I’ve been blogging steadily for almost 15 years now. I blogged when people didn’t know what blogging was. I blogged when it was popular. I blogged when blogging was declared dead and was sneered at. I blog now when it’s being rediscovered by a new generation. And in that time I’ve learned a lot about myself and the world and I’ve been able to see patterns that I maybe wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
One of those patterns is the quiet and terrible danger of September.
If you look back you will see year after year of me saying that September is one of my worst months for depression. I’m not alone here. Some of it is the stress and the change of school starting back up, of realizing all the things you were going to accomplish that summer didn’t get done…but what I’ve learned is that one factor is simply a seasonal change of less sunlight that can really fuck with your head. It sounds ridiculous that even a small lack of sunlight can mess with you but about a week into September I start feeling wobbly and remember it’s September. I always feel like an idiot for pulling my light box out of storage to put on my desk (because how can a box of light for 20 minutes a day make a difference?) but then I go back and look at all my previous September posts and realize that every little thing counts, and that I am worthy of the work it takes to stay slightly less crazy.
I look though 15 years of posts and it makes me think about how far we’ve come. What we’ve accomplished. What we continue to fuck up. The amazing things we’ve seen. The horror we survived. The joy and laughter and everything in between. I can see patterns of joy and lessons that I’ve learned and have forgotten and learned again.
Last week I was cleaning out my computer photos and found the original photo that I’ve always used as my icon since I first started this blog.
Here is how old it is…if you look at the bottom you can see the top of the camera flash because this was before I even had a cell phone.
I remember exactly where I was…blow-drying my hair for the billionth time to go to my HR job that I knew was not my calling. The house was dark and quiet because it was 4am. I would leave the house before 5 so that I could avoid the horrific Houston traffic and so I could leave work early enough to pick up Hailey from daycare. Victor worked a late shift so he could avoid traffic and take Hailey to daycare, so we barely saw each other. I was exhausted and the idea of having to blow dry my hair and get ready every morning just to do it again tomorrow seemed like a pointless and Sisyphean task and so I decided to take a picture and make that my icon for two reasons. One, because then it would somehow have meaning…even if I was the only one giving it that. And two, because I wanted to make myself remember where I was…so that I could remember how hard life was in the dark, quiet hours, and how strong I was for making it through them and that one day I would look back on this moment and be glad it was over. And I am. But I also look at it with love and longing. I can practically smell that house and hear Hailey’s baby laughter and I remember staying up until midnight to binge watch Battlestar Gallactica and the time(s) I almost set the house on fire.
The good thing about blogging is being able to see these things again at a distance. To realize that even if I’m now exhausted or sad or struggling, that there are also amazing things in my life that I will one day miss. It makes me look through new eyes to appreciate where I am. It makes me remember the lessons I’ve learned and reminds me to stop making the same bad decisions when I’ve already learned them. (Or at least to make new and exciting bad decisions instead of the normal, boring ones.)
As I’m clearing out old photos I come across this one my talented friend Robin Jerstad took this year.
15 years have passed. I quit the job I was never right for. I became a full-time writer. I opened a bookstore. Victor and I both work from home and listen to Hailey’s laughter as they play Dungeons & Dragons and write their own musical. I almost never blow dry my hair. The blow dryer sits (broken) in a bathroom drawer. I can’t quite make myself throw it away. I still spend a lot of the time in the dark. I still struggle. I know you do too. We move forward and backward and sideways but the important this is that we keep moving.
If you are reading this then you survived the first week of September. And so have I. And for some of us that is a very big achievement. So stop and smile in the knowledge that September has not eaten you.
Get out your light box. Go for a walk. Refill your meds. Allow time for therapy and self-care. Reach out if you are struggling. (To friends, family, doctors or the suicide hotline if things get rough. I’ve relied on all four myself.) Carve out time for joy. Look at how far you’ve come. I’m proud of you.
PS. I think sometimes it’s hard to see what we’ve accomplished unless we really look. So in the comments, feel free to share something you’re proud of. It can be something giant or something small. It can be a book you finished reading, or a hobby you’re perfecting, or a lesson you’ve learned. But whatever it is, stop and acknowledge the fact that in spite of it all, you are still here, my friend. September has not won. And that? Is something to be celebrated.