What’s Wrong?

This is a wonderful piece of introspection. It's not dated precisely, but it's one of the poems I wrote while I was in hospital. Although my depression was not diagnosed until many years later, my guess is that I was depressed when I wrote this… the thoughts it reveals are fairly typical of a person trying to see through the dark cloud of depression.

What’s wrong?
Something is, but I don't know what.
Am I lonely?
Or just sad for some reason?
I don’t know what’s wrong,
And I don’t know what to do.
I’ve tried many things
To occupy my mind,
To relieve the pressure;
But none have helped much.
I’ve tried reading,
But couldn’t concentrate.
I’ve tried listening to music,
But that failed to cheer me up.
People don’t help much either.
One or two who might help
Are occupied somewhere else;
And the ones who are around me
Only help to make matters worse.
Oh no—
They don’t deliberately
Set out to annoy me
Or stir me
Or put me down.
At least I don’t think they do.
It’s just that the circumstances and time are such
That, in whatever we do or say,
Our personalities clash
And the situation becomes tense again.
There was one man.
He thought he had the answer to everything.
“Do this!”
“Do that!”
He ordered.
The only effect he had was bad.
The pressure doesn’t help,
Of course,
And there are many different pressures.
There’s pressure to conform…
To this group or that.
There’s pressure from one side to do one thing,
And from another side to do something else.
On the other hand,
If you want to do something, there will be pressure
brought against your doing it.
If you say something,
Someone will tell you to shut up.
If you don’t say something, though,
They’ll say you’re moody,
Or anti-social.
It often seems that people are only too ready
To see your faults,
While they ignore your good points.
What, then, is the answer?
How do you cope with all this?
Perhaps it’s just me—
My attitude to life—
And perhaps therein lies the answer.
If it does, perhaps I’ll learn.
If it doesn’t,
Where is it?
I don’t know,
But it must be somewhere.

• Written 1970. Copyright © 1999-2010 Alien Son. All rights reserved.

Portrait of a Man