the longest month

Katie, do people ever ask you how, or maybe why, you write about such personal stuff? I get asked that quite a bit. I don’t have a stock answer, even though I probably should by now. The answer is different, depending on who is asking: a creative writing student wants to know for different reasons than a family member, for example. (The former wants me to teach them, the latter wants me to stop.) But, really, I think, the answer comes down to depression.

It never fails: when someone learns that I have personal experience with depression, whether it’s a stranger I’ve met at the playground or a friend I’ve reconnected with on facebook, the response goes something like this: “Oh! [audible sigh of relief, twinkle of recognition, relaxation of shoulders] I/my mom/my sister/my wife/my best friend also struggle/s with depression.” (Women are twice as more likely to suffer from depression than men.)

We go on to swap stories—the suffering, the burden, the lifestyle and medication changes—and conclude feeling stronger for making a real connection with another person in a day filled with otherwise rushed, inauthentic exchanges. I guess writing about personal things is my way to make more of those connections.

So, anyway, February. I kind of make February my unofficial depression-awareness-month. (Maybe there’s an “official” Depression Awareness Month, but if so, I don’t want to know about it. It tends to get on my nerves when things become “official.”) I have a peculiar relationship with February. Considering it’s the shortest month of the year, even on a leap-year, it shouldn’t bully me like it does. But, historically, February has been a difficult month for me to get through, mood-wise.

I’m more of a summer-girl than winter, so living in California where it was 77 and sunny yesterday has helped. (sorry to rub it in.) And the last few winters in Kansas weren’t bad: Chris and I got into Crossfit last winter and worked out every day in our haphazard, aesthetically unpleasing garage-gym with the garage door open, even when it was snowing and dark out. That helped.  And the winter before that, when Sola was a newborn, I bundled her up every day in her fleece sausage-casing and walked on the mountain-bike trail in the snowy woods behind our house. That helped, too. But still….February.

So now that we’re coming into the last week of the month, I think I might post a few things about depression. (Ouch. Talk about being a Debbie-Downer.) I’m grateful to report that I’m doing just fine this year—of course I have my moments of anxiety and sadness that are part of the package of a rich life—so I’m going to post a letter I wrote to an anonymous friend a while back who was struggling. I’d also like to post something written by a guest-author. (Who can certainly remain anonymous.) I’d like to hear from someone who has lived with or loved a person who has been depressed and what the experience is like on the other side.  I asked Chris if he wanted to do this and he laughed and said “I’m not going near that one,” so I’m hoping someone else will be willing.

February: I don’t have much nice to say about the Superbowl or Valentine’s Day, but I would like to like this month better. The birthstone for February is amethyst, which symbolizes spiritual wisdom, sincerity, and healing. We can work with that, right?

Please email me at mariapolonchek@gmail.com if you are interested in sharing your story.

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7 thoughts on “the longest month

  1. I don’t really have a depression story, but for years I have viewed February as Depression Month (unofficially). The only saving grace is that it’s the shortest month of the year, and that most tanning salons offer February specials (or so I hear…).

    • yeah…the tanning salon. i used to do it in february until i was pregnant with my third and started showing signs of sun-damaged. now i’m pale, moody….and still showing signs of sun damage. 🙂

  2. My husband struggles with depression. He’s medicated and seeing a psychiatrist, which means it’s not nearly as scary as it was for the first six months, but I still feel like there’s still a piece of him that I can never truly see/predict/understand and therefore, it’s the scariest piece. I don’t want to treat him as fragile, but I also don’t want to ignore the power depression holds at times.

    • thanks for this perspective, jc. this is the kind of stuff i’d like to hear more about. i’ve heard snippets like this from people over the years and may put them together in a compilation if i can’t find someone to write a full-length entry. i do know it can’t be easy loving someone who suffers from this…

  3. I am touched by your openness and empathize with your feeling about February. I used to have the same feeling about November, more like an anxiety about winter approaching but my son was born in November so that changed my feeling toward it. February for me is the last month of the year, it’s officially the last winter month and March following brings all new beginnings and spring of course! I don’t suffer from depression but maybe a little sad feeling comes over me at this time, but I have come to accept this and a sense of knowing that out of my sad moment comes a feeling of great joy,it’s natures roller coaster, and I learn a little more about myself.
    My Mother has bipolar and it has taken many years of various medication to come to this diagnosis.I am still learning and I think it is something deeply misjudged in others and misunderstood. You know I like a little deep conversation, when you’re ready for that coffee let me know, I’ll wait for you x

    accept this

    • thanks, nicki. i’m glad to “see” you here! “misjudged” and “misunderstood” are two good descriptions. i hope to be part of an effort to change that. -mp

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