April is the cruelest month: depression in the spring

April is the cruelest month: depression in the spring

It was my mother’s birthday on April 5th, and it never crossed my mind. Today my daughter and I were listening to Carly Simon (she indulges me) and “Like a River” started playing.

When my daughter was little, less than 3, she said, “Mama, why do you listen to that sad song so much?”

I listened to it then as a way of coping with my grief. My mom died in 1992, but when my daughter was born in 1998, it felt as if she had died all over again because she was missing this momentous experience in my life.

This is the chorus:
“I’ll wait no more for you like a daughter,
That part of our life together is over
But I will wait for you forever
Like a river”

It always does me in, and today when I heard Carly’s voice singing these words, which she wrote for her mother, I remembered that I’d forgotten to remember my mom’s birthday.

T.S. Eliot famously wrote “April is the cruelest month.” I don’t know what Eliot meant, but the line pierces my heart. I struggle with depression and anxiety no matter the season, but when the light and the wind arrive in March and April, they swallow me whole.

There’s something especially scary about depression when the first daffodils are out and the sun is up until after 7. If you can’t be happy in Spring, what hope is there?

My psychiatrist tells me that many people with depression feel this way about Spring, and it helps to know that I’m not alone.

I suppose what I’m saying is that April offers a few trapdoors.

After my mom died, I started thinking about love songs differently. They are intended, I guess, to be about romantic love, but some of them described my grief so well. Hoagie Carmichael’s, “I get along without you very well,” has always been, for me, about my mom.

“I get along without you very well
Of course I do
Except perhaps in spring
But I should never think of spring
For that would surely break my heart in two”

I didn’t feel strong enough to remember her birthday this year. I needed to move through this month, get it past me. I needed to avoid the trapdoors.

But, still, Carly’s voice sings, “I’ll wait no more for you like a daughter / That time of our life is over.”

And, I think of her. And it my heart breaks in two.

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