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 firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in sharing your story.