Poetry and Depression

Last week I was diagnosed with an underactive thyroid gland. This was somewhat surprising to me, as I am not overweight (135lb and 5’2″) and quite regularly rise at 6 a.m. to power through a full day of exercise, childcare, household chores and poetry related endeavors, retiring at around 11.

However, in researching the condition, I do find a long list of symptoms I can admit to, many of which I have indeed suffered from for several years:

  • Insomnia: I have written SO many poems about this.
  • Depression: at one point I was even taking anti-depressants for a while, but I didn’t like the me I was. Totally took my edge off.
  • IBS symptoms: Actually I’ve had these for over ten years on and off
  • Dry, flaky skin: I’ve tried every anti-dandruff shampoo known to woman.
  • Numb hands & feet on waking: I thought everyone got that
  • Brittle nails: I figured I wasn’t getting enough calcium
  • Heart Palpitations: It was when I started getting these that I actually went to the Doctor!

Not surprisingly, it’s a disease that is often mis-diagnosed. I mean, I’ve been diagnosed with depression twice. Hey, I’m a poet–we’re all depressed, aren’t we? Depression, it turns out, is a symptom and not the syndrome. Who knew?

Anyway, I am now on synthetic thyroid hormone, and if this works I’ll probably be taking it for the rest of my life. The good news is that I do feel a little better already, and it doesn’t leave me with that stupid, cow-like feeling the anti-depressants did. But I’m wondering, what will the poetry be like if I start to feel entirely like a normal, happy human being? Will I start to write Hallmark verse about puppies and kittens? How important is the link between poetry and depression? I have written some of my best poems while feeling seriously black: “As You Like It” (the Nemerov finalist), “Stripping Down” (the Pushcart nomination), “Suburban Housewives in their Forties” (the PWC prizewinner), you name it.

As usual, watch this space. Rachel has decided to repeat last year’s National Poetry Month effort and write a poem a day in April. I’m going to join her. Let’s see what comes out.