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My October Depression

Like Anne of Green Gables, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."

I took this picture a mile from my house. It showcases the rich colors of fall and hints at crisp air, bright skies, and holiday celebrations that mark the season. There is so much to love about the arrival of autumn.

However, October is historically a rough mental month for me. For about ten years, I could count on an October mood dip that ranged from annoying to terrifying. I became paralyzed by dark thoughts and a blanket of hopelessness that threatened to end me. February is generally like this, too, so I tend to dread those months.

Just get through October. This is my mantra.

This year, after a decade-long streak of bad Octobers, I felt great! Day after October day, my confidence grew. I recognized significant progress in my mood management skills. I implemented my behavior formula every day. I monitored my meds, kept up with the laundry, and even improved my diet.

One day I woke up with a sore throat and a tiny cough. I carried on as though nothing was wrong. I could beat this.

Only I couldn't beat it. Within a couple of days, the flu overwhelmed me. My cough was so bad I lost my voice. Long-anticipated company arrived for a major family event and I couldn't do the work to prepare for them. I couldn't enjoy them. On the day of the big event (farewell festivities for my son who will soon leave on a two-year church mission to Australia), I had miraculous healing for about 24 hours, but after our families went home, I crashed hard.

During what became more than two weeks of debilitating illness, my mood crawled into its traditional October cave. I ruminated over past October scenes, remembering awful experiences and feelings and wondering if I was doomed to a lifetime pattern of autumn despair. I felt very alone, very overwhelmed, and very unsure if I'd ever crawl out of the hole.

I lost all confidence that I could be a person that pulled others out of their holes. Why should I blog? Why should I market? Why should I participate in my online business class? Why should I continue intense efforts to get my book into the world? No one wants it anyway. No one wants me.

This is mental illness. These are thoughts from a depressed brain. My depressed brain spirals into cognitive distortions and despair quite easily. I don't need help finding the dark side of every situation. My depressed brain needs no encouragement. It's the one part of my brain that is wildly imaginative.

Now that I have been taking antibiotics and steroids for two days, the dark cloud is beginning to lift. I'm feeling more like myself again (due in no small part to the fact that my fever and cough are gone). My outlook on life has improved dramatically.

It turns out that my mental health is fragile. Physical illness can definitely knock it down. Despite a harrowing two weeks, I am glad to have learned that my mental health is also becoming resilient. Two weeks in a cave is not turning into two months or six months or five years. I had two dark weeks, and that's okay. I have depression. Caves happen.

It's going to be a beautiful November.

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