Plans for this year’s Month of Letters, in which I admit that I have a problem.

January 9, 2015 in Journal, News

We’re less than a month away from the beginning of Month of Letters!

I’ll bet you’re wondering why there haven’t been posts leading up to the month the way I’ve done in previous years. I’m going to be honest about this, and this will be my first time mentioning this on the internets. I’ve been dealing with depression for much of the past year, and only started treatment last summer.

The reason I’m telling you this is that I’m trying really, really hard to treat this as no more shameful than a broken arm or a cold. The social stigma on mental illness is much less than it was when I was a kid, but I’m still hampered by those early beliefs. I don’t want to reinforce that by hiding my own struggle and, frankly, that struggle is about to affect you.

Here’s the deal. WordPress upgraded the software that I run the site with, which is great. Unfortunately, the new version breaks the badges. My webmaster let me know in plenty of time to have it fixed. Plenty of time. At the same time, she also let me know that she was going to need to step down. Both of which would have been fine, but they coincided with the period right before I finally admitted that I was ill. So, we’re a less than a month from the beginning of Month of Letters and this major thing is still broken.

I’m better than I was last summer, but using the broken arm analogy, I still can’t lift this thing. I’ve decided that rather than frantically trying to pick up the thing that I’ve dropped and cobble something together, I am going to focus on the point of the Month of Letters, which is the letters and the connections that come from that.

The challenges will still be there this year BUT the badges are going to be on the honor system. When you win a challenge, you’ll be able to add that badge (I think) to your profile.

I’m streamlining other parts of the site for this year, because that’s manageable. And breaking it into smaller tasks means that I, with my broken arm, can still carry it. Next year… next year, I’m hoping that everything, everything, will be in a better place.

And if I can just also add… If you’re struggling, too, it’s not shameful. Just do what you can do, and know that it’s okay to ask for help with the rest.

54 responses to Plans for this year’s Month of Letters, in which I admit that I have a problem.

  1. I’m not really letter-writing material, but this year for the Month of Letters, I will write not less than one. It will be to you.

    Until then, you must settle for an Internet hug. I’m glad you are getting help and hope you are well along on your path to recovery. Thoughts and prayers from a man who has learned a very great deal from you.

    /hug

  2. Oh, la! Honor system badges are just fine! If folks do this thing just to get the most badges, then they have the wrong focus – but that’s not your “problem”. You’re right – it’s the connection that’s the most important thing. That’s what I look forward to every year, anyway! So don’t you worry about it, m’dear.

  3. I too deal with depression, I’ve been on medication for years but this autumn was too much, so now I see a therapist and the days are getting better.
    You do what is best for you and be well!
    Florence

  4. Thank you for your honesty. My daughter struggled with depression several years ago and it was quite an education for me. I’m glad to hear you are in treatment and hope all will be well once again. I am not concerned with badges and achievements during the Month of Letters, only with the new connections to be made and the friendships that may blossom. I have met some amazing people across the globe from this site and I want to thank you for making that happen.

    Take care of yourself and just do what you can do. I’m sure we will all understand 🙂

  5. Hello! I am delighted that letters of the month is running, the badges and awards do not matter, its the taking part … the letters not the number of points awarded!! Depression is nothing to be ashamed of at all. Small steps rather than big ones 🙂 I have suffered with depression in the past and it can still come and go so I am here for you 🙂 The more you hold back the more it takes over!!

    Roll on 1st Feb … pen and paper at the ready 🙂 Well done Mary and thank you so very much for running Letters of the month this year!! xxxx

  6. Don’t worry about the badges and website issues. The month of letters is to encourage snail mail and make new connections. Am sure those who have participated in the past will not be bothered if there are no badges.
    Take care .

  7. Sorry to hear of your struggles, you’ll be in my prayers. I have relatives who have and continue to battle this. No worries, honor system…or no badges…sounds like a good plan!! One can only do what one can, no need to add more stress over this! As a fellow blogger I certainly understand…apart from the life angle! Sure, the badges and numbers where a fun thing, but just having the challenge of it and community is what matters to and inspires me to do it!

  8. Honestly, I do not know anyone in my circles who struggles with depression, but I do realize that the stigma that is out there and it saddens me. Depression is real and I really love your comparisons to the broken arm or cold. I’m so glad that you are better and I know that you will continue to get better. Badges and such are fine and dandy, but you have supported letter writers everywhere by creating this place to connect us. Now, we support you with understanding and encouragement to do what is best for you. HUGS……..

  9. To quote a great movie, “Badges, we don’t need no stinking badges!” Not that the badges aren’t cool. They are. And not that they aren’t fun to get. They are. But we’re all adult-ish and can totally add up our own badges. LetterMo is about letters and connection and people. And if we were ever to let some nifty digital bling overwhelm our compassion for another person then we really wouldn’t deserve any badges.
    Be kind to yourself when you can. Depression sucks. And it’s tricksy, like hobbitses. But we’re a community that came together because you love a thing, the mail. And we’re a strong community. And we’re a community that’s made up of people, some of whom have similar problems, and some of whom have different problems. But all of us can carry a little bit of the weight. You don’t have to do it alone.
    Also, and most sincerely, ::HUGS!::

    • Sara Glassman, I don’t know you from Eve but, after reading that response to Mary I just want to tell you, you are a real class act! That was lovely..

      • Couldn’t agree more! I’ve suffered from depression, on and off, since 2009 and since getting treatment and therapy for it I’ve learnt to manage it as best I can. Sometimes I can go months feeling happy and as light as a feather yet others it’s like wading through treacle!!! On those occasions I recognise it for what it is, tell myself not to worry as it shall pass sooner or later and ‘pamper’ myself with things that I know make me smile.
        As to the badges….naaah we don’t need them. I never bothered over much about them anyway and much preferred to work on achieving my very enjoyable target of posting a piece of mail each day and meeting & making new friends. That is the main point of LetterMo to me!

    • Sara,

      I concur with JJ. And I love your oh-so-apt quotation.

      You’re terribly right about the tricksiness too. If only we could swap depression for hobbits’ joie de vivre.

      Ruth

      Ruth

  10. Yeah, I was just thinking, it is almost February. Time for lots of letter writing. Sorry to hear you are struggling, but it sounds like you have a good outlook on your situation and on the web issues. Love collecting the badges, but have never figured out how some get so many letters written. I will be happy to tie my previous points/badges. I promise not to take more badges than I really earn.

  11. Mary —

    I’ve suffered from chronic depression since my mid-twenties. I’m 42 now, and I STILL have to be vigilant about trying to maintain some control over it…and sometimes it doesn’t work. That black dog bites me in the ass and devastates my day-today like, and skewers everything from my social like to my work productivity.

    For so, so long, I thought if I merely had enough willpower, I could get rid of it, conquer it. I was ashamed.

    Not until I was in my late 30’s did I finally have an epiphany (thanks, Dad.) If I had a disease people were sanguine about, like diabetes or high blood pressure, et. al., I would have no problem saying “I have X, and it affects my life, and I’ll take my medication every day.” It took my dad to hammer this home to me, because, as a very intelligent, proactive, overachiever, I was loathe to admit that this IS a disease, and I have to control it like any disease.

    And I came out of the mental illness closet (except, for instance, to potential employers, because there is a ridiculous stigma.)

    And pardon my French, but piss all over that stigma! I’m cheering for your bravery at addressing your issue with depression. It CAN be worked with and you CAN do and enjoy the things you love to do. I won’t lie; like any disease, it’s a struggle, and it sucks and sometimes you have to play with meds, therapy, exercise and other things to see what works.

    I’m (almost) a complete stranger to you (we have Sunil Patel in common, as well as a few other author friends ) but I wanted — needed — to reach out and tell you — this is surmountable. It can suck like a Dyson, and often does, but you can get to the other side of the black.

    Feel free to contact me to talk about my years of tweaking my meds and therapies, if you wish. I am rooting for you.

    All the best to you.

    • Erin,

      I still fall into that willpower trap, partly because there are a few people in my life who believe that I just need to toughen up. It is a cruel twist that at the time when we most need to remember depression is a disease, to know that we are fighting a good fight, that THAT is the time when the “willpower” voices echo most loudly in our heads.

      Ruth

      • Oh yeah – I’ve spent many, many years with family members looking down their noses at me and my issues as if I could just “pull myself up by my bootstraps” and turn my whole life around…. depression affects so many more people than most realize. It is very REAL and not very pretty to deal with ever so much of the time.

        Karen

  12. Mary, I, too, will write you a letter. I might not wait until February. I don’t have it in me this year to participate in the Month of Letters, but I still treasure the typewritten one you mailed me a few years ago.

    I have plenty to say on the subject of depression and mental illness, but for now, realize that you’re not alone, and we will all support you regardless of how broken your arm is on any given day. We’ll try to be the invisible sling. Hugs.

  13. Mary, just be patient with yourself , listen to your body and don’t feel guilty.. sometimes, when we are depressed , we feel guilty, to feel bad without any special reason, to feel low, to have a lack of energy….feeling guilty increase the feeling of depression.. so accept to need medicines, , you will be better soon ,don’t feel stressed with the badges,the most important for all of us is to write , to send and receive mails, , real and beautiful letters to make new friends.. and you’re the person who has organized this nice event.. thank you for that…
    don’t hesitate to contact me if you want to talk..
    My best wishes for 2015
    Agnès In France

  14. Just sending you hugs and hope it’s a smooth path to not having a broken arm any more. And thank you for sharing this.

  15. Thank you for sharing with us all Mary. It’s a tough road and I’m glad to hear you are getting help and that it is helping. A note from me will be in your post box soonish.
    Tracy

  16. It took a lot of courage to open up as you did about your depression. I’m glad you realized you needed help and look forward to your daily recovery. THANK YOU for starting Month of Letters! Thank you for continuing it as well. My thoughts are with you!

  17. I have participated in Month of Letters since 2011. I have never done the badge part, though. (I also made a lousy Girl Scout.) For me, it’s purely about the letters. And I will continue to write them! (Please know you have inspired many a letter-writer … and it’s not about the cool badges.)

    Please take care of yourself. I hope you feel on solid ground now, moving toward your own light. Please know that you have MUCH support out here. XO

  18. Oh, Mary! I struggle too, though I’ve never been brave enough to blog about it. This is the first I’ve heard of the Month of Letters (I’m not sure what box I was living under last year at this time, but I won’t dwell on that!) but I’m going to write at least one letter–for you! Thank you for teaching me in 2014 and thank you for the wonderful writing group that spawned from that class. You and the other writers in that group have been an inspiration for me.

  19. Am looking forward to participating in this year’s Lettermo and as Heather says the badges are not important -it I the connections made that count so just take care of yourself and don’t worry about the website issues or the lack of badges . I am sure that everyone will enjoy lettermo as usual .

  20. As someone else who struggles with depression (and looks frustrated at her letter stack), I sympathize. It’s a frustrating disease, and because it’s generally “invisible,” it’s one that just doesn’t seem to be taken seriously.

    Hang in there, Mary. The badges aren’t the important thing. The connections are. This year I’m not even worrying about those badges. I’m just going to write – whether it’s to 30 people or 60. And I thank you for offering a page that inspired me to get back into letter writing in the first place.

    Gentle hugs,
    Melissa

  21. Much sympathy from me too, and admiration for your bravery. I hope that 2015 will be a better year for you, and for everyone who is having a difficult time.

    I’ve found some lovely friends through Lettermo, so I thank you very much for starting it.

  22. Kudos to you for this post and for all that you do! I, too, suffer from depression, and I just wanted to share with you that last year, discovering the Month of Letters had a huge impact on me and helped with what I was going through. I am and probably always will be under treatment for my depression, and it truly is nothing to be ashamed of. I know that I found writing letters last February to be very cathartic and uplifting. Please know that you are not alone, and that even if you don’t know it, what you do helps others with the same issues! Big hugs!

  23. Just feel better – we can do without the badges!

  24. That’s OK! Low key for 2015 is fine with me. I’m so glad you posted. I was hoping we would still have LetterMo and now we will. 😀
    {{hugs}}

  25. I’m sorry to hear of your struggles, and will be praying for you. I have relatives who struggle with that! Just do what you can, I totally second what others have been saying, don’t worry about us, just issue the challenge…the badges may be fun, but the real reward is the satisfaction of knowing we succeeded in doing it and have brightened the days of those we sent mail!

  26. I’m new here and so excited to have found you and all the people here. Thank you for your honest and heart felt post about your struggles. All of us have our struggles and life is so blinking hard some times. Depression is a bastard. I’m so glad you’re getting help and not tying to lift too much with your arm in a sling.

    I don’t care a whit about badges. I’m just excited about the mail! I’ve sent a few things out already!

  27. Hey birthday buddy – I am sorry to hear you’ve been struggling with depression, and I am glad you are getting help. I struggle with it as well, so I know how tough it is to take the step toward getting professional help and then deciding if and when to tell others what’s going on. Courage, sister.

  28. I am sorry you’re suffering from depression. I’ve had clinical depression since I was a teenager and I’m now 53! So “the black dog”, as Winston Churchill called his depression, and I have been together a long time! Personally I don’t mind losing the badges. I would like to be rid of the league table too as I don’t think we need boasting rights over how many letters we post on an average day. But that’s just my opinion!

    • Couldn’t agree more Eunice! I often felt those league tables caused a bit too much aggravation and led, I felt, to one person leaving altogether after a few uncalled for comments were made.

      The true spirit of Letter Mo is to encourage letter writing and the making of new friends from around the world.

    • I agree with Eunice and Gillian about the league tables. Somehow competition doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of Letter Month. I kind of like the badges though. They’re really rather beautiful.

  29. i am happy to have a place to connect with like minded scribblers and this is enough 🙂

    although i am sure i have sent enough mail to be at the top of those dreaded leader boards over past years, keeping online account of it all was too much, so i never recorded any of it online – i’d much rather be sitting somewhere else (than in front of a ‘puter screen) with a pen and some paper

    thankyou mary for this space and the connexions we have made and are yet to make
    i shall ‘see’ you for your birthday and, as in previous years, the february birthday party continues all month – as loudly or as quietly as we choose, however it feels right at the time

    hugzzzzzzzzzzz

    😉

  30. Mary-

    So sad to hear of your struggles.
    Very best wishes to you and yours.

    My penpal club, the League of Extraordinary Penpals, is going to select lettermo as our Website of the Month next month.

  31. I was wondering where you were. You have my support and prayers. Stepping out in trust to tell us what’s going on in your life is courage and I hope you have been rewarded with the knowledge that there’s more understanding than you expect and that in times of need humans generally respond with the best we humans have to offer. Thank you for starting this challenge. I have a bunch of kids that will be participating this year. You are changing lives!

  32. I am right there with ya, hon. No shame, except I wish my house would clean itself. To quote my not-most-favorite President of the United States: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” (Teddy Roosevelt)

    Peace.

    • Laurie,

      PLEASE — if you get your house to clean itself, write me and tell me the secret!

      • Hahaha me too! I keep on top of it about 80% of the time but there’s always something to do! My plan for next week when I am off work, other than writing letters, is to tackle one room a day so it should help me get more organised….in theory LOL

        We shall see…..

  33. I have suffered with depression since I was 22 (22 years now) and I have always tried to speak out about it because I don’t want anyone to ever be afraid to talk about it !!! I have been having anxiety attacks lately too ~ and they STINK in a huge way… but I am going to own them and talk about them to help anyone I can who may be going through the same thing !!!

    You are in my thoughts ~ depression can be a bugger… some days are ok others no so much huh? Surround yourself with strong,loving, supportive people that will help !!!

  34. Mary (and all our co-depressives),

    Thank you for telling us. I’ve struggled with depression since childhood and I’m in my fifties now. I’ve learned that I can’t tolerate the medications, but I’ve also learned, perforce and with the support of a phenomenal therapist, to live with the hound. I shan’t pretend it’s a peaceful co-existence or that I have come to care for the beast; I’m just one more person saying you’re not alone.

    I vacillate between wanting to hide because of the shame involved (and then I feel ashamed of feeling ashamed) and wanting to take my own black mongrel out for a walk to help diminish the stigma. You see how much good you have done with just one post; many of us now have a place to say “I too!”

    Like the others, I too value LetterMo primarily for the exchange of communication and the reminder to write. I found the badges prompted me to send letters I might not have thought to send otherwise( such as to Girls Love Mail), so I hope people will post loudly about other letter-writing ideas and opportunities.

    I join with the others in encouraging you to take care of yourself. Please let me know how I can help. My offer and my admiration for you are both offered

    Most sincerely,
    Ruth

  35. Lovely and Delightful Mary,

    Thank you for the note of explanation. It was very brave of you to be honest without knowing if people would be supportive. I agree with just about every post above, it’s the concept more than anything that brings us to the challenge and I’m another who’s just so glad we’re doing it another year! Thank you for creating the site in the first place, and for all the time and love you’ve put into it 🙂

    I hope the coming weeks bring you as much joy as you’ve sent out into the world.

    Hugs,
    Kathy (aka Imogene)

  36. A strong, brave person will admit when things aren’t going so well, and aren’t afraid to ask for help. There will be loads of people on here who range from ‘being in a funk’ (very mild, can usually sort yourself out after a week or two) all the way up to having had hospital treatment due to mental health issues. doesn’t mean they are a bad person, if anything it makes them stronger as they took that time to realize nobody can help you unless you take that step to help yourself by asking for that help. 🙂

    so hang in there!

  37. Whoa. Hugs to you. But most of all… can I just say that badges are lovely, but people and well-being and health and the connections between people are much more important! I respect the effort you’re making for all of us, but we wouldn’t even BE here if it wasn’t for you. This site, this challenge… it’s all you. So, please do take care, take it slow, and don’t stress about the badges. I am sure people can deal with it… and if they can’t, well, that’s life.

    Please do take care!!! Thank you for everything!! Hang in there… baby steps!!

  38. Thanks for your honesty. We are all here, pens in hand, stamps and paper and envelopes and postcards ready to go. Maybe there is a “website person” willing to help you out? If not, so be it…. onward and upward – a letter (or more) a day will keep our depression at bay a bit and bring smiles to the faces of the receivers. Hang in there – you are in good company as you can tell by reading all these responses. We all seek out activities like this one to get outside ourselves a bit for many reasons – battling depression is probably one of the reasons many of us are here. We will be here with you whether we get badges or not because we are here for many other reasons, not the badges. Hugs to you and I hope you continue to feel better.

    Karen

  39. You do so much to support letter writing…know that you are appreciated! As a lifelong sufferer of severe depression, I can only say: keep on putting one foot in front of the other…no one else can know what that takes or what a journey there is buried inside even one single step. You are pretty freakin’ awesome!

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