Breakdown

BREAKDOWN
When dread is so great that death has become one’s hope, despair is the
disconsolateness of not being able to die. Kierkegaard

He had never really noticed his thinking voice
but knew immediately when the voice thinking
his thoughts was no longer his own.

There grew between his private oasis of meaning
and the buzzing thoroughfares of work and friendship,
a split that was agonising.

His behaviour, maintained by the flywheel of habit,
was subject to a dissenting voice of censure,
unremitting and unsparing.

Why the change had happened so precipitously
was not his primary concern as he battled
against humiliating collapse.

Even so he did ask ‘Who is corrupting my thoughts?’
and was alarmed to realise he didn’t know this
demon of catastrophic doubt.

Frightening and incomprehensible, his thoughts at
every turn undermined his actions with scornful
commentary and cruel asides.

Who was tormenting him had to wait, as he saved
his strength to win back control, in what he felt was
a struggle for his right to life.

His strategy was to contradict and banish
remarks as they arose, compulsive dissociation,
a valiant fight for peace of mind.

It was hard work and when he flagged, the usurper
of his thoughts was there to respond with cannily apt
criticisms to renew hurt.

After three sleepless nights he lost the sense of who
he was and was swept along by damning judgements,
crushing guilt and the wish to die.

As exhaustion overwhelmed him, he imagined
himself behind the wheel of a car fighting to
gain control of a prolonged skid,

and what made the vision almost unbearable
was that the smash-up was endlessly postponed,
as though his readiness to die

had been rejected. He became incoherent,
dehydrated, at risk. Health professionals were called.
They restrained and detained him.

Months later, dulled somewhat by medication,
which for the most part he accepted as a price
to be paid for stability,

he was secretly still unable to think of
those days as wholly without insight, having not
forgotten his intuition

of something larger than our daily existence.
It haunted him, made him wonder at the working
out of guilt in secular lives.

Published by davidcookpoet

I am a husband, father and grandfather. I retired from a busy working life as an adult psychiatrist in 2014. My interests are in literature, philosophy, modern jazz and horse racing. I might represent those four fields by Shakespeare, Kant, Charlie Parker and Lester Piggott. Like nearly all of us, I can identify a number of formative experiences, one of which was a psychotic episode in my first year as a psychiatrist. This reinforced an already established interest in mystical experience, and a sense of how little human beings know. My intellectual bugbear is reductive materialism, and I am surprised at the lack of moral imagination of those who promulgate such views. It seems to me they need to consider ,perhaps by exposure, just why totalitarianism is so horrific.

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