhaps were more heavily medicated What I took away from all that reading is that their are cognitive issues with Bipolar and Depressive individuals, but I didn’t see anything that clearly differentiated between the condition and the psychopharmacological approach to these conditions. And I began to wonder if medication to shut off the condition knows as Bipolar Disorder II were also shutting down important parts of who I am.

And that is why I am here, writing this, reading what I am reading. If the period from 2005 to 2016 was the blossoming of an innate capability for creative thought and writing, then is being as close to 100% “normal” worth the price? Am I in fact squandering my potential as a human being? I feel like there has to be another path. The reason I started writing this was to capture my thoughts about the process of demedicating, and to share it with others who might be considering the same. I’ve not been bashful in the last sixteen years with sharing my personal story on my blogs or in other writing. And this sort of journaling is a useful exercise in focusing my thoughts. And starting to try to re-ignite the part of my brain that could string phrases and sentences and paragraphs in a way that I couldn’t before, and which the external world told me was valuable

I am going to send a link to all this to my psychological practitioner before the hour-long meeting I have this week; not the usual 30 minutes how’re doing have you tried to do yourself in lately I usually have. I am going to seek her advice on how to begin to titrate off my medication, and whether to approaching titrating off risperidone or fluoxetine first. I am, however, determined to go down this path, and hope that whatever her misgivings she will assist me as best she can in assisting me on this journey. Or I will reach out to the psychiatrist who helped me off of Klonopin but who left practice for a different role, the one with year of Poetry Magazine in his waiting room, and ask him to recommend someone who will.

An Unquiet Mind

I went directly from Touched With Fire to Dr. Lay Redfield Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness, her chronicle of her own battle with manic-depressive disorder and how it informed her career in mental health. Her candor about the extremities of her illness, and the criticality of maintaining medication upon diagnosis has given me much to think about.

My subject is how my own creative thought and action has been impacted by the illness and the medications I have taken. I am on an extremely low does of Risperidone (0.25 mg), and I question whether that is in part the cause of the collapse of my creative life. I am not Bipolar I, the extreme form. For all my excess and outlandish behaviors, I have never had a psychotic break. I believe I experienced a form of paredoila, seeing an old man’s face and a boar in the folds as the base of oak trees during my longs walks after precipitously quitting my job in 2015. When I walk the same paths I can’t see them clearly anymore. But there was nothing approaching hallucination.

My depressions were not the paralysis of despair. I was floating in a boat on still and windless gray sea at times, but never tempted to jump overboard. Some of my depression may have equally had roots in life experiences. I used to tell a prior pill doctor and the psychiatrist who helped me off Klonopin (and who first diagnosed me correctly) that given some of my life experiences in the past decade and more, I’d be a psychopath not to be depressed.. I currently take 20mg of generic Prozac. In the past I was given citalopram and buproprion. After reading about Dr. Jamison’s experience with discontinuing Lithium, I am increasingly inclined to continue my small dose of Risperidone, and consider whether I truly need to still be taking an SSRI after five years of remission, and ten years total taking them.

Something shut off the creative part of my brain, and I’m not entirely convinced it was solely remission of bipolar disorder. I always prided myself on my vocabulary, and yet I frequently find myself looking up words that I know I know. I noted above how my ability read, enjoy and analyze poetry evaporated with my remission, and how I turned to easier genre fiction. I just read Beloved because of the recent controversy, and it was a difficult slog. And I always enjoyed Faulker and Joyce re-reading Ulysses every other June or so. I feel like my concentration is strained in my sometimes complex work life in which I test computer software. My prior psychiatrist thought perhaps ADHD was keeping my associative though from organizing itself, and I was on guanfacine for a long while, and don’t recall precisely why I discontinued it. My general recollection is I went off that about the time of my bipolar diagnosis, and began transitioning away from Klonopin and toward the anti-seizure sort of medication.

It is possible what i am experiencing is just a factor of my age (64), but I desperately want to know if I’m drifting toward some form of dementia, or whether I am bringing it on myself through medication. To extend a person without advance statistical and methodological training can decode medical journal articles, a few things jump out at me:

  • There is evidence that long-term use of SSRIs for anxiety disorder may impact cognitive function..
  • There is evidence that Bipolar Disorder is associated with cognitive impairment, but the studies have been on mostly BP1 and/or inpatients, i.e., people with extremely acute conditions.
  • Long term studies starting in childhood indicate that people with subsequent BP disorder often have higher cognitive function earlier in life.

What I cannot find is any study that looks like the difference between treated and untreated individuals, probably because if you’re an inpatient you are having severe, schizophrenic symptoms. I don’t see anything that looks specifically at the treatments such as anti-psychotics as possible actors in decline in cognitive function separate from the disease.

At this point, my dosage of Risperidone is very low — 0.25 mg a day — so for now my inclination is to continue that medication to avoid some of my past, unhealthy behaviors. As extended use of SSRIs might affect cognition, I’m going to start by titrating off of Prozax.

I’m not exactly excited about discontinuing the Prozac. I’ve experienced a brain zap and it’s a startling and unpleasant experience. But SSRIs are also associated with some decline of cognitive function, and I think that is where I will take the conversation with my psychologist. If I have to worry about dementia in my old age as an unavoidable process, I’d rather start addressing that now. And I believe reducing my intake of psychotropic drugs is an important first step on eliminating those as a cause.

Well Bottom Blues

—Hand me back my crawl, condign Heaven. Tighten into a ball elongate & valved Henry. Tuck him peace. Render him sightless, or ruin at high rate his crampon focus, wipe out his need. Reduce him to the rest of us

John Berryman, Dream Song No. 25

In August 2005, not only the levees of New Orleans broke. A damn that had contained a wild side of my nature also burst and inundated my life. The two most obvious examples of the change were the precipitous decision to move my family to a disaster zone, and the place I chronicled that journey: a blog titled Wet Bank Guide. The name was a play on the newspaper where I once worked on the West Bank of New Orleans and an apt description of its purpose. It was at first a journalistic exercise in collecting information for the Katrina diaspora, but quickly morphed into a very person journal of my own experience of loss and disruption, the survivor guilt that led to our move to New Orleans, and a chronicle of the city’s woes and moments of triumph.

This sudden outburst of writing and action was itself one long moment of constant cycling triumph and woe, easily recognized from outside or in retrospect as a long period of cyclothymic if not outright manic-depressive behavior. At first it was manageable cyclothymic behavior, a tremendous outburst of creativity and activity. The group of fellow bloggers about Katrina organized an annual conference called Rising Tide on the future of New Orleans. I was elected housing chair of the Mid-City Neighborhood Recovery Group, an ad hoc assembly of a few score people that came together to participate in the city’s recovery planning process when the formal neighborhood organization declined to participate. I started keeping a list of every person murdered in New Orleans for several years.

And I wrote: constantly. In the early months of the blog I spent countless hours after work scouring the news for information to share and comment on, frequently forgoing more than a few hours sleep. I started for the first time in decades to write poetry, and was regarded good at it when I immersed myself in the local poetry scene. I sat in a audience of half a hundred people mostly poets and the state poet laurate pointed out the New Orleans poets in attendance, myself and another well-established and published writer. And I started a second blog: Toulouse Street, Odd Bits of Life in New Orleans, a more personal and eccentric view of the city where one blog reviewer said I let my freak flag fly. When the local newspaper shut down its book page and laid off its editor, I started Odd Words, collecting all the literary activity in the city in a weekly column. I also covered and wrote about events such as the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival. I started to review plays for a local on-line newspaper during the annual In—– Festival. I co-founded a publishing company to collect and publish the Katrina bloggers.

I was the whirlwind.

There were other symptoms. An ill-advised, mostly platonic affair with another blogger that broke my already floundering marriage. Later a period of excessive late nights (and some dawns) of drinking and random, one night stands even while I was in the early stages of a post-marriage relationship that has lasted these eleven years. Less destructive but instructive was spending on random things, like a small conga drum I never learned to play. At one point I was adding didgeridoos to my Amazon Wish List. When my job laid me off in 2010 (contemporaneous with my separation and divorce) with healthy severance package, I went back to school to finish the degree I abandoned in the late 1970s. And when I graduated in 2014 I took a memorable but ill-advised trip to a summer semester in Italy, from which I came back after forty days and nights exhausted and broke.

I was a mess.

It wasn’t the first time in my life. My twenties married to an alcoholic as a joyful enabler were probably symptoms of the same disorder in my life. I can think of examples going back to my teens when I discovered that alcohol and drugs could unlock the person inside my frighteningly shy shell. The worst of it came and went in cycles. I don’t remember periods of deep depression, but I remember the cycle of high-flying feeling and the behavior it engendered. That sort of behavior was finally quieted by my marriage and children, for fifteen mostly peaceful American-dream years of raising the kids, buying houses and increasingly practical cars. It all came undone in 2015, and I became the whirlwind once again.

I had sought psychiatric help and was prescribed a varying and colorful list of anti-depressants, and an anti-psychotic for mood disorder. I was taking 2 mg of Klonopin a day to control what was initially diagnosed as anxiety disorder. I had suffered from something like that for as long as I can remember. And I began to undergo another transformation. I began to withdraw from life and all of my activities. I was becoming reclusive and loosing what had come to be important parts of my life, particularly writing. I stopped publishing Odd Words, a third book for our press was abandoned after the initial printing and my circle of friends shrank. I kept up the Toulouse Street blog, and at one point wrote Confessions of a Pill Eater:

I can’t write. I am amazed I made it to 600 words without a syllabus and a deadline. The first draft of this was created at the end of June (2012). Two months to manage 3,800 words. I try write, to do the Work, just as I can get up and make my daily 7:30 a.m. conference call for Moloch. You set a time, you sit down and do it because writing is The Work, but now I find myself staring at my reflection in the blank page. It just doesn’t come. I started a long poem a while back and that is The Work, sitting down and filling in the plan, adjusting as you go along, finding the lines and fitting all the pieces together, but I can’t focus enough to make progress… Perhaps my writing was an ephemeral phenomenon, a temporary imbalance in the brain waiting to be set right… The blank page stares back at me, and I turn away.

This seemed as consequential as my earlier bouts of maniacal behavior. I felt neutered as a human being as my muse or whatever withdrew into pharmacology. I left the care person I called The Pill Doctor and sought out an M.D. Psychiatrist who happens to have a shelf of Poetry magazine in his waiting room. He helped me to kick Klonpin but also diagnosed me (correctly I believe) as Bipolar II, and started me an another anti-psychotic, Risperidone, and continued my on an anti-depressant. Over a period of time my life settled down, although I was employed only as an Uber Lyft driver, and moved in with my partner to make the finances of that work. My life stabilized. The late nights drinking and carousing went away. I found another professional job after a long search, and settled once again into a reasonably quiet life. I had my enthusiasms as I had my entire life, and my bouts of morose introspection, which some people casually attributed to being born a Gemini, but were in reality the expression of a psyche that had always been cyclothemic and had in the past erupted into bi-polar disorder .

My life as a person of action and writer had, however, come to an end. I had stopped publishing the literary listings a few years earlier, and abandoned the Toulouse Street blog to posterity. It no longer outranks the Doobie Brothers on Google. I gradually stopped writing poetry because it was too difficult to get into the headspace that requires. I gradually stopped reading poetry, as I found difficult works I had once treasured like the Dream Songs quoted at the top to be an alien language I could no longer decode. I took refuge in reading genre stuff, science fiction and fantasy, and became a devotee of Terry Pratchett.

Recently I stumbled into the Bipolar Creativity and Illness Group on Facebook, and promptly read Kay Redfield Jamison’s Touched With Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament. I think I was always drawn toward the manic ones, the Confessional poets, people who reflected back my own inner turmoil in works of great beauty and power. It is no accident this blog starts with a quote from John Berryman, or that my self-medicating self was intrigued by Charles Bukowski. The morose side of my personality deeply identified with the Bukowski who wrote “The Consummation of Grief.

I don’t doubt my diagnosis; only my treatment. It is obvious that psychopharmacology has changed who I am in more ways that those intended by medicine. It crushed someone with clear creative potential as collateral damage. After reading Jamison’s book, I am determined to re-evaluate who I am and how I behave, to try to recover some of that without going off the rails. And in the course of this, to adjust or even forgo my current medication. A dose of 0.25 milligrams of Risperidone is apparently not enough to crush this resolve. This is more than I have written in years. I intend, however, to venture into the dark territory of discontinuing medication, as I kicked the Klonopin years ago, and venture to discover if I can recapture the creative impulse and — more importantly — the pathways in my mind that understood, could

decode and recreate the intricacies of creative writing.