Someone recently said to me, as an offering of solace, that February is hard. Winter drags on through February, seemingly with renewed enthusiasm. I think we’ve had more snow in the first few weeks of February than we received in the entire month of December. Maybe more than January too.
Days are getting longer and the sun offers real warmth – both of which are totally absent in January. But January doesn’t tease, it doesn’t offer false hope, it doesn’t bait you. January is winter, full on and relentless. February is a mess of slush and sun and massive storms and frigid temperatures. An identity crisis and a looming disaster made of ice, roofs, drainage ditches, and sun.
I wish this post could simply be about the weather. That would be easy, and I could rest philosophically upon the perennial wisdom and safety of change. Time will pass, and everything changes – these are truths I can trust. My own changes – welcomed so eagerly 6 months ago – torment me now. February has been a tough month. February has been really hard.
Depression is anger turned against the self. Depression is finding yourself furious and raging because of the sound your husband makes when he exhales. This is your beloved husband who has moved heaven and earth to help you create an idyllic life for you and your five dogs. Read that again, you ungrateful bitch: you and your FIVE dogs.
About the five dogs: February has seen three of them take seriously ill. One is spewing effluent that was remarkable similar to attempting to funnel “Niagara falls through a coffee straw”, one is slowly dying of a collection of diseases, and one is one borrowed time after having been given 6 months to live, one year ago. Dealing with Miss Slowly Dying is like playing whack-a-mole with symptoms – add a medication and BAM a symptom disappears, but don’t get cocky. POP. New symptom. Even if I didn’t love her and miss the dog she was terribly, this management is exhausting. Times five. Add in that she can’t walk much, and is incontinent much of the time, and I can’t get out to engage in my passion: hiking. Not just strolling. Not one or two hour rail trail walks or even the snowshoe adventures my home trails offer, but out on the high peaks of the Catskills, up above 3500 feet, full day, “leave it all on the mountain” adventures. They are out of the question for now. It is like being shut in with a new baby, and the depression is not unlike post partum depression: resentful at being stuck, and guilty at feeling resentful.
But winter weather and an overload of canine management doesn’t add up to this – “this” being real, honest to god depression. I tried beat it back with cursing, exercise, wine, and more exercise… shoveling, snowshoeing, playing with the puppy (ol’ firehose butt), but the moodfunk took hold anyway. After 16 years as a clinician treating depression, anxiety, psychosis… I know it when I see it. The irrationality of the rage and despair is kind of a dead giveaway.
I am not concerned and you shouldn’t be either. As depressions go, this isn’t severe, or even very moderate. LOL – “very moderate.” This would be a mild depression, and it will pass. Most likely a menopausal gift, I’m thinking it will wax and wane over the next few years. I remember how happy I was (like manic, irrationally happy) a few months ago and I know that this is just as transient and no more or less real. I haven’t lost touch with all the goodness that surrounds me – I can look at my life semi-objectively and feel grateful and happy… well, almost happy, except that I’m annoyed that I know the happiness is right there, lurking in the background when I’m so committed to feeling enraged and weepy. That commitment to feeling victimized – by the dogs, the husband’s breathing, Microsoft Word, and pretty much anything and everything else – is the hallmark of depression for me, and the clue I can always use to catch myself and say yes, you are irrational. You passed rationality a few sobs and shrieks of obscenities ago.
There is no way around. Just through. This too shall pass. In the meantime, making things helps. I made jewelry, bread, and photographs. I make haste, and I make hay while the sun shines. I make amends when I can and make mistakes aplenty. Depression for me is like waging war against the entire world, and so I make peace too.