In this blog we will discuss Writer and poet Charles Bukowski and his experiences and opinions on depression.
Bukowski: a writer on depression
Bukowski is considered one of the most prolific writers of depression and the human condition. He is also speculated to have struggled with what we know today as Bipolar disorder.
Throughout his entire life and career, Bukowski has been riddled by Depressive and Manic episodes and much of his experiences were recorded in his work including a short opinion on how to essentially beat depression.
Henry Charles Bukowski was a German born, German-American poet, novelist, and short story writer. According to PoetryFoundation, he was a prolific underground writer who used the literary medium to explore the social, economic, and cultural atmosphere of American society.
He was someone who did not sugar coat the depravity of urban life and addressed the living conditions of ordinary Americans, the rawness of human experience in love, in the act of writing, working, and the struggle of alcoholism.
For most of his writing, he relied on his own experiences and imagination. Bukowski wrote deeply of his thoughts, his emotion, and was widely known for his graphic and detailed violent and sexual imagery in his work.
Bukowski was very keen on presenting himself as he is and often, his form of writing that was scandalised by many critics was a form of rebelling against the hypocrisy of the literary machismo attitude.
Along with his opinion pieces on human society, himself, his loves, and his expeinces, he has also well known for his eloquent work on the hardships of life including that of his expeinfes of mental disrder Bipolar disorder or what was known then as Manic depression.
He has been very open about his experiences that included a difficult childhood and his struggle with manic depression often revealing his experience with mental illness at various periods of his life.
One of the the most interesting piece he has written is about his “cure” for depression. Charles Bukowski, once noted that three or four days in bed may be just the thing to get the juices flowing again when spirits are low in one of his frank letters to his publisher.
“…I just go to bed for three days and four nights, pull down all the shades and just go to bed. Get up. Shit. Piss. Drink a beer now and then and go back to bed. I came out of that completely re-enlightened for 2 or 3 months. I get power from that…” (OpenCulture)
In this letter, he writes about the importance of allowing oneself to be and to allow rest in ones daily schedule from his own experience where when he allowed himself to sleep for four nights he was “re-enlightened”.
He also continued,
“…I think someday…they’ll say this psychotic guy knew something that…you know in days ahead and medicine, and how they figure these things out.
Everybody should go to bed now and then, when they’re down low and give it up for three or four days. Then they’ll come back good for a while. But we’re so obsessed with it, we have to get up and do it and go back to sleep.”(OpenCulture)
In this particular part of his letter, he does highlight how work culture of the Urban American culture of the grind has impacted lives and health.
This is the same for the grind culture today that glorifies work over self, something that Bukowski wrote extensively about.
He goes on to write:
“…People are nailed to the processes. Up. Down. Do something. Get up, do something, go to sleep. Get up. They can’t get out of that circle. You’ll see, someday they’ll say: “Bukowski knew.” Lay down for 3 or 4 days till you get your juices back, then get up, look around and do it. But who the hell can do it cause you need a dollar. That’s all. That’s a long speech, isn’t it?”(OpenCulture)
He notes that one of the best cure for the mordern depression is Sleep or particularly, rest which is a need as physically urgent as food or water.
What is depression?
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a leading publication used for diagnosis of mental disorders by mental health professionals, Major depressive disorder or depression is a serious mood disorder.
Depression is marked by the following symptoms:
- Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day- either by their own observation or observation made by others.
- Diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
- Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
- Insomnia or hypersomnia.
- A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
- Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
Depression symptoms also include extremely low mood and fatigue and is often accompanied by thoughts of worthlessness and hopelessness which can lead to suicidal ideation and even attempts.
Depression related symptoms such as inability to focus, lack of energy, and hopelessness can impact a person’s ability to work and meet the demands of their daily lives.
People with depression often struggle with low self esteem and self worth which can cause them to negatively assess themselves. They may fear rejection and abandonment from other people which may cause them to isolate themselves in a bid to protect themselves.
This social withdrawal can make it difficult for them to maintain social commitments and relationships as they might choose to push people away especially when they do not have the skills to communicate and manage their emotions and thoughts.
While these are some of the ways depression impacts a person, the disorder itself can cause the quality of life of people who have it to drastically decrease and in extreme cases, if the disorder is left untreated, it can lead to suicide attempts and death.
How to cope and manage if you have depression?
Here are a few things you can do to cope with depression:
Seek professional help
If you have not been diagnosed, do not stick to self diagnosis based on your symptoms. Seek out professional consultations starting with your GP who can refer you to specialists in the field.
There may be different medications- some which might work for you while others that might not help you.
Taking time to find a doctor who can help you with estimating the right dosage of medication and the right medical treatment can make the quality of your journey to recovery drastically different.
If it’s a job that is causing you immense stress, maybe it is time to consider taking a leave of absence. Or it could be your own family environment that is causing your symptoms to flare up- consider moving out if your financial situation persists.
The intent here is to reduce or remove the things in your life that add stress. If it is a certain relationship, taking the time to set boundaries or communicate that you are taking time out can be one way.
By reducing stressors, the thought of waking up and facing your day may seem a little less daunting, you might even look forward to it.
Learn and apply coping skills
If you are depressed, you can learn coping skills and techniques and apply them at least once a day when experiencing depression.
This can be learning how to tackle your anxieties and negative moods by regulating your breathing and engaging in deep breathing techniques.
You can also try grounding techniques to help you cope with spiralling down a negative rumination. Make goals for each day and let your goals be small, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound,
Make plans for your day that suit your pace- if today is especially difficult, make a step by step plan from your bed to the bathroom in the mornings. Reward yourself when you succeed and be kind when you slip up. Remind yourself that you are learning.
Engaging in exercise, even if it is only a 15 minute stretch can be a wonderful step towards loving yourself and caring for yourself.
You can opt for joining the gym however, if this is too much you can consider yoga or pilates that you can start gradually; you can also go for walks or runs alone or with your loved ones.
Getting out of your house and doing something that allows you to get your blood pumping in itself can be a great way of self care.
Eat a healthy diet
Diet is an important aspect of overall health and is an important component of maintaining a positive state of mental health.
There has been plenty of research studies that have been linked to what we eat and higher risks of depression. Research finds that well balanced meals with adequate intake of vegetables, fruits, grain, and healthy fats are related to lower risks of depression.
Take time to improve your sleep hygiene. Research has found that sleep disorders are also a core symptom of depression. Irregular sleep and not enough sleep can make your healing process difficult and can even heighten the risk of relapse.
Some of the things you can do to improve your sleep hygiene are
- Avoid substances that impact your sleep, this includes caffeine.
- Exercise daily
- Avoid heavy dinners
- Change your sleeping environment to be more soothing and sleep inducing.
- Make changes in your pre-sleep routine such as taking relaxing baths before sleep, avoiding gadgets two hours before sleeping time.
Connect with loved ones
Reaching out to people who love you and letting them know that you are having a hard time now, can bring you closer to people who truly love and care for you.
These are positive relationships we want and need around you as you begin your journey to recovery. Positive relationships help you discover joys and meaning to your life.
Make plans to meet them for lunch, or go for a walk with them. Make sure you make clear what you can and cannot do and agree on something that both you and them can enjoy.
You can also take the step to connect with other people who are coping with depression through group therapy or support groups.
Oftentimes, listening to other people’s successes can instil hope, it also gives you the opportunity to learn new perspectives of living and life along with new techniques to cope.
In this blog we have discussed Writer and poet Charles Bukowski and his experiences and opinions on depression.
Charles Bukowski Explains How to Beat Depression: Spend 3-4 Days in Bed and You’ll Get the Juices Flowing Again. Open Culture. Retrieved on 29th April 2022. https://www.openculture.com/2018/08/charles-bukowski-explains-how-beat-depression.html
Hannah Blum. 7 Famous Writers Who Lived with Mental Illness. Halfway2Hannah. Retrieved on 29th April 2022. https://halfway2hannah.com/2018/10/23/7-of-the-most-famous-writers-in-history-who-lived-with-mental-illness/
Charles Bukowski. Poetry Foundation.Retrieved on 29th April 2022.https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/charles-bukowski
Shafer.C. 95 Charles Bukowski quotes that blew my f*cking mind. Retrieved on 29th April 2022.https://www.honeycopy.com/copywritingblog/charles-bukowsk-quotes
20 Of The Most Badass Charles Bukowski Quotes. Motivation Gride. Retrieved on 29th April 2022.https://motivationgrid.com/badass-charles-bukowski-quotes/
8 Most Heartfelt Charles Bukowski Quotes. Bookstr. 29th April 2022.https://bookstr.com/list/8-most-heartfelt-charles-bukowski-quotes/