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January 2, 2012

2011 Was a Lowercase Year

Kate Hart
Sometimes reaching for the shift key requires energy you just don't have.

I've written before about having clinical depression and the fact that it both sucks and blows, a feat that would be impressive were it not so busy being, you know, sucky and blow-y and generally un-fucking-pleasant. Go here if you need more insight into the peculiar process of realizing that your current depression containment methods have been breached, because while Cleo and I do not have identical diagnoses, she pretty much hits the proverbial nail on the head when she says,
"It's hard to teach yourself to say, 'You are an awesome person, and your awesomeness is a default, and so if you feel less than awesome, you need to get your awesome tuned up.' Because your sadness and fatigue and anxiety feel mild at first, and they seem like rational responses to things going on in your life, and then you end up missing some deadline or not completing some goal or not living up to your own expectations because you're already sad and tired, and then the negativity does seem justified: 'I'm not depressed; I'm a loser.' ... Depression makes you feel bad and then it makes you feel bad for feeling bad."

If you've wondered where I've been lately, well, that's where. I've been feeling bad, and waiting in vain for it to go away on its own, while watching my writing follow a similar trajectory. I tried to fix things-- tough love and indulgent kindness, strict schedules and following my "muse," butt in chair and butt on trail and butt at library.

But the words didn't come, and when they did, they were the wrong ones.

I read everything I could find about curing writer's block. The posts claiming it doesn't exist made me shriek internally. I wished I had the energy to yell, "Every writer gets blocked, but not every one gets Writer's Block, just like everyone gets depressed, but not everyone gets Depression! The fact that you've experienced the lowercase version does not give you the expertise to deny the existence of the other!"

But I lacked the energy to do anything but click away.

depression sucks allie brosh says so
Obviously, Writer's Block is not a mental illness. But it's hard to admit that you're dealing with the capital version, because it means admitting that something bigger is wrong. Pressing that button means you're dealing with something no amount of BIC, inspirational blog posts, or even Hyperbole and a Half comics can fix.

And in retrospect, my first post was only half done. Writing is not a symptom of Depression, but not writing can be. As big 2011 life changes settled into place and the block still didn't crack, it took me an embarrassingly long time to make the connection.

But other things made me seek out some fine-tuning on my awesome, and now that I'm feeling cautiously better, it's easier to see, though surprisingly hard to talk about. If Depression is like cancer of the soul, then Writer's Block is like seriously hardcore laryngitis. Clearing my throat is still painful. I'm trying to re-find my voice, but it's hoarse and not quite in tune yet, so please excuse me if I don't hit the high notes. I'm not looking for applause. I won't hold it against you if you cringe.

It's just that "Hey, this illness is REAL and it FREAKING SUCKS and by the way IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT" deserves to be said in all caps. And if saying it helps even one person hit the shift key, then hey. Maybe two of us can have a capital 2012.

eta: I almost didn't post this, but I closed my eyes and clicked publish. Then I went to Twitter, and saw this link, and came back to make sure you saw it too. If Cleolinda, Allie Brosh, AND The Bloggess say something, it must be worth listening to.

eta again: And now Betsy Lerner says, "If you're not feeling well, get help." This company. It makes me both happy and sad.


  1. I've seen firsthand how depression can take someone bright and funny and wonderful and absolutely flatten them--it's definitely NOT the same as being depressed. Hope you feel better and have a great 2012!

  2. You are awesome. That fact stands no matter what place you're in, though I say that with no pressure (if that makes sense). Also, you are very much loved. And very brave. <3

  3. Thank you for posting this...really. I also suffer from the hell that is depression and it needs to be recognized as a true problem because it's not "all in our head." It's not easy to overcome and it definitely snowballs just as you said. Wonderful post!

    Thanks so much!

  4. I only know you through blogging, but I clearly see that you are a giving, brave, and talented writer. Sending you an internet hug! As a social worker, I also appreciate that you are sharing your personal struggles - it will help others.

  5. I struggled with anxiety through much of 2011, and yes it involved writer's block. Like you, I am hoping for a better 2012. Thanks for talking about this.

  6. Thank you for posting this. You and the Bloggess alone are making me feel a lot better about facing my own depression, and how to explain my own absence online, and pretty much everywhere.

  7. YES! Exactly what you've said here. Thank you for saying it.

  8. ((((Kate)))) I had no idea you were struggling with this, but just want to say that YOU. ARE. AWESOME. No matter what. And if you ever need a reminder, please come and find me, and I will be happy to tell you, over and over again.

    I hope things continue to look up for you, and I <3 you for writing and publishing this very brave post. (just another indicator of your AWESOME).


  9. Like Debra, I was unaware of your experience with Depression, but now that I do, I have something to say--you are still the same great/hilarious/inspiring Kate Fucking Hart to me. And guess what? That's not going to change. Ever.

    More people should be this brave.

    Thank you <3

  10. You have no idea how I connected to your post. Thank you so much for posting. As cliche as it sounds, and you know how we writer's cringe at cliche... you helped me remember I'm not alone! Rock on! And may the muse shine on you!

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  12. I just read the Bloggess's post, too. I think you're both badasses, seriously.

  13. It's just that "Hey, this illness is REAL and it FREAKING SUCKS and by the way IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT" deserves to be said in all caps.


  14. It's lame to say, but I feel your pain! I too struggle with clincal depression and am on antidepressants. I applaud you for being honest. Sometimes it feels like the "silent shame disease". It's also such an isolating disease as well.

    Take care and here's hoping 2012 will be extra sparkly for you!

  15. Thanks for being so honest, and I'm sending you a big old hug over the internet (is that creeper that I'm sending a hug?! I mean it in a noncreepy hug way! ).

  16. I love you so much and I will forever and ever be here for you. your writing is brilliance and sometimes brilliance takes time, and that's okay, no matter the reason. here's to some CAPITALS in 2012.

  17. Thank you so much, everyone. Really and truly.

  18. Thanks for sharing this. I hope your 2012 is awash in awesomesauce.

  19. "If Cleolinda, Allie Brosh, AND The Bloggess say something, it must be worth listening to."

    I have read Cleolinda, Allie Brosh, The Bloggess, AND you on this topic, and I wholeheartedly agree with all of you. 2011 flattened me, too - Depression (brought on by uni, damnit; no more uni for me!) made me lose all sorts of things from June to December - including my own personality. I'm back now, but I took an absolute *hammering* last year!
    Here's hoping 2012 is twelve tons better for ALL of us!

  20. Much of 2011 was a lowercase year for me. But you were a bit of an inspiration at my lowest of lowercase moments, you know... After the April tornadoes here in Alabama, I was so numb and hurty and surrounded by so much desperation that made my numb hurt ridiculously meaningless...and you were a bright spot in that.

    I know organizing the charity auction sucked up soooooo much of your time, but it was this beautiful bright spot when I crawled out of bed every day and could go, "Look. People are awesome. Strangers are awesome. You need to be awesome too."

    So... <3 And thanks.

  21. Hope you feel better soon, Kate. I'm bipolar, so I've been there. A lot. :S

  22. I wanted to respond to this when you first posted it but my browser wasn't showing the comment form. Odd.

    Anyway, it should be glaringly obvious by now that you aren't alone. Even still, when that awful fucking cloud is hanging over you, it can feel like there's a gulf between you and anyone who can relate. Hang in there. I've been dealing with my depression and anxiety for about a decade now and it seems this past year hit a bunch of us hard. I found a ton of comfort in Cleo and Allie's posts (I'm a long time reader of their blogs as well and when their posts hit, everyone was was shocked, mostly by how much they could relate) and I found just as much comfort in yours (and the Bloggess's recent piece; thanks for the link! I'm not sure why I wasn't reading her already).

    It can be isolating and horrible when it's at its worst but there's an amazing support system out there, just waiting to help. I'm thankful that I've got a great safety net of family, friends, and a mister. But I'm also thankful that there is a great online community of compassionate people (often like-minded, often writers, often similarly afflicted) to turn to and find solace in. Here's hoping 2012 is a Caps Lock kind of year. ^__^

  23. I won the genetic lottery and have depression on both sides of the family, so I have loads of experience being the one crushed under the dark cloud as well as being the one trying to lift the dark cloud for someone else.

    Unfortunately, something in our family wiring also makes it so that we don't react all that well to prescription anti-depressants. I've managed to find a cocktail of supplements that works for me, but nothing fucks with a good balance like thyroid cancer and having to take thyroid meds. The swings are crazy sometimes, but getting better. And don't get me started on docs and how they will argue whether your symptoms could possible be caused, or helped, by a single pill.

    Brings home that this is a lifelong battle, and sometimes you don't realize how bad it got until you're looking back at if from across the battlefield. It definitely helps to know that there were friends fighting alongside you all along.


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