How do I let this happen to me every single year? I allow myself to be lulled by the fact that the leaves on the big cottonwoods around the neighborhood are still mostly green, although it is a rather tired shade of that color.
We were waiting for more leaves to fall in order to cover up the flower beds, but when the weather reports said it might fall into the thirties, we brought in the potted herbs for their winter vacation in the family room, far from a hothouse, but comfortable for plants.
Dip into the thirties. It must be the way they say it, that makes it sound so innocuous. Does that phrase send me searching for mittens and scarves? No. It actually takes the dreaded freezing weather itself to hammer home the reality of the end of summer, autumn and all that we find comfortable here in this part of the world.
In fact, I feel as though the wind baying around the house, the sound of the brittle leaves skittering down the sidewalks and streets, and the banging of the trash cans against the side of the house become my seasonal alarm clock waking me up to real life again.
It seems fitting that three of the things most meaningful in my life are marked for special attention during October. I fear that if depression, breast cancer and newspapers were spotlighted in July, the month might pass without me making note of them.
"¢National newspaper week appears in early October, this year with the usual rounds of dire forecasts of the viability of the future of the newspaper business. But I don't worry. After all, newspapers are, at their most simple, a means of spreading news in a community, and at their most complex, a means to creating a community of diverse peoples, and as long as the human race is interested in everything from tidbits to philosophy, they will find a cheap and effective way of communicating. Newspapers are still the most effective and reliable way of doing that, and even if the "paper"¯ part of the equation were to disappear, a content delivery system as honest and reliable will survive.
"¢Breast cancer. During the month of October, women are encouraged to be screened for breast cancer, and many opportunities for free or reduced screenings are offered. Screening by mammography and self-exam are still the best ways to keep from dying from breast cancer.
I credit early detection (and very good medical care) for the fact that my own breast cancer seems to have been conquered. But still we hear of women who are dying, so we must remain vigilant and encourage funding research into breast and other sorts of cancer treatments and perhaps eradication.
"¢Depression awareness. Somehow I can't help but think that what we need is a new name for this disease. Depression has too many meanings in our language, most of them rather innocuous. But measles, mumps, small pox, cancer "” those are words that mean things that are rarely misunderstood or trivialized. We seek them out and go after them with a vengeance.
A psychologist once told me that during depression screenings people will say, "I'm not depressed"¦but can I ask you about something else?"¯ And the something else may well turn out to be depression exactly, just not using the word.
In the eleven years since my 14-year-old son's suicide, we have learned much about depression, and I wonder if I (and the medical community) knew then what I know now would he still be alive. But suicide is a real and present danger, and all too often hits close to home. Perhaps some day preschoolers will be able to be screened for illnesses such as bipolar disorder and others when they are getting their inoculations against other formerly fatal diseases. Perhaps the treatments will be as widespread and readily accessible.
Until then, education on the symptoms and available treatments is vital.
Screenings are available and I urge you to consider being screened or having a loved one screened. The treatments are not always perfect, but many, many people with formerly debilitating mental illnesses live happy, productive lives today.