Beware the Ides of August

A little over a week ago I remarked to Melissa and to my co-workers that I was having an unexpectedly rough time with my mental health. Grief over my mother’s January death had settled into a faint sadness punctuated by the occasional conscious pain, but last week I was more preoccupied, given to constant remembrance and even dreams with Mom making appearances. I didn’t make the connection then.

This week things changed a bit. I had the occasional panic attack and felt more lethargic than normal. Also, there have been bouts of nausea and general gastrointestinal volatility. Even then I didn’t think to figure out what was generally wrong with me.

It wasn’t until early this morning, when a commentator on NPR mentioned the date while I was trying and failing to sleep, that I figured it out. Mid-August. It’s the same every year, for twenty-eight years.

August of 1988 was a rough time. On the sixteenth I went to basic training and took all of the psychological manipulation and mental trauma that comes with that. A week later my dad died, and I flew home in a hastily-assembled dress uniform for the funeral. Every August for twenty-seven years I was conscious of this time of the year and able to track how it challenged me. Sometimes I was even able to combat it.

Things were different last year. I had been so preoccupied with my mom’s illness and roller-coaster decline that the anniversary didn’t occur to me, and the resultant depression was unremarkable for several days. Turns out, I don’t even have to be aware of the calendar. My seasonal decline is tied into the angle of the sun, or the color of the late summer grass, or something else environmental. It triggers me without my awareness. This year I’d been conscious of my more immediate grief, going through cards from April’s memorial and generally dealing with the fallout, both material and emotional, but I had forgotten about the bigger picture.

So when I realized this morning that yesterday was the anniversary of my traditional depressive decline, I was able to start addressing it. I need to start marking my calendar with this.


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