Depression/Mental Health


Miss Take
Was wondering what Bukowski's thoughts were on his own mental health over the years. Did he ever speak of or suffer from depression? Seems as though sometimes he was or close to suicidal but other times he was full of life?

I know he spent some time in the hospital near death but did he ever spend any time in any mental facilities?



Miss Take
very interesting piece.

but does anyone know if he was ever actually there?

thanks for that cirerita.
i don't know, but that's an interesting topic..
i REALLY doubt he was at a mental hospital (that's not his style), but maybe he had some form of manic depression..?

or maybe there was nothing wrong with him


Miss Take
hey anna.

i was just thinking of this poem in relation to this thread:

burning in hell
this piece of me fits in nowhere
as other people find things
to do
with their time
places to go
with one another
things to say
to each other.

I am
burning in hell
some place north of Mexico.
flowers don't grow here.

I am not like
other people
other people are like
other people.

they are all alike:
they are both
gleeful and content
and i am
burning in hell.

my heart is a thousand years old
I am not like
other people.
I'd die on their picnic grounds
smothered by their flags
slugged by their songs
unloved by their soldiers
gored by their humor
murdered by their concern.

I am not like
other people.
I am
burning in hell.

the hell of
I seem to remember something about him trying suicide once (maybe more). Didn't he turn on the gas or something-failed and then just got drunk.

There's also the story about the crazy who pulled a gun on him at a party. He just laughed and told the nut that he'd be doing him a favor--that he's already a suicide case. The guy didn't know what to make of it so he he just stormed out.

Yes, he writes frequently of spending days in bed in his room with the shades drawn, unplugged telephone....But that these periods RECHARGED him and he came back ready for the battle of life. "Aus der Kriegsschule des lebens: was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich starker", Friedrich Nietzsche..."From the War School of Life: what does not kill me, makes me stronger."
Louis Sass has a book I want to read called "Madness and Modernism" which apparently traces the connection between schizophrenia and creativity in modern artists.
But I'm skeptical of these categories of "depression", "manic depression", etc. Just reverse the terms: Buk was COMPLETELY NORMAL. He was an extremely sensitive person who saw the madness of the world and recorded it. Like G. B. Shaw said, in a crazy world, the crazy person is normal. Nope, in my mind Hank was as normal as they come...:)
He did always seem to write that most of his women " did time in a madhouse "

Bukowski was one of the sanest people on earth.

As Hemingway once said, " My psychiatrist's name is Smith-Corona "


Miss Take
ah yes, sensitivity.

how funny that on one hand Bukowski is seen as a womanizer and a jerk and on the other there is this very sensitive side of him which is the undercurrent of so much of what he writes.

i wonder how often over or hyper or extreme sensitivity is taken as someone not being sane? do you think this oversensitivity could have led him into the arms of so many women? was he searching for something his life was lacking?

i would be interested to know if there have been any documented suicide attempts.

i guess i need to do some digging myself eh...?


I think most of Buk's demons had their origin in childhood thanks to his abusive father.
Suicide might have been conceding that his father had "won". Maybe this is what kept him from doing the deed ? Just a theory.
He writes as I recall about turning on the gas--can't remember if this is in a story, poem or both. He spoke often about drinking as a form of slow suicide. He recounts a story in the Schroder tapes and repeats it in his essay "The LA Scene" of an encounter with a veteran--Buk said it didn't take courage to kill someone in war and the guy returned with a gun and aimed it Buk and he said something like "go ahead and shoot--I've always been a suicide case anyway."
He writes in his poems about CONTEMPLATING suicide--I have a feeling that he didn't try too hard. He was too tough, too German, had too big and ego and lived by Friedrich Nietzsche, to quote him again: "What doesn't kill me , makes me stronger." That's about all I can say on this subject. Perhaps someone else knows more about any actual "attempts."
Bukowski claimed to attempt suicide once and to ponder it many times. He definitely suffered from depression and tried to medicate himself with alcohol.
But then don't we all. I do feel his most depressive writings come from when he was probably badly hungover.

the only good poet

One retreat after another without peace.
Was wondering what Bukowski's thoughts were on his own mental health over the years. Did he ever speak of or suffer from depression? Seems as though sometimes he was or close to suicidal but other times he was full of life?
i think he was just sick of people.

the post brought to mind a poem. it was "the magic curse" from you get so alone. p.231

"I once
even asked my wife: look, I must be
sick...perhaps I ought to see a

christ, I said, he might cure me
and then what would I

she just looked at me
and we forgot the
whole thing."
Depression is NOT mental illness!

He most likely, like most men (women manifest depression differently) victims of violence or abuse as children, suffered from the low level depression. This kind of depression is the most difficult to recognize and treat. The mood swings, alcoholism, violence - and often found comfort in the thoughts about death even at his old age, Bukowski definitely shows the typical symptoms. Fortunately for him he recognized it, and he re-invented himself by keeping busy with his writing and betting on horses.
His writing especially as he was getting older clearly speaks of his pain or how often he would refer to it as clawing 'tiger.'


Miss Take
i read somewhere that it was 'several' suicide attempts.

and laughing... the poem... i remember that one. so good.

I honestly believe Buk suffered from depressive episodes. He self medicated on alcohol, and we all know alcohol is a depressant. It wouldn't surprise me if he didn't try that overdose, and he kinda excuses it by saying he "Had some bad debt". So got off the scene for a while. He cultivated this 'Macho' image, and taking an overdose wouldn't fit in with that.

Buk was very good with money and although often short of cash, he never had debts I believe.

Lolita Twist

On the whole, I don't believe in full-on "mental illness/depression"... I think there are certain degrees of everything. I think everyone on Earth get's depressive episodes, and there are some people who are always sad, and some people who are always optomistic. People are people, however one wants to define them. I think Bukowski balanced his depressive episodes well with his "happy" times - times at the track, etc. As far as self-medicating... don't we all have a vice? We all do shit to make us feel better, whether it's drink, pop pills, write, smoke, take extra long shits, whatever. Maybe we do everything. But even self-destructive people, I believe, find some odd poetry in their actions, and in a sick way find an identity in that (I know I did/do), and that makes them feel maybe NOT suicidal... I wouldn't put it past Buk to have attempted suicide, he's had some pretty goddamn shitty times. The majority of people I love have attempted suicide. Maybe it's a curse of us who feel too much for our own good. Maybe that causes one to have a useful grasp on the ranges of emotion.

Digney in Burnaby

donkeys live a long time
There's a book out on "acedia" described as thus (from a radio broadcast blurb):

"Acedia" is an ancient word that's been lost for centuries. But the condition it describes is as current as your next breath, and chances are, you've even felt it. The Oxford Concise Dictionary of the Christian Church defines acedia as "a state of restlessness and inability either to work or to pray". Some see it as the precursor to the seven deadly sins. Writer Kathleen Norris describes acedia as a kind of spiritual morphine, and she's lived through it.

There is an interview podcast from October 26th on CBC's Tapestry with Norris. It's a bit long at 40 minutes. To me the state of mind sounds like the Frozen Man Stance Bukowski describes in Notes and elsewhere:

"One of my best friends -- at least I consider him a friend -- one of the finest poets of our Age is afflicted, right now, in London, with it, and the Greeks were aware of it and the Ancients. and it can fall upon a man at any age but the best age for it is the late forties working toward fifty, and I think of it as Immobility -- a weakness of movement, an increasing lack of care and wonder; I think of it as The Frozen Man Stance, although it hardly is a STANCE at all, but it might allow us to view the corpse with SOME humor; otherwise the blackness would be too much. all men are afflicted, at times, with the Frozen Man Stance, and it is indicated best by such flat phrases as: "I just can't make it." or; "to hell with it all." or: "give my regards to Broadway." but usually they quickly recover and continue to beat their wives and hit the timeclocks."

My two cents.

Lolita Twist

So, in short, it's a period where one is... stagnet? Apathetic, in general, to everything... is that possible? Or is it just apathetic to spiritual/religious conotations? - Did Buk believe in God? Sometimes/Never? I know he was raised on a belief in God as a child, but we all know childhood can change.
Yes, if by "god" you mean the god in the self. That late poem about saving your self is about as close to a Gnostic poem as you can get--the ancient Gnostics believed god is within. I see Bukowski as Zen/Tao/Buddhist/Eastern, rather than Christian. Although there is plenty of Christian imagery in his writing: crucifix in a deathhand, the silver Christ of Santa Fe, at Terror Street and Agony Way (think of Kierkegaard Fear and Trembling)...The themes of suffering, transcendence, madness. Buk was a "spiritual"/"religious" writer I think, although I don't like those words. Don't quite know how to put it except that perhaps he sought "redemption" through music, love, writing, etc rather than in church.

Lolita Twist

I understand that during his later years he practiced meditation?... I don't doubt that he was a very "spiritual" guy... believing in things within yourself that are strong is still very spiritual, y'know? I could picture him doing a Buddhist/Tao thing. I dabled in Tao for a while myself. The balance thing is just very calming. I like the little Tao book. I think the Christian imagery comes from his childhood? The suffering, etc. Not to say he didn't suffer in his adult years, but shit, that's a rough childhood if there ever was one.

Interesting question: he sought "redemption" from what exactly? I'm just curious of people's opinions on this...
I think it's funny that a discussion about depression has so easily turned over to religion.. Connections....hmmm?
If you've got a copy of Ham On Rye handy, check out chapter 17. Brilliant. CRB:)

Lolita Twist

Religion can make one depressed.
Religion can make one at ease.
Sun can make an albino depressed.
Sun can make a self-concious pale broad happy.

It goes around in circles, I swear it does.

I'm reading Ham on Rye right now - I can't skip ahead, it's a weird OCD thing.
the ancient Gnostics believed god is within.
Amen to that. It's funny how obvious that seems to me; just like everyone else's beliefs probably seem so obvious to them.

Of course, unlike some, I've never tossed a grenade into someone else's domicile because of it. :rolleyes:

Gerard K H Love

Appreciate your friends

Interesting question: he sought "redemption" from what exactly? I'm just curious of people's opinions on this...
It may have something to do with at least one of his many disappointments in his life. Like the death of Jane and him not being there sooner or his shit childhood and asshole father. Maybe he just had a couple too many shoestrings break.

You have to agree when you have a lot of bad shit eating at you, you can get depressed.