activist, writer, and founder of the Feminist Press

Florence in Words

The Absence of Depression

November 20, 2014

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A strange title for me, and a strange feeling. Iíve been aware for more than a week that the depression that usually lives with me, if not in me, has gone away. Perhaps itís only temporary, but it is gone, though I donít think I can explain how I know. Seems mysterious. Probably is.

I am sleeping a bit less than I do when Iím depressed. And Iím dreaming a lot, sometimes very strange dreams, which I do also when Iím depressed. So thatís not it. First clue: Iím eating more than usual, and nibbling as well, on nuts, fruit, even bits of chocolate or cookies. When Iím depressed, I eat very small meals, Iím usually not interested in food, and donít nibble at all. Just this week, the scale showed a quick gain of some five pounds, so perhaps thatís a palpable clue: do I want to be fat or depressed?

Another clue: Last week I wrote poems each morning, just like that. And I didnít write journals every day, wrote every third or fourth day. And I wrote nothing in the journals about depression. And now here I am trying to write a blog. But of course I have written blogs while depressedóand several of them about being in that state.

Final clue: Response to visitors. When Iím depressed, I usually prefer being alone and when I can, I put off appointments, visitors, certainly people I donít know at all. And this week I had several visitors and felt welcoming and felt glad I had agreed months ago to host two women from San Francisco I had met in Mallorca in 2011óthe first time I went to Ellen Bassís workshop. Connie, Julie, and I had talked a bit there, as we ate meals together, and also took several walks down a rocky road, but I had no expectations of seeing them again. Well, they asked if they could stay in my apartment for a long weekend in New York as part of their longer honeymoon to be spent in Paris. They had a busy schedule, mainly seeing other people, but we had mornings--and several late evenings--for conversation over breakfast or tea. When we talked about childhoods, I mentioned that, if asked, I would never have said I had experienced depression early in my life, and I told them about the little notebooks written during my mid-teens at college, which mentioned depression. I told them that my long-time depression, which had returned after I had returned from Europe, was now gone, though I didnít know why, or even when, much less where it had gone.

So how does it feel to be without depression? How does one describe ďabsenceĒ? Does it feel ďnormalĒ? I need to work at this, for I canít describe the feeling except as absence. Itís not thereóor here. I donít ďhaveĒ it. When I ďhadĒ it, I sometimes used the metaphor of a quilt. Once, I said it was like a shot to my body.

This is the second day Iíve tried to write and rewrite this blog. Yesterday, I wandered into the area of religion, but Iíve cut that out and left it for another day. Iím going to try to look at the day: itís a blue-sky day out my window, royal blue. And from here I canít see signs of a stiff wind and Iím too high to see the people on the streets below bundled in layers, hats, and scarves. Iím going out in a few minutes to get a flu shot, take a short walk, test the day.

Will send the blog into the world. Perhaps thatís the key: Itís not finished, but Iím sending it. Makes no sense, I know. But perhaps Iím too eager to make sense.


  1. January 1, 2015 7:29 AM EST
    Hooray for losing that burden! Why try to figure it out? Maybe it's like menstruation; after a certain period (no pun here), we are done with bleeding. Enjoy the chocs and nuts--they are good for one's health. You won't get fat, just a happy armful.
    - Shirley Geok-lin Lim
  2. June 17, 2015 10:11 AM EDT
    So many things I could say here. We must visit. The diet could be helping--so much is being written and reported about how nuts are very healing to the body (which includes the chemistry of the brain), and we've known for a long time how mood lifting chocolate is, particularly when women have fluctuating or decreased estrogen. I intend to get some soon myself--was just hearing a report recently. But I also suspect you are fulfilling yourself in a different way, a way that now you have the time to do. Working on Paley must be a wonderful gift to you, and perhaps you are not so burdened and pressured the way you have been in some past times. You are literally opening the door, as you did for your friends, to experiences which may not seem so important but significant in so many ways. And we also often shed the effect of many experiences and negatives with age, if indeed we are open to do that. I am so happy for you. Your old wounds may be healing, or it certainly sounds like it.
    Love, love
    - Maxine McCants

Select Works

"Everyone concerned about global feminism, womenís contributions, and humanityís future will be enhanced and enchanted by A Life in Motion.ĒóBlanche 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
ďIt is impossible to imagine womenís studies without Florence Howe. Myths of Coeducation shows her vision and courage, insight and dauntlessness.ĒĖCatharine 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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