- POPULAR CULTURE
- MENTAL HEALTH
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES
- APPLIED SCIENCES
- PRINT & MEDIA
This sub-section of my website, as well as all the sub-sections which deal with mental health issues, is offered for informational purposes. It is also offered as an aid to others. It is NOT a substitute for medical advice. I make every effort to offer only accurate information. I am also interested in elaborating my own views and experiences and drawing on the views and experiences of others. I cannot guarantee that the information I make available here is always correct or current, or that my understanding of the wide-range of topics which I deal with is necessarily an understanding which is correct. I am no authority. Below readers will find the personal, idiosyncratic, story of my experience with various mental health problems over my lifetime.
Consequently, no one should rely upon any information contained herein, nor make any decisions or take any action based on such information. Consult your doctor before starting any diet or exercise program, taking any medication or, indeed, taking any action at all as a result of reading what I post below. I am not responsible for any action taken by those who rely in one way or another on the information contained herein and for any damages incurred, whether directly or indirectly, as a result of my errors, omissions or discrepancies contained in this account. The following information is NOT intended to endorse drugs or recommend therapy. While this account might be helpful it is not, as I say, a substitute for the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgement of healthcare practitioners in patient care.
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE AND RESOURCES
Tests, disasters and crises will continue in the decades ahead as the tempest afflicting society continues seemingly unabated. This tempest, it could be argued, began with brutal force, in 1914. Mental health issues became more central to society as a result of the Great War(1914-1918), and they have continued to be central in the last century: 1914 to 2016. There are now available, though, a burgeoning range of resources in today’s print and electronic media to help people understand this complex field of mental health. My life-narrative, which I hope will be of help with respect to bi-polar disorder(BPD), depression(D), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD) & several affective disorders, is but one small resource for readers. I have posted sections of my account at internet sites which contain a dialogue between people interested in particular mental health issues about which I have had some experience.
There are many internet sites today, some organized for and by mental health experts and others for the general public and especially for sufferers of mental-illness. These sites provide information as well as opportunities to discuss issues and obtain help for what has become a very large range of specific disorders. If one googles the following words: mental health, depression, bipolar disorder, affective disorders, OCD, PTSD, anger management, indeed, any one of dozens of other disorders in this field, one discovers a host of sites of interest and of relevance to one’s special mental health concerns.
THE NUMBERS WHO SUFFER
According to one source, one-third of all people in western cultures will suffer from a disorder or emotional problem during their lifetime and they would benefit from therapy. In the last half century, 1963 to 2016, there has been a revolution in regimes which have resulted in better treatments for millions, but certainly not all, of the mentally afflicted. There are millions suffering from mental illness who are untreated. The field of mental health is very complex. In this world mental illness is truly a heavy burden to bear. I leave it to readers to do more googling for there is much to read for those who are interested in this subject.
A. Major depressive disorder (MDD) (also known as clinical depression, major depression, unipolar depression, or unipolar disorder; or as recurrent depression in the case of repeated episodes) is a mental disorder characterized by a pervasive and persistent low mood that is accompanied by low self-esteem and by a loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities. The term "depression" is used in a number of different ways. It is often used to mean this syndrome but may refer to other mood disorders or simply to a low mood. Major depressive disorder is a disabling condition that adversely affects a person's family, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits, and general health. In the United States, around 3.4% of people with major depression die by suicide, and up to 60% of people who die by suicide had depression or another mood disorder.
The diagnosis of major depressive disorder is based on the patient's self-reported experiences, behavior reported by relatives or friends, and a mental status examination. There is no laboratory test for major depression, although physicians generally request tests for physical conditions that may cause similar symptoms. The most common time of onset is between the ages of 20 and 30 years, with a later peak between 30 and 40 years. Depression, one of the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorders, is being diagnosed in increasing numbers in various segments of the population worldwide. Depression in the United States alone affects 17.6 million Americans each year or 1 in 6 people. Depressed patients are at increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease & suicide. Within the next twenty years depression is expected to become the 2nd leading cause of disability worldwide & the leading cause in high-income nations, including the United States. In approximately 75% of completed suicides the individuals had seen a physician within the prior year before their death, 45%-66% within the prior month. Approximately 33% - 41% of those who completed suicide had contact with mental health services in the prior year, 20% within the prior month.
There are many psychiatric and medical conditions that may mimic some or all of the symptoms of depression, or may occur comorbid to it. A disorder either psychiatric or medical that shares symptoms and characteristics of another disorder, and may be the true cause of the presenting symptoms is known as a differential diagnosis. For more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depression_(differential_diagnoses)
Mood disorder is a group of diagnoses in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classification system where a disturbance in the person's mood is hypothesized to be the main underlying feature. The classification is known as mood (affective) disorders in International Classification of Diseases (ICD). English psychiatrist Henry Maudsley proposed an overarching category of affective disorder. The term was then replaced by mood disorder, as the latter term refers to the underlying or longitudinal emotional state,whereas the former refers to the external expression observed by others.
Mood disorders fall into the basic groups of elevated mood, such as mania orhypomania; depressed mood, of which the best-known and most researched ismajor depressive disorder (MDD) (commonly called clinical depression, unipolar depression, or major depression); and moods which cycle between mania and depression, known as bipolar disorder (BD) (formerly known as manic depression). There are several sub-types of depressive disorders or psychiatric syndromes featuring less severe symptoms such as dysthymic disorder (similar to but milder than MDD) and cyclothymic disorder (similar to but milder than BD). Mood disorders may also be substance-induced or occur in response to a medical condition. Go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mood_disorder
B.Typically, people are treated with antidepressant medication &, in many cases, also receive counseling, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Medication appears to be effective, but the effect may only be significant in the most severely depressed. Hospitalization may be necessary in cases with associated self-neglect or a significant risk of harm to self or others. A minority are treated with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). The course of the disorder varies widely, from one episode lasting weeks to a lifelong disorder with recurrent major depressive episodes. Depressed individuals have shorter life expectancies than those without depression, in part because of greater susceptibility to medical illnesses and suicide. It is unclear whether medications affect the risk of suicide. Current and former patients may be stigmatized.
The understanding of the nature and causes of depression has evolved over the centuries, though this understanding is incomplete and has left many aspects of depression as the subject of discussion & research. Proposed causes include psychological, psycho-social, hereditary, evolutionary and biological factors. Long-term substance abuse may cause or worsen depressive symptoms. Psychological treatments are based on theories of personality, interpersonal communication, and learning. Most biological theories focus on the monoamine chemicals serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine, which are naturally present in the brain and assist communication between nerve cells. This cluster of symptoms (syndrome) was named, described and classified as one of the mood disorders in the 1980 edition of the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual.
C. Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person's thoughts, behavior, feelings and sense of well-being. People with depressed mood can feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, ashamed or restless. They may lose interest in activities that were once pleasurable, experience loss of appetite or overeating, have problems concentrating, remembering details or making decisions, and may contemplate, attempt or commit suicide. Insomnia, excessive sleeping, fatigue, aches, pains, digestive problems or reduced energy may also be present. For more on depression go to one, or both, of the following two links. Stanford Professor Robert Sapolsky, posits that depression is the most damaging disease that you can experience. Right now it is the number 4 cause of disability in the US & it is becoming more common. Sapolsky states that depression is as real of a biological disease as is diabetes.There are several videos by Sapolsky at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOAgplgTxfc and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depression_%28mood%29
In the context of mental disorder, a mixed state, also known as dysphoric mania, agitated depression, or a mixed episode, is a condition during which features of mania and depression—such as agitation, anxiety,fatigue, guilt, impulsiveness, irritability, morbid or suicidal ideation, panic, paranoia, pressured speech and rage—occur simultaneously or in very short succession. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy (MMDT) splits the DSM-IV diagnosis into two distinct states: dysphoric mania, which consists of a manic episode with depressive symptoms, and agitated depression, which is a "major depressive episode with superimposed hypomanic symptoms". Despite the term “agitated depression” being used to refer to mixed-manic episodes, it is important to note that psychomotor Retardation or "Psychomotor Depression" is a cardinal feature of major depression, with bipolar depressed patients actually tending more towards psychomotor Agitation ; thus, the mere presence of agitation does not necessarily imply a mixed affective state, and it is important that such symptoms as flight of ideas and a certain tense inner excitement are not confused for agitation. The term “excited depression,” therefore, may be better. For more on this 'mixed-state' go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixed_state_%28psychiatry%29
MAJOR DEPRESSIVE DISORDER
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is also known as clinical depression, major depression, unipolar depression, or unipolar disorder. Sometimes it is called recurrent depression in the case of repeated episodes. It is a mental disorder characterized by a pervasive and persistent low mood that is accompanied by low self-esteem and by a loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities. The term "depression" is used in a number of different ways. It is often used to mean this syndrome but may refer to other mood disorders or simply to a low mood. Major depressive disorder is a disabling condition that adversely affects a person's family, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits, and general health. In the United States, around 3.4% of people with major depression commit suicide, and up to 60% of people who commit suicide had depression or another mood disorder.
The diagnosis of MDD is based on the patient's self-reported experiences, behavior reported by relatives or friends, & a mental status examination. There is no laboratory test for major depression, although physicians generally request tests for physical conditions that may cause similar symptoms. The most common time of onset is between the ages of 20 and 30 years, with a later peak between 30 and 40 years. For more go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_depressive_disorder
MY WORK IN CYBERSPACE
I have joined over 100 mental health sites and participate, as circumstances permit and interest allows, in the discussions on mental health, bipolar disorder, depression and personality disorders among other topics in the field of psychiatry. What I have posted below is, as I say, also posted in whole or in part at many of these sites. I have posted the account of my experience because: (a) it is part of my effort to de-stigmatize the field of mental illness and (b) I know that what I post is helpful to many others.
My own somewhat lengthy account, which can be accessed by clicking on the link below, will hopefully provide mental health sufferers, clients or consumers, as they are variously called these days, with: (i) a more adequate information base to make some comparisons and contrasts with their own situation, their own predicament, whatever it may be, (ii) some helpful general knowledge and understanding, (iii) some useful techniques in assisting them to cope with and sort out problems associated with their particular form of mental health problem or some other traumatized disorder that affects their body, their spirit, their soul and their everyday life and (iv) some detailed instructions on how to manage their lives more successfully despite the negative consequences of their BPD or whatever trauma or illness affects their lives.
For many readers the following narrative will be simply too clinical and too long, or not relevant to their reading tastes and interests. In that case just file this document for future use, skim and scan it as suits your taste, go to the sections relevant to your interest or simply don't read it it. Apologies for the absence of an extensive body of footnotes which I have been unable to transfer to this document where it is located at Baha'i Library Online, among other sites, where I have placed my story on the internet. Here, then, is the link to my 110,000 word account of my experience with BPD: http://bahai-library.com/price_mental-health_history_autobiography-memoir (3).
(1) See the list of neurotic, personality and other nonpsychotic mental disorders on the internet; see also psychotic or affective mental health disorders. The internet has excellent overviews of all these mental health disabilities. There are many links to draw on of which the following is but one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mental_disorders_as_defined_by_the_DSM_and_ICD
(2) I have had difficulties placing footnotes into this document and so readers will not find the full list of annotations that I originally placed in this 175 page account. I hope to remedy this problem in a future edition. My email address is: email@example.com. Any reader who would like to write to me personally in relation to any personal issues raised here feel free to do so.
(3) In August 2015, at the age of 71, I ceased to be an active participant in much of my internet work in the foeld of mental health. This was due to my own ill-health and having to deal with (i) diabetes 2, jaundice, and pancreatic cancer, as well as (ii) several other health problems discussed on the internet at: http://www.my-diary.org/read/d/465760
Anthony Storr is a gifted psychiatrist whose compassionate approach was born of his own childhood suffering and loneliness. He died of a heart attack aged 80 in March 2001. He was Britain's most literate psychiatrist. A prolific author, journalist and radio and television commentator, he was widely respected as a fount of wisdom and good sense in a profession not particularly noted for such qualities. Like other kind and compassionate men, he was no stranger to suffering at formative stages of his life. Born in London, Storr was a solitary, friendless child, plagued by frequent illness, including severe asthma and septicaemia, from which he nearly died. He was the youngest of four children, separated by 10 years from his closest sibling. His father, Vernon Faithfull Storr, sub-dean of Westminster Abbey, was 51 when Anthony was born, and his mother, Katherine Cecilia Storr, was 44. They were first cousins, and their consanguinity probably accounted for his asthma, from which he, like two of his siblings, suffered for most of his life. He also seems to have inherited from his mother a tendency to occasional episodes of depression. For more on Storr, go to: http://www.theguardian.com/news/2001/mar/20/guardianobituaries.highereducation and to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Storr
The corporate giants popularly known as Big Pharma spend annually, worldwide, some $25 billion on marketing their products. They employ more Washington lobbyists than there are legislators. Their power, in relation to all of the forces that might oppose their will, is so disproportionately huge that they can dictate how they are to be regulated. They are regulated lightly, and they shape much of the medical research agenda; they spin the findings in their favor, conceal incriminating data, co-opt their potential critics, and insidiously colonize both the minds of doctors and our own. For more on this subject go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2007/dec/06/talking-back-to-prozac/
THE AGE OF ANXIETY---AND DEPRESSION
It is undeniable that ours is an age in which an enormous and growing number of people suffer from anxiety. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders now affect 18 percent of the adult population of the United States, or about 40 million people. By comparison, mood disorders — depression and bipolar illness, primarily — affect 9.5 percent. That makes anxiety the most common psychiatric complaint by a wide margin, and one for which we are increasingly well-medicated. In the spring of 2010 the drug research firm, IMS Health, released its annual report on pharmaceutical use in the United States. The anti-anxiety drug alprazolam, better known by its brand name, Xanax, was the top psychiatric drug on the list, clocking in at 46.3 million prescriptions in 2010. For more on this recent in The New York Times article go to: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/14/its-still-the-age-of-anxiety-or-is-it/
A.During the summer of 2002, The Oprah Winfrey Show was graced by a visit from Ricky Williams, the Heisman Trophy holder and running back extraordinaire of the Miami Dolphins. Williams was there to confess that he suffered from painful and chronic shyness. Oprah and her audience were, of course, sympathetic. If Williams, who had been anything but shy on the football field, was in private a wilting violet, how many anonymous citizens would say the same if they could only overcome their inhibition long enough to do so? To expose one’s shyness to what Thoreau once called the broad, flapping American ear would itself count, one might think, as disproof of its actual sway over oneself. But football fans knew that Ricky Williams was no voluble Joe Namath. Nevertheless, there he was before the cameras, evidently risking an anxiety attack for the greater good—namely, the cause of encouraging fellow sufferers from shyness to come out of the closet, seek one another’s support, and muster hope that a cure for their disability might soon be found. Little of what we see on television, however, is quite what it seems. Williams had an incentive—the usual one in our republic, money—for overmastering his bashfulness on that occasion. The pharmaceutical corporation GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), through its public relations firm, Cohn & Wolfe, was paying him a still undisclosed sum, not to tout its antidepressant Paxil but simply to declare, to both Oprah and the press, “I’ve always been a shy person.”
B.To understand why this was considered a worthwhile outlay, we need to know that the drug makers earn their enormous profits from a very few market-leading products for which new applications are continually sought. If those uses don’t turn up through experimentation or serendipity, they can be conjured by means of “condition branding”—that is, coaching the masses to believe that one of their usual if stressful states actually partakes of a disorder requiring medication. A closely related term is more poetical: “astroturfing,” or the priming of a faux-grassroots movement from which a spontaneous-looking demand for the company’s miracle cure will emanate. In this instance Cohn & Wolfe, whose other clients have included Coca-Cola, Chevron Texaco, and Taco Bell, was using an athlete to help create a belief that shyness, a common trait that some societies associate with good manners and virtue, constitutes a deplorably neglected illness. Given the altruistic aura of the occasion, it would have been tasteless to have Ricky Williams display a vial of Paxil on the spot. But later (before he was suspended from the football league for ingesting quite different drugs), a GSK press release placed his name beneath this boilerplate declaration:
C. As someone who has suffered from social anxiety disorder, I am so happy that new treatment options, like Paxil CR, are available today to help people with this condition. There is nothing out of the ordinary in this episode, but that is just why it bears mentioning. Most of us naively regard mental disturbances, like physical ones, as timeless realities that our doctors address according to up-to-date research, employing medicines whose appropriateness and safety have been tested and approved by a benignly vigilant government. Here, however, we catch a glimpse of a different world in which convictions, perceived needs, and choices regarding health care are manufactured along with the products that will match them. The corporate giants popularly known as Big Pharma spend annually, worldwide, some $25 billion on marketing, and they employ more Washington lobbyists than there are legislators. Their power, in relation to all of the forces that might oppose their will, is so disproportionately huge that they can dictate how they are to be (lightly) regulated, shape much of the medical research agenda, spin the findings in their favor, conceal incriminating data, co-opt their potential critics, and insidiously colonize both our doctors’ minds and our own.
D. If we hear, for example, that an unprecedented epidemic of depression and anxiety has recently been sweeping the world, we tend not to ask ourselves whose interest is served by that impression. In their painstaking study The Loss of Sadness, Allan V. Horwitz and Jerome C. Wakefield cite the World Health Organization’s projection that by 2020 depression will become the second leading cause of worldwide disability, behind only heart disease, and that depression is already the single leading cause of disability for people in midlife and for women of all ages. The WHO also ranks depression, in its degree of severity for individual victims, ahead of “Down syndrome, deafness, below-the-knee amputation, and angina.” But Horwitz and Wakefield cogently argue that those judgments rest on a failure to distinguish properly between major depression, which is indeed devastating for its sufferers, and lesser episodes of sadness. If so, the WHO would appear to have bought Big Pharma’s line of goods.
E. This isn’t to say that people who experience infrequent minor depression without long-term dysfunction aren’t sick enough to deserve treatment. Of course they are. But as all three of the books under consideration here attest, the pharmaceutical companies haven’t so much answered a need as turbocharged it. And because self-reporting is the only means by which nonpsychotic mental ailments come to notice, a wave of induced panic may wildly inflate the epidemiological numbers, which will then drive the funding of public health campaigns to combat the chosen affliction. This dynamic also applies to a variety of commonplace if bothersome states that the drug makers want us to regard as chemically reparable. They range from excitability and poor concentration to menstrual and menopausal effects and “female sexual dysfunction,” whose signature is frustration in bed with the presumably blameless husband or lover. And the same tactic—exaggerate the problem but imply that medication will easily fix it—plays upon legitimate worries over cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, irritable bowel syndrome, and other threats.1 As patients on a prophylactic regimen, we are grateful for any risk reduction, however minuscule; but our gratitude leaves us disinclined to ask whether the progressively lowered thresholds for intervention were set without any commercial influence. In that sense our prescribed drugs do extra duty as political sedatives. FOR MORE: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2007/12/06/talking-back-to-prozac/
John Press(1920-2007) was an author and critic who served literature in a number of different spheres. He was a poet and anthologist of poetry, and wrote four of the British Council’s useful and well-regarded Writers and Their Work series & a number of other works of literary criticism. He wrote that “The origin of most poems worthy of the name will be either in an image or in a rhythm rather than in a concept, a thought, or a feeling.” It would seem that the origin of a poem for John Keats(1795-1821), the English Romantic poet, was in quite different an experience, quite different to the emphasis given by John Press.
“Keats’ writing,” says Robert Gittings, English writer, biographer, BBC Radio producer, playwright & minor poet, “is an almost instant transmutation of impressions, thoughts, reading & ideas into poetry….the poems are far from being a poetic diary of his life. They enrich the original impulse with a complete thought of their own. He regarded most of his day-to-day reading as ‘study’ for poetry. Some of his poetry was a record of his own poetic nature…writing frankly about himself about his poetry.” By the early years of the new millennium most of my reading was, in fact, study for poetry &, like Keats, it was a record of my poetic nature, a narrative about myself, my poetry & my religion. –Ron Price with thanks to John Press, The Fire and the Fountain, Barnes and Noble Inc., Boston, p.166 and Robert Gittings, Selected Poems and Letters of John Keats, Heinemann Books Ltd. London, 1981(1966), pp.8-11.
I think I’m about fifty-fifty; I’m taking
some very ordinary feelings & putting
them into poems; taking sinewy reason
and obscure states of being concealed
on the inside & putting them into poems;
taking what are often flat, banal utterances
in calm, neutral tones; what are sometimes
sense experiences of remarkable acuteness
and writing about them with a poignancy:
sex, the sensory, sensation and satisfaction.
I’m taking intellectual and emotional
complexes, vortices & clusters of ideas
endowing them with energy, with words.
28 August 1999 to 17 March 2016
A DATA BASE
Beginning in 1937 in the U.K. a project known as Mass Observation has continued to provide a data base, an archive, information about opinions & experiences of the average Briton. Hundreds of people, mostly women, kept diaries of their observations on subjects initially required by the government for the war effort. The project was discontinued in the early 1950s & started again in 1981 at the University of Sussex. There now exists at this university an archive of hundreds, indeed thousands, of pages of detailed observations by alert, intelligent people telling some of the story of the daily experiences of ordinary people in Britain in the twentieth century. Given that these diaries were for the period beginning in 1937, when humanity was about to enter another stage in the tempest of modern times, a tempest that has continued in many different ways into this new millennium, the experience of depression has figured prominently in the day-to-day lives of millions. -Ron Price with thanks to LNL Radio, 10:40-11:00 pm, 21 September 2000.
Beginning in 1937 in the Baha’i community a project known as the Seven Year Plan, based on the initial outline of that Plan in a book of letters or tablets known as the Tablets of the Divine Plan, & after a hiatus of some two decades, was systematically implemented. This project has continued under many specific Plans: two year, four year, five year, seven year, inter alia. Hundreds of people, many thousands now, moved to different parts of the world to establish, to extend and consolidate Baha'i communities, as well as to provide service in some form to both Baha’i communities and to other groups with common interests. Many hundreds of these people kept diaries and collections of letters, wrote autobiographies and poetry to convey the stories, the experiences of their lives. An archive now exists, spread out over hundreds of thousands of places around the globe, which will one day provide a useful base,a resource, for future historians wanting to write a history of the first five epochs of the Formative Age(`1921 to 2021). Depression and struggle, victory and loss, will all figure prominently in these diaries. They are diaries, though, which have only begun to be published in the first century(1916-2016) of the formal & informal implementation of this Plan since the first words of it were written in March 1916. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Five Epochs,3 May 2011.
AN ARCHITECT OF A MANSION
Many writers and poets are only too aware of the potentially disruptive powers and propensities of the mind. These powers and propensities of the mind need, indeed they demand, to be disciplined. Much of my poetic style and content, I select for a range of options, for this very reason---the need to discipline and control the mind--among other reasons. All human beings have to work out some modus operandi , some modus vivendi as well as, and perhaps more importantly, some raison d'etre for the field of the mind, to say nothing of the emotions.
My evolving literary manner and style, my letters and my actions do not reflect, for the most part, the inner activity and turbulence of my mind. My writing creates an orderly surface, disguising that inner turbulence, that inner generation & degeneration. Writing for me is a place of self-assertion and self-effacement, a place of relief as well as stimulation, a place of imaginative and moral insight, a place for the comments of a man matured by years of various torments and tediums, weaknesses and worries, failures and fatigues, victories and voracious appetites. This may not seem to be the case to readers! Readers often have no idea what goes on below the surface of the text of my work or the text of the work of most writers. Often it matters not. I have written a five volume, 2600 page, memoir, if readers are really interested in the world below the surface and sub specie aeternitatus.
Time and education beget experience; experience begets memory and memory begets judgement and fancy; judgement begets both strength and structure; fancy begets the ornament of my many poems. Rhyme keeps the fancy under control and, since my poetry has little rhyme, judgement is freer to wander on its course, finding similarities and distinctions and giving expression to my themes. -Ron Price with thanks to Michael Schmidt, Lives of the Poets, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London, 1995, p.253.
The mansion of my days,
over these three long epochs
does not possess tidy,
but a mix of the familiar
and the topsy-turvy
and a carving, an etching,
of a grand inheritance
into social, civic & public
form, part of the earliest
shaping, the defining of
a sensibility in the complex
whirlwind, a tempest that has
threatened and is threatening
still to tear us all apart, even
the remotest parts of the world.
29 October 2000 to 30 June 2011
SECOND LEADING CAUSE OF DISABILITY
In their painstaking study The Loss of Sadness, Allan V. Horwitz & Jerome C. Wakefield cite the World Health Organization’s projection that by 2020 depression will become the second leading cause of worldwide disability, behind only heart disease, & that depression is already the single leading cause of disability for people in midlife, and for women of all ages. The WHO also ranks depression, in its degree of severity for individual victims, ahead of “Down syndrome, deafness, below-the-knee amputation, and angina.” But Horwitz & Wakefield cogently argue that those judgments rest on a failure to distinguish properly between major depression, which is indeed devastating for its sufferers, & lesser episodes of sadness. For more on this subject go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2007/dec/06/talking-back-to-prozac/
Melancholy is a species of sadness that arises when we are open to the fact that life is inherently difficult, and that suffering and disappointment are core parts of universal experience. It’s not a disorder that needs to be cured. Modern society tends to emphasise buoyancy and cheerfulness. We have to admit, though, that reality is significantly, at least for millions, indeed, billions, about grief and loss. The good life is not one immune to sadness, but one in which suffering contributes to our development. For more on this subject go to: http://www.thebookoflife.org/in-praise-of-melancholy/ and to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melancholy For the subject of melancholia go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melancholia
Vincent van Gogh wrote that “in the late spring the landscape of Arles gets tonnes of gold of various tints: green-gold, yellow-gold, pink-gold, and in the same way bronze, copper, in short starting from citron yellow all the way to a dull, dark yellow colour like a heap of threshed corn. And this combined with the blue-from the deepest royal blue of the water to the blue of the forget-me-nots, cobalt.”(1) Van Gogh’s correspondence was unique; no painter has ever taken his readers through the processes of his art so thoroughly, so modestly, or with such descriptive power. Van Gogh was inventing a landscape as it invented him; in his incessant letters he catalogued and categorized his work. Much of his work, especially his work at Arles, was a rhapsodic outpouring of creative energy. Work and seriousness is the real image of Van Gogh. It is here that the critic could see the beginnings of modern art.(2)-Robert Hughes, Nothing If Not Critical: Selected Essays on Art and Artists, Harvill, London, 1990, 1pp. 143-144; and 2p.132.
Ron Price describes, in the many genres of his writing, the colours of a different landscape in the darkest hours of a declining western civilization. This decline, he argues, is also accompanied by an emerging global civilization. The colours and hues of previous centuries that saw the developments of both these civilizations are found all over his writings. The tones and tints that he saw in the emergence of the first truely global religion required, at least for him, a literary artistry in continuous need of development. It was a never-ending process. Price also describes the colours of his own life from his deepest, blackest depressions to his golden, his blue, his amethyst and yellow joys. The play of these colours, his personal subjectivity, and other sets of colours he saw reflected in his society, his culture, his religion and his world make his writing a tapestry of illumination and darkness.
EVERYONE'S STORY IS DIFFERENT
Everyone tells their story in a different way. Here is a story, Price's story, taken over 7 decades and five epochs: 1943 to 2015; here is his religion, his take on his religion---for their are many takes. Price provides his readers with a thorough account of the processes by which he works. The detail is descriptive; the tone, he likes to think, is modest. There is work, seriousness, rhapsody here in Price’s poetry and many beginnings. There are several decades of an emergence from obscurity of a Cause which claims to be the latest, the newest of the Abrahamic religions. Price uses letters like those of van Gogh; he also uses other genres, and readers are advised to wait for his demise so that they can read them in full, although it may be many decades, if ever, before they see the light of day. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Five Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 2011.
This is a moral act;
it expresses my whole sense
of being in the world, striving
for accuracy I must be really
indifferent to the errors of this
poetic fecundity.....for I am not
writing the history of my age...
but telling of the uniqueness of
my time with a single engine for
describing a world in a total..(1)
metamorphosis, an immediacy
that creates. It is unlikely that
this poetry, its very theatre of
characters & events, and these
letters, essays, diaries will find
a home of popularity in this my
world of forms and the familiar
and not-so familiar; a cultural
burgeoning will find for a world
of divergence, a home—at least
not yet. This dissociation of gaze
and empathy induced by the mass
media: a world of frenetic passivity.
(1) Robert Hughes describing August Rodin in Hughes, op.cit., p.132.
15 January 2000 to 23 June 2006
J. Hillis Miller, in his analysis of the writings of novelist Joseph Conrad, informs us that Conrad saw the habit of profound reflection as, ultimately, pernicious in its effects because it led to passivity and death, to the dark side of a somber pessimism and to the view of his own personality as ridiculous and an aimless masquerade of something hopelessly unknowable. -Ron Price with thanks to J. Hillis Miller, Poets of Reality, Belknap Press, 1965, pp.33-34.
The desire, as I see it, Mr. Miller,
is to obtain His bounty and tender,
so tender, mercy; to be a recipient
of a leaven that will leaven
the world of my being,
furnish it with writing power
and to be given the honour of His nearness.
The dark side of existence, indeed,
my corrupt inclination
is due to my failure
to achieve this communion.
It is a hopelessly appauling process,
quite beyond the profoundest reflection.
1 This poem draws on a prayer of the Bab in Baha’i Prayers, p.151.
20 June 2000
RISING TO REALITY
This poem was written while waiting to see the film Mission Impossible II, playing in Perth at the Greater Union Theatre in Innaloo. It was also playing in Haifa at one of the six theatres in the city while my wife and son and I were on pilgrimage to the Baha'i World Centre. I went with my wife, my son and my step-daughter to the film as the winter solstice was approaching in the southern hemisphere. It was probably the last movie we would see in Perth before my early retirement and taking a sea-change at the age of 55.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 20 June 2000.
To devote oneself to writing, however, is to engage in the most unreal action of all. This was how Joseph Conrad felt, echoing the poet Baudelaire, who also saw the process of scribbling, of writing, as possessing an unreality. Both writers had a sense of intellectual doubt of the ground on which writing stood. When writing was difficult, this sense of doubt entered their very arteries and penetrated their bones. It gave them a feeling of the emptiness, the nothingness of the writing process. Perhaps this explains why, for many, writing letters or emails feels artificial, unreal, undesireable, and why, in some ironic way, it takes on great meaning and reality for others.-Ron Price with thanks to J. Hillis Miller, Poets of Reality: Six Twentieth Century Writers, The Belknap Press of Harvard UP, Cambridge Mass., 1965, p.36.
I think you’re partly right, Joseph,
but the sense of unreality is no more
than in any other activity when one is
tired, depressed, worn to a frazzle or
engaged in the more unpleasant side
of life.......Sadness and despondency
touch our brow...vanity, emptiness &
the mere semblance of reality are part
of life’s many currents that make up a
river of our days as we all flow to great
oceans, I am told, of light, intense light.
And so, Joseph, one must not deny that
the glimmering, superficial & ephemeral
surface of life we will always have with us,
as we strive to rise above words & letters,
the syllables & sounds of words, especially
as we watch movies like the one I am about
to watch at this place in Perth W. Australia!
20 June 2000 to 30 June 2011
EMBELLISHING AN ARCHIVE
The minutes Price took as LSA secretary, in Whyalla in 1971/2, in Kew in 1975, in Ballarat from 1975 to 1978, in Belmont as various times from 1990 to 1997 as well as some notes, reports and letters he wrote while serving on the Baha’i Groups and Regional Teaching Committees in places like Zeehan, Katherine, Launceston, South Hedland and George Town, among others, on a great many aspects of Baha’i community activities were models of attention to detail, of articulateness, of tact and appropriateness, at least he thought so. Not everyone, of course, would agree. If they had any weaknesses it might be their signs of haste that were part of his life style in general for many years, and evidences of a certain fatigue with the process of writing administrative material in any form. Such forms of writing, Price thought, surely do not reveal the ‘real man?’ They reflect part of him, at the most, a small part. As important as many of these documents may have been at the time to both Price and the group concerned, Price could not imagine these pieces in their several topic areas contributing much to general human interest at a future time, although they may have some value to a future age as part of the various archives in which they finally rested. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 26 August 2000 to 23 June 2006.
Are there any rare gems amidst that
archival mountain of the circularized
memoranda, letters, reports and the
seemingly irrelevant piles of paper in
box after box, out by that toilet block,
the shed or the empty back room near
the back door which gets a heavy use,
much coming and going, here-&-there?
Hour after hour went by in the lives of
the saints, the heros and the ordinary
mortals as they poured over this often
ambiguous discourse with history, this
deceptive mirror of reality which often
told little of the real community, life, or
relationships, sadnesses and the joys.
For the most part these are and were,
ordinary humans: no great man theory
of histoy here, just boxes of stuff rarely
looked at, never read....part of anarchic
confusion in our attitude to the past...
For, always, there is much else to do.
And so I embellish this archive with
a poetic narrative that may live on &
gather less dust amidst the rubble of
the fourth and fifth epochs and their
grandeur: a new garden appeared &
transformed a religion with its very
pretensions to being a/the chrysalis
church of a new age in the last years
of this incredible twentieth and even
more incredible twenty-first centuries.
26 August 2000 to 30June 2011
Ernest Hemingway won a Pulitzer Prize in 1952 and a Nobel Prize at the age of 54 in 1954. At the age of 62, in the twilight of his fame, after hospitalization for depression and alcoholism, he shot himself to death at home in Idaho. His suicide seemed to call his work into question and prompted people to cast a cold eye on his personal accounts of life, his life. His autobiographical accounts came to be seen as exaggerated or distorted. His stories came to be seen, by many, as falsifying something about life, about men, women and war. The rapid decline of the reputation of major literary figures after their death is not uncommon. Hemingway was a writer trapped by his own charm and energy, by literary adulation, by alcoholism and by the very conspicuous nature of his celebrity status in a lifestyle, in a modus operandi, a modus vivendi, that he could not manage, could not cope with or deal with in a practical way. He was quite literally a victim of his own success and the fascinating nature of his personality. Alcoholism and depression often have complex etiologies going right back to childhood. These illnesses exacted on Hemingway a high price. The price was his life and the decline of his work both during his life and after his death.-Ron Price with thanks to “Reviews of Biographies of Ernest Hemingway,” The Archives of The New York Times, 1999.
Hemingway's impulse was always to escape domestic confinement and to bond with men who, as this account makes clearer than previous biographies have done, often seem to have been sexually attracted to Hemingway. Yet physical love was not what Hemingway wanted from men. It was relations without consequences.
"You exchange the pleasant, comforting stench of comrades for something you can never feel in any other way than by yourself." That something was recognizable from the feeling that comes over you "when you write well and truly of something . . . or when you do something which people do not consider a serious occupation and yet you know, truly, that it is as important and has always been as important as all the things that are in fashion." His books had a preoccupation with the traffic of machismo -- sex, drinking, hunting. They are tiresome partly because of these preoccupations. These preoccupations could be a definition of metaphysical provincialism.
''Married domesticity may have seemed to him the desirable culmination of romantic love, but sooner or later he became bored and restless, critical and bullying. The conflict between his yearning to be looked after and his craving for excitement and freedom was never resolved.'' –Ron Price with thanks to “Reviews of Biographies of Ernest Hemingway,” The Archives of The New York Times, 1999.
My poetry is a blending of autobiographical elements, echoes of the literature of the social sciences and humanities and a steady stream of references to and influences from Baha’i writings, history and teachings. This evening I was reading about the English poet George Byron(1788-1824). I was particularly struck by the fact that all of Byron's poetry is a blending of autobiographical elements and echoes of the literature he had absorbed over the years. And so I felt a certain affinity to Byron for this reason.
His poem Don Juan is considered the most autobiographical of Byron’s works. Almost all of Don Juan is real life either Byron’s or the lives of those whom he knew. Byron started writing Don Juan on July 3rd 1818, eight months after the birth of Baha’u’llah. He continued working on the poem in Italy and on his death in 1824 the poem remained unfinished. Don Juan was a, perhaps the, poem that the working class took to heart in the mid-19th century, so Friedrich Engles informed us in 1844. This poem reached the urban and rural poor and, for many, it was all they read besides the Bible. It is very likely that most of these readers did not read any of Byron's other works. As early as 1819 the work was regarded by the bourgeoisie as filthy and impious, although it was not fully published until 1901. Byron was regarded by Eliot as having contributed nothing to either poetry or literature. By that genius of German literature and polymath Johann GoetheByron was seen as the greatest genius of his century. -Ron Price with thanks to Galit Avitan, “Publication Histories: Byron’s Don Juan,” Ashes, Sparks and Hypertext, 2000.
I suppose it’s your manic-depression
that first attracted me to your work..;
so often with poetry it’s the man and
not the work which brings one close.
Also, your popularity at the time of the
birth of the greatest soul to ever draw
breath on this planet(1) and your real
autobiographical poetry 200 years ago.
At 36 my malady was finally treated and
yours untreated even as you drew your
last breath in 1824 at Missolonghi...You
made your work for everyone, although
only a coterie ever get near your work.
I, too, try to make my work readable by
everyone but it is only read by a few.
Perhaps I should call my work sketches,
autobiographical work perfecting prose.
Your life overshadowed your poetry and
my life is, at least in part, my poetry, and
I must add, my prose. Few profoundly feel
your influence, your sincerity and strength
and fewer feel mine whatever I possess----
although with cyberpsace I begin to wonder.
Your battles in life exaggerated weakness;
your strength was wasted in friction and
you knew your poetry and Keats’ was poor
that neither of you really had the poetic gift.
Emerson said you had a sense of the infinite;
to Shaw you were an energetic genius with a
resultant unscrupulous freedom of thought;
to Eliot you added and discovered nothing---
an assessment made at the start of a teaching
Plan(2) and an assessment prophetic in its way.
(1) Baha’u’llah 1817.
(2) 1937 in “Contemporary and Critical Opinion,” Byron: Internet Site, 2004.
April 12th 2006 to 30 June 2011
DEPRESSION: A COMPLEX TOPIC
There have been a myriad attempts to define the nature and limits of the extreme human situation of our time - the experience variously described as “existential finitude” (Tillich), “cosmic exile” (Slochower), “ontological solitude” (Nathan Scott), “metaphysical exile” (Camus), and exile in the imperfect” ( Baudelaire). The terminological differences state the same experience as that of modern man’s alienation from the ultimate ground of being and meaning. T.S Eliot moves from depression and nothingness in his poetry to a resignation to the inevitable. The chaos of the age and the loss of human values is heard and provides scope to the transcendental themes in a refocused form offered by existentialism. The anger of the age flares up in the poems like ‘The Hollow Men’ and ‘The Waste Land’ which tends to imply what is wrong in life is not absolutely inevitable. T.S. Eliot detailed the alienation and meaninglessness in his poems and participated in the search, exploring the philosophy of Existentialist thinkers, Buddhism, Hinduism for doctrines to explain and repair the fragmentation and meaninglessness of modern culture. For more on some of these thems go to:http://www.cosmosandhistory.org/index.php/journal/article/view/294/538
Readers who would like to get a general background on the subject of depression from the point of view of a mood disorder can go to the following link. A mood disorder is a group of diagnoses in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It is a classification system where a disturbance in the person's mood is hypothesized to be the main underlying feature.The classification is known as affective disorders: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mood_disorder Depression from the perspective of several sciences is at:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depression
EXISTENTIALISM and DEPRESSION
Existentialism is a term applied to the work of certain late 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual. In existentialism, the individual's starting point is characterized by what has been called "the existential attitude", or a sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world. Many existentialists have also regarded traditional systematic or academic philosophies, in both style and content, as too abstract and remote from concrete human experience. Go to this link for more of an overview of this philosophy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existentialism
Modern existentialism is confined to human existence, although there are now a wide variety of existentialisms from theistic to atheistic. The paper here, which I encourage readers to examine, is an introduction to the main currents of existentialist thought. One such current is found in the poetry of T.S. Eliot. This current is one of transcendentalism. Due to approaches taken by philosophers such as Kierkegaard, Heidegger and Sartre, readers will encounter an assortment on ontological possibilities. The potential for transcendence is linked to the resolution of the existential crisis and mental breakdown. There are many aspects of existentialism, indeed, many writers who can and do provide the impetus for much of the work of T.S. Eliot and his contemporaries.
Kierkegaard’s leap of faith, Sartre’s hot rhetoric of existential choice, Heidegger’s cooler image of the heroic modern man, William James’s will to believe, Paul Tillich’s courage to be can all be seen to have been Eliot’s energisers to get on with life's search. Existentialism's focus is on the conditions of existence. Its aim, among others, is to increase peoples' awareness of existence and their knoledge of it. Economic slavery, the triumph of science, the materialistic approach to life and the preoccupation with issues involving the welfare state have paralysed humanity; such is part of the argument of the author of the paper at the following link.
In his supreme conquest over material things, the individual has become a stranger to his own inner being and to the world. In the efforts of thinkers and philosophers, social scientists and analysts at systematisating our understanding of the human condition, economic man, political man, military man, a variety of definitions of our humanness have been created. In the process, the individual has lost his uniqueness, and a disorientation of personality has set in. Such a crisis always leads to an ultimate human tragedy expressed in many ways of which the tragedy of the meaninglessness of life is but one: "A sick, toss’d vessel, dashing on each thing." (George Herbert, “Miserie”. The Temple (1633), p. 76) Go to this link for the rest of this paper: http://www.cosmosandhistory.org/index.php/journal/article/view/294/538
SOME PERSPECTIVES ON WRITING POETRY
As my 40s turned into my 50s in 1994, my 50s into my 60s in 2004, & my 60s into my 70s in 2014, poetry became an increasingly important, indeed, a dominant part of my life. Writing poetry had begun to be, in the years 1992 to 1994, the dominant genre of my writing. By 1992 I had achieved full compliance with lithium, the medication for my bipolar disorder which I had been taking, by 1992, for a dozen years. In retrospect, I think this was a factor in the poetic inundation that began to occur during those early 1990s. I have tried to understand the reasons for this poetic shift, and I've written about the subject in many places in my now extensive corpus.
The philosopher Nietzsche(1844-1900), one of the fountainheads of 20th century existentialism, wrote that "there are so many things between heaven and earth which only the poets have let themselves dream!’ (Nietzsche, 2003, p.150). Freud speaks enviously of the relative ease with which poets discovered and expressed truths of the human condition: ‘Everywhere I go I find that a poet has been there before me’,(1) and goes on to explain: ‘We laymen have always been intensely curious to know from what sources that strange creature, the creative writer, draws his material, and how he manages to make such an impression on us with it and to arouse in us emotions of which, perhaps, we had not even thought ourselves capable’ (Freud, 1995: p. 436).
In his study of love ‘as an experience common to all human beings’, the contemporary psychoanalyst, Andre Green, echoes the sentiments of Freud as he humbly asserts that "the creation of poets goes far beyond the psychoanalytic interpretation of love......I think that art, mainly literature, and especially poetry, undoubtedly gives a better introduction to the knowledge of love, which we grasp by intuition…the detour through imaginative and poetic language of a very general human experience has proved to be more efficient than the ideas born from an experiment which has undeniably committed itself to the most constant and careful investigation of love relationships.(Andre Green and Gregorio Kohun, Love and Its Vicissitudes, New York, 2005, p.5) (1) This is a caption on a wall of the Freud Museum in Vienna.
‘Poetry is the soul’s announcement that even when it is alone with itself on the narrowest ridge it is thinking not of itself but of the Being which is not itself ’ (Martin Buber, Between Man and Man, Routledge Classics, NY, 2004, p. 213). In an interview with Richard Kearney, Paul Ricoeur offers his reflections on the ‘prejudice and bias’ of ordinary language, and concludes that ‘we need a third dimension of language which is directed…towards the disclosure of possible worlds…this third dimension of language I call the mytho-poetic. The adequate self-understanding of man is dependent on this third dimension of language as a disclosure of possibility’ (Paul Ricoeur, A Ricoeur Reader: Reflection and Imagination(ed. Mario Valdes, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1991, p. 490). For more go to: http://cosmosandhistory.org/index.php/journal/article/viewFile/105/209
This is Part 1 of a 140,000 word (350 page font-14 or 400 page font-16) longitudinal, retrospective and prospective account of my experience with bipolar disorder, & some other mental health problems, over more than 72 years: October 1943 to June 2015. This is a personal and idiosyncratic, medical and clinical study of what some life-study students call a chaos narrative. This study focuses on an aspect of my life involving several mental health issues, mainly bipolar 1 disorder. This account is now in its 15th edition. In my retirement, the years from 2001 to 2015, I have revised the account each year producing what became a new edition each year. This book has 15 chapters; the last chapter contains ten appendices which, with the main text, provide what I hope are helpful perspectives for others who suffer various traumatic experiences in life.
Preamble and Introduction:
This book of more than 300 pages was once very small, indeed, not much more than a long essay of about 2000 words. It started out as that very short essay ten years ago in 2001: (a) as a statement to obtain a disability pension in Australia and (b) as an appendix to my memoirs, a five volume 2600 page opus found in whole and in part at various places on the internet. Both this statement and that book of my memoirs could benefit from the assistance of one, Rob Cowley, affectionately known in publishing circles back in the seventies and early eighties as “the Boston slasher.” His editing was regarded by some as constructive and deeply sensitive. If he could amputate several dozen pages, several thousand words, of this exploration of my life experience of bipolar disorder(BPD) with minimal agony to my emotional equipment I’m sure readers would be beneficiaries. But, alas, I think Bob is dead. For the rest of this now lengthy book go to the following hyperlink: