I can find something good in most times of the year. The spring months deliver thawing, trees budding, and flowers blooming. That first crocus that pops up brings with it hope. And of course spring also brings celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day, Palm Sunday and Easter. The summer months have warm weather, swimming, fireworks, and (best of all) my birthday. There is nothing I love more than autumn. As a teacher fall always was the season of fresh starts and new beginnings. The colors, the crisp air, and the chance to build a fire and pull on a sweatshirt are part of who I am. We come into November with the anticipation of Thanksgiving and into December with the busyness and wonder of Christmas. In January I’m just thankful for some down time, and cold temperatures give me the excuse to curl up in front of the fireplace with a cup of tea, my favorite blanket, and a good book. And then comes February.
I HATE FEBRUARY.
February is supposed to be the shortest month—so why does it feel so darn long? I have never, ever enjoyed a Valentine’s Day. My earliest memories of February included wanting to spend the month asleep, being cranky, and breaking up with any boyfriend I had the week before the 14th. It’s dark, it’s messy, it’s cold, and I hate it. But mostly I hate it because it’s when the darkness consumes me and the depression is always there.
A very long time ago I was diagnosed with depression. At first we thought it was seasonal and that meant that February was the pits. As time went along it became more and more evident that it wasn’t only seasonal but just more intense in the dark months—like February. I had been taking medication for a portion of the year and the meds were expanded to year round. And you know what? February is still the pits.
I fight the daily battle with depression. I can be winning that fight for days, weeks, and on rare occasions even months. But suddenly it will rear up and knock me down at times seemingly for no reason. But the one predictable element of my ongoing struggle with depression is that I will hit rock bottom in February.
During this time careless words, actions, and jokes stab me and I cannot let them roll off my back. I compulsively mull them over and over and over. And as I begin the downward spiral, I add in past words and situations that can “verify” that I’m right to feel the way I do. I think of things that happened so far back they qualify as ancient history. As the words won’t leave me and spin faster keeping me from sleep, I remember words said to me that I left unchallenged. And I remember the actions of people I loved and trusted that left me feeling less than, left out, and often devastated.
This February is no different. I started this month being given lame excuses and lies from someone I love more than life itself. And that started this spiral. When I hit this time or year, I feel unwelcome, uninvited, unimportant. Motivation flies out the window, and I spend a great deal of time on the sofa uninterested in doing anything—no interest in reading, writing, cooking, going anywhere. I have found coping strategies that help me get through and enable me to keep going. I can laugh and joke while I’m out. I try to do everything I can not to wallow. I had a good time today being out with people. But the sinking feeling started creeping over me on the drive home. By the time I walked in the door, I plopped down feeling empty.
There is rarely a real reason I can point to that causes this. It isn’t always spurred by something that someone said, failing at something, losing someone, or anything that normal people would say made them depressed. It just is. And the only thing that helps is a lot of work on my part and some kindness from others. When someone takes the time to call or just be around, it means more than you know.
Look in on your friends who fight the fight. Give them an encouraging word. Too many find this time of year depressing and for those diagnosed with depression it can really be the pits.