Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, unable to incise the living because he had no anesthesia, performed autopsies on the dead.
A young man killed during a chariot race. Hippocrates discovered his gallbladder contained golden, yellow bile… considered normal for a healthy young male. A middle aged woman dies from a heart attack also had gallstones, the bile in her gallbladder was black. Hippocrates went to the woman’s family and asked what kind of person she was. They described her as withdrawn, irritable, short-fused, depressed.
He called the condition melancholia. Melan means black and cholia… bile.
It has been nearly two years since my piss turned the color of coca cola, my eyes turned yellow and I was rushed to the New York Presbyterian hospital. Two years since they performed the emergency Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal). This week two years ago I was discharged and back at home recuperating in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Since then my moods have evened, I am less interested in this blog. The more I read over the past few years I see now that I was angry, irritable and discontent.
The surgeon described my gall bladder as ‘profoundly traumatized‘. Exactly how I felt these past ten years… profoundly traumatized. The pain associated with gall stones is remarkable. It is so violent, so extreme, they say it is worse than the pain of child-birth. When ever I had an attack I thought I was panicking, that the pain wasn’t real… that it was imagined. I thought I could cure it with an AA meeting.
Instead, I was dying. In the jail I had several attacks but I never said a word. I knew the pain would pass eventually (believing it to be anxiety) but every time it got worse and worse until I found myself on a morphine drip in the ER.
My mood and temper deteriorated, the emotional effects of a damaged liver or gall bladder are well documented. During the Jake debacle a doctor used to write urging me to get help… psychiatric help. Little did he know that the pain was driving me insane.
The fear of another attack… debilitating.
Yet, during that time, I felt strangely motivated. The anger, depression and pain motivated me to get things done.
Positive and negative.
Now I am mostly calm, I seldom write this blog because I am mostly calm. I am no longer in pain. I no longer fear the onset of an attack. I am no longer jacked up on adrenaline.
I need to buy another home. Fill it with flowers and beautiful things. I need to grow peonies, keep chickens and listen to the brook as I doze into later life.
Good things are happening… slowly but surely. Old scores I no longer need to settle… are settling themselves. The truth reveals itself sometimes slowly… sometimes quickly. I have time to reflect and make better decisions rather than make limited, fear based choices.
I am writing less and designing more. I am happy to be so far from Hollywood.
There is a handsome someone for whom I have a great deal of respect and love.
I promised I would never mention his name… he is deeply private even though he has a public face.
I write often that men together do not get married to cement a loving relationship but more a merger and acquisition? Well, in this man I have found both things. He is a practical man, a radical man, a socialist, anti-establishment, he has integrity and humility… and so incredibly kind.
When I met him he immediately held my hand. Because he understood.
How many hours have I spent waiting at stop signs?
NYC, the weather is wet and miserable. I am staying at The Standard. Too wet to walk the latest stretch of the High Line. I want to fall asleep in my chair. It’s that kind of day.
I feel uncomfortable. No reason. Some people might think I was depressed. No, just tired.
Once, I told a particularly insightful therapist that I was depressed she replied that she didn’t believe in depression. She asked me what depression meant. What did it mean to me? I described a brain filled with dark thoughts. “Depression equals dark thoughts?” She asked.
She asked me to unpack the various components of the state I had described as depression. She urged me to use other words like sad, lonely, anxious, confused, bleak. After a moment my mind was clear.
Part of my ‘depression’ was my fear that I could never shake the misery, that I was in the grip of an infinite chemical maelstrom, trapped until certain death.
These past couple of decades this trick served me very well. Now, whenever I feel sad, anxious or even tired… I intuitively know what to do. Unpack the symptoms and deal with them accordingly. The word depression seems so overwhelming. I say to myself, ‘I am powerless over ‘depression’, if I am depressed I may require medical intervention’.
If, on the other hand, I am sad (self obsessed) I can meditate or help others less fortunate. I can take the dogs for a walk. I can jump on the phone and call people I know make me happy… I can own my sadness knowing that the feeling will pass.
Whereas I was once a victim to ‘depression’ I am now willing to understand, overcome and prosper using less grandiose words to describe other feelings.