Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Stone Lion

Photograph donated by photographer Timothy Barash

A stone lion, weeping painted tears,
beneath a two-dimensioned heart.

His howls can almost reach my ears.
I could forget he’s just a work of art.

See the rage and horror in those eyes?
Were his cubs killed? His whole pride?

Who did this? Who did he despise,
enough to harden everything inside?

This noble creature’s tearful loss,
the grief of life collecting dust,

is an illusion, sealed in gloss.
None if it is more real than just

a stone lion, weeping painted tears,
beneath a two-dimensioned heart.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

How to Talk to Someone with a Mood Disorder

            Many people confuse mood disorders for bad moods. As a result of this confusion, people give counterproductive advice to patients with mood disorders. They tell sufferers of Major Depressive Disorder to ‘count your blessings’ or ‘chose to be happy.’ They tell sufferers of anxiety disorders to ‘just relax’ or ‘stop being a coward.’  ‘Can’t you see that your unhappiness isn't helping you?’ these confused people ask.
            All these comments and questions come from a desire to help, a wellspring of genuinely good intentions.
            But we all know how the road to hell is paved.
            The problem is that mood disorders are not just temporary bursts of unhappiness, as so many people seem to think. They are instead real health problems with biological underpinnings. 
            Telling a depressed person to ‘count your blessings’ is like telling someone with cancer to ‘eat more fruits and vegetables.’ It won’t hurt, but it is too little too late. Just like eating a healthy diet will help a person avoid getting cancer, taking a positive attitude might help someone avoid becoming depressed. But once the disease has started, those preventative habits are just too little, too late. Haphazard changes, applied without medical supervision, are not enough to cure serious diseases.
            A depression patient needs help from qualified medical professionals just as much as a cancer patient does. If you advise someone to try to treat their own medical problems, you are indirectly harming them. Every day that person waits to seek medical attention will make their recovery that much slower and more difficult.
            Much of this sort of advice is actually more directly harmful. Advice like ‘snap out of it,’ ‘stop being a coward,’ and ‘just chose to be happy,’ accuses disease victims of causing his or her own illness. It’s just as illogical as saying ‘just chose to stop having cancer’ or ‘just regulate your own blood insulin levels!’ But it’s much more harmful because when people are suffering from mood disorders, they are especially vulnerable to criticism. Depression victims are prone to feeling guilty and ashamed of themselves. Anxiety victims are prone to feeling afraid that people judge and hate them. These accusations actually make the problem worse.
            So what should you do when confronted with someone who is suffering from a mood disorder?
            The simplest answer is to ask yourself, before you open your mouth, if you would say the same thing to someone who had cancer. ‘Just snap out of it’ is nothing anyone would say to a cancer patient. ‘You should really have a doctor check that out’ is exactly what one should say to a friend who just found a tumor, and also what one should say to a friend who is starting to experience inexplicable negative emotions. ‘You should just try harder to get over it’ is nothing anyone would say to a cancer victim. ‘You will survive this, and I will be here to support you all the way,’ is both classic line from cancer awareness campaigns, and also exactly what someone with a mood disorder most desperately wants to hear. I know that last part from personal experience.
            If there is any doubt in your mind about what you should say, you can always fall back on the truth: Mood disorders are confusing. Only trained medical professionals can offer useful advice about how to treat a mood disorder. The one piece of advice that can never go wrong is, “I don’t know, ask a doctor!”


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Without the Night

Illustration is "Starry night over the Rhone" by Vincent Van Gogh.
Taken from Wikimedia Commons. 

Without the night there is no day.
Where light exists, it will cast shade.
To love our homes we have to stray.
This is how our world is made.

What if we could send our woe away?
We would lose more then than just relief.
Hopes and dreams, ideals and idle play
would go as well, tangled with our grief,
and leave our world a place of silent grey.

Pain makes pleasure true and real.
When hurt and sorrow block your way,
that is just the price. You live the deal:
without the night there is no day.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Illustration is "Blood" by Amy Kaufman

The sticky memory of my sin
clings to my sullied hands.
Death is drying on my skin--
--because I obeyed commands.
It was not my fault; it was not!
I ended what others had begun.
There is peace—peace this blood bought!
I did what needed to be done;
I took my knives and did my part.
There is no shame. There is no shame!
But I will never, ever be the same,
not in the deepest corners of my heart.