activist, writer, and founder of the Feminist Press

Florence in Words

Depression Returns

March 28, 2016

Tags: depression, reading

I cannot remember the last time I was depressed, but here I am back again in that state. And I can’t explain it. Of course I can’t explain it. And I’ve talked only with the two people who are trying to help me physically, and who don’t know me very well, and who are therapists, but not talk-therapists. I must say at once that I chose very well, since both of them told me that they, too, have suffered from depression, and they are never absolutely free of it.

Yes, that was not only surprising; it was comforting. I expect that they would like their privacy maintained and so I won’t even use their first names. My goal here is to explain my absence and perhaps to tell “you”—whoever you are reading these blogs—why I’ve been silent. And perhaps say something about what I’ve been doing.

I did a long proofreading job for Feminist Press—a WSQ volume on the theme of Survival, and, yes, with many depressing pieces. And yes, as a news-junkie I continue to fear the craziness of the current stream of political chatter. Only hearing Hillary calms me. I don’t often listen to Bernie, since he doesn’t change his speech enough to make this anything but a chore. But I did hear him out as he spoke to a few thousand young people in Oregon last night, and he’s still talking in generalities about a world that he couldn’t produce even in two terms in the White House, and even with Congressional partners. And people cheer and seemingly believe him. I find this so disheartening, especially since no one can comment on the absence of the emperor’s clothes, not Hillary, of course, and not other Democrats who are in awe of the young, enthusiastic crowds who chant “Bernie, Bernie,” as though he were a media rock star.

And I’ve been avoiding the Republican chatter these past few days. The less said about them the better. They seem to be in need of shooting themselves in the foot. And perhaps the glow is fading from Mr. Trump’s hairpiece, if that’s what it is up there.

But I have one or two things to report that are cheery. First, Helene’s surgery went well and she (who has not as much as a single depressed bone in her body) is already going to parties. What a lucky duck she is!

Second, I’ve been reading Marilynne Robinson again, this time Home, which for some unknown reason I had skipped over—went from Housekeeping to Gilead to Lila. And now I’m two-thirds through Home, and finding it splendid. Yes, cheering, amazing. I have put it down today only because I need to finish assembling the material for my income taxes so that they can be sent off with my dear friend/accountant on Monday morning. No, I won’t talk with him about depression.

But it has been helpful to talk with people who know what it’s like and who are in the helping professions. As a teacher many years ago, I could sometimes talk with a student about her feelings, or convince her to write about them. And perhaps I’ll try more directly in the next few days to describe how I feel. No, there’s no quilt wrapped around me, not this time.


  1. April 7, 2016 2:22 PM EDT
    Dear Florence,
    This is one of your Goucher students from the 60's, Ann Bennett. I just received notice of Joe Morton's passing and started reflecting on my heroes and mentors at Goucher.
    And you were right at the top. I googled you and read your blog. I was thrilled to find you there, alive and well, bold and honest as ever, stating exactly how I also feel about both Hilary and Bernie, plus depression. (quite understandable these days!!)
    I have known depression myself. I am free of it at the moment, have been living in California for the last 35 years, have been an English teacher, helped found 2 schools, and started after school programs for low income students in recent years.
    Back to Joe Morton, he once passed out a sheet I've saved all these years called WHY AN ACTIVIST CAN'T LOSE. It always perks me up.
    I hope this note may cheer you , you have been such an inspiration,
    I send much love to you,
    - Ann Bennett
  2. April 7, 2016 4:51 PM EDT
    Thank you, Ann. Write to me. Florence
    - Florence Howe
  3. April 8, 2016 12:12 AM EDT
    Florence--Great to hear back-- I would like to write to you directly, in addition to commenting here on your wonderful blog, but this is fine for now, until I figure out your email address. Mine is annbennet@gmail.com
    ( only one "t" on my last name, but just for gmail.)
    I read quite a bit more of the blog and enjoyed it immensely--found it interesting, fresh, immediate, so well-written, of course, rich in detail and honesty!
    How wonderful that you are still taking courses!! I am able to take in some fairly good lectures at UC Santa Barbara on occasion but we're a long way from New York and a lecture is far from a complete course.
    However at least I am in a poetry writing group--3 Phd's and me, with a mere M. Ed. We write about such things as ageing and feminism and short term memory loss and other relevant topics you touched upon in your blog.
    A few years ago I took a course at Essalen in poetry writing and Ellen Bass was in the class, taught by Sharon Olds. What a coincidence. Of course we talked about your wonderful book.
    Curious if you are still driving but assume you take a bus or cab when you go to courses. All the best, Ann
    - Ann Bennett

Select Works

"Everyone concerned about global feminism, women’s contributions, and humanity’s future will be enhanced and enchanted by A Life in Motion.”—Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume I and Volume II
Lecture delivered by Florence Howe on January 8, 2011, at the Modern Language Association Annual Convention
“It is impossible to imagine women’s studies without Florence Howe. Myths of Coeducation shows her vision and courage, insight and dauntlessness.”–Catharine R. Stimpson, Rutgers University
A revised and expanded edition of the classic groundbreaking anthology of 20th-century American women's poetry, representing more than 100 poets from Amy Lowell to Anne Sexton to Rita Dove.

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