For most of my adult life, August has been the cruelest month. It wasn’t always this way. I used to get excited about the start of a new school year, saying goodbye to the long hot summer and going back to the classroom where I could overachieve and be teacher’s pet. Years ago, I noticed that I would easily fall into a brown study during August. Why this pattern? What about August?
I was just getting on my feet as a full-fledged adult, I was 23, I was working as a paralegal in a large law firm, I was paying all my bills, and my mother told me that she and my father were leaving the States. My brother would go with them. They were leaving in August and if I wanted to, I could join them. Move back to Asia. Where I was born.
I have a vague memory of saying goodbye to my brother at JFK–he had left his job and house in the Midwest, flown to JFK to begin his journey to the Far East where he would begin medical school. By then I had already said goodbye to my parents, who had left ahead of him. My father had shaken my hand. My mother was too distressed to touch me.
A few weeks later I was in the hospital. I had suddenly contracted a kidney infection and oral antibiotics could not heal my chills and fever. My entire mind/body was ailing. Over the next 12 months I would fall into a depression, become obsessed with a new boyfriend, quit my job, and start a very difficult journey of my own.
Today I look back at my 20s and feel grateful that I survived those tumultuous years. Grateful that I eventually found a therapist who literally wrapped me in her arms and, more importantly, helped me to figure a way out of a disastrous marriage and the mental chains that held me. A therapist who helped me see how my silent hidden grieving over the loss of my family and death of my mother was unhealthy and causing me to cling to inappropriate men.
Today I understand why August is a cruel month for me. It’s not just the heat and humidity that sap my energy. It’s the memory of that August many years ago. My body remembers, and I can simply acknowledge it. Eat some healthy food, see friends, laugh, watch tennis, get a massage, and look forward to September.