FLORENCE HOWE

activist, writer, and founder of the Feminist Press




Florence in Words

Depression

March 5, 2012

Tags: depression, writing

I thought it had gone, and last week I had said so to Dr. D. I felt good, had written several new blogs, was reading again—whole issues of NYRB and the New Yorker, as well as the NYT daily, and novels, of course. I’ve begun Lessing’s four novellas called The Grandmothers. I had even begun on the income tax, spent two nights sorting, and knew I would need only three or four nights more. (All best done while watching television.) I had also taken some initiatives: had made one appointment with a friend coming to town from Maine, and another with a young colleague to begin work at the New York Public Library on a book together. I had also gone to my first appointment with the “balance doctor,” who had assured me that I did not need a cane. I needed to work on some exercises he was giving me.

And after my appointment with Dr. Jamey, I went for a walk on Third Avenue and bumped into the Mephisto shop. I was, I thought, feeling great. So I went in and bought three pairs of shoes. This is the first time I’ve done anything like that since returning from Vietnam. Yes, I was feeling good. So what happened?

Sunday afternoon, when I had planned to do grocery shopping, I sat down at the computer instead, answered a couple of emails, and then, perhaps a fatal move, went on to my Scorpion game. Why? I don’t know. I thought I’d play for ten minutes, but I should have known better. I played for two hours, occasionally asking why, but not stopping. I even broke the rules I had long since made for stopping. What was going on? And then it came to me and I thought, “It was back.”

The next thought was that it had slipped in, the depression had slipped in. “Slipped in?” I said aloud, with a question mark at the end of it. “How could it slip in? Had it been out having a good time and had come home too late to announce its return?”

Well, I was still waiting for Marietta, my god-daughter, who had come up from Washington on her own two-day agenda, but was spending her only evening having dinner with me. I would quit Scorpion and write a blog. Maybe writing blogs sends the depression away. Maybe it would have to back off again and get lost.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt the depression before as a “presence.” As a quilt, yes, a heavy blanket, yes. But not a presence. But this afternoon, I felt it as a presence and an enemy, something that is both inside me and outside, something that does not wish me well, that scares me, that itself is scared of something, and of course the first thing that always comes to my mind when I think of fear is not my father’s suicide, but my mother’s Alzheimer’s.

Perhaps it is my birthday coming up very soon now. Perhaps that frightens me, the idea that I am getting closer to the losing of faculties. But why do I continue to fear when so many doctors have said I have nothing to worry about—a neurologist, an ear/nose/throat doctor, and my dear therapist. But how could they know? I ask myself. Aren’t they simply being kind?

Comments

  1. March 14, 2012 3:21 PM EDT
    This is the time of year when our serotonin levels have dropped to their lowest, having been "in the dark" all winter. The "black dog lurking in the corner" that Winston Churchill called depression will probably fall asleep with the light, as least that's what I have experienced. I know "it" causes me to waste time, to give up, to think that nothing I do matters. Visiting the hospital patients and interpreting for the Hispanics, getting so much appreciation for it, makes me feel useful, and I know the depression will pass. Florence, if you were going to have your mother's malady, it would have given many signs by now, and you certainly deserve to play "Scorpion" all day if you feel like it. Don't feel guilty!!about anything. You are too much of an inspiration to worry about that. The Bible says our years are three score years and ten; I think anything beyond that is gravy, what the Bible calls "by reason of strength," which you certainly have.
    - Jane Morgan

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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