An Australian author living in Norway

Oh, November

It’s no secret that I hate November in Norway. It gets cold, but hovers above zero with moisture that hangs in the air until it finds hair to frizz, at which point it turns me into Cyndi Lauper circa Vibes, but without the invisible best friend.

It gets dark—dawn is after I leave for work and sunset is before I leave the office, and most of the time it’s so cloudy you don’t see the sun anyway.

It gets bleak; all the leaves have fallen and everything is a shade between brown and grey. Fog hovers everywhere.

As the world goes up in flames—literally, in California’s case—there’s no refuge in the brightness of computer and phone screens. People are angry, or disappointed, or terrified, or exhausted.

If you’ve ever suffered from depression—seasonal or otherwise—you’ll know times like this can be dangerous. Towards the end of October, I started to feel an episode coming on. I’d wake up with a weight pressing down on me that made it hard to throw off the covers. I’d look at everything that needed doing (and it was a LOT because my writers group was about to put on our biggest book launch ever and I’m the Chair), I wouldn’t just feel stressed; I’d feel hopeless. Like I couldn’t do it (except I could). Like I didn’t want to do it (except I did). Like I wished I’d never started the whole thing (except it’s one of the best things in my life).

It didn’t help that people around me were succeeding at things I was failing at. People I mentored were getting dream jobs and assignments while my company was going through yet another reorganisation. Writer friends were signing contracts and debuting books while I got an email from QueryTracker asking if I’d like to renew for another twelve months. People were falling in love while I hit three years single.


I flail when I don’t have some sense of control in at least one facet of my life. Of course there are always things you can’t change, but my strength comes when I can grasp the end of one whippy, slippery cord in the cat o’ nine tails that is life and do some whipping of my own. But this time, I couldn’t get a hold and was just getting cut in the face.

I tried to do all the things you’re supposed to do when you feel a bout of depression looming. I tried to write; nothing came out. I went to the gym, and felt momentarily better; then the high would pass and I felt worse. I messaged my friends to make plans; they were busy. I’d retreat into the online world of Facebook and Twitter, only to bear witness to anger, bitterness, hatred, frustration and vitriol. I tried Instagram, only to be bombarded with images of people who (at least on their feeds) were having a better time than I was.

For me, depression manifests in a combination of bursts of resentment and irritability, followed by a numb sense of despair. Maybe that’s how most people experience it; I don’t know. But that’s mine, anyway. And I don’t often recognise it for what it is until it bumps unfairly against someone else. I snap at people who don’t deserve it and then suddenly wake up to myself when they start backing away with hands up like I’ve got a gun trained on them.

This. Can’t. Happen.


The last time I was truly depressed, an emergency boyfriendectomy cured it. This time, there was nothing to cut out, no big change I could make to lift the cloud. So, I decided to make a small change. A tiny change that wasn’t so far out of the ordinary I was already living.

Before I tell you what it was, I want to be clear: I’m not claiming this is some miracle cure for depression. There isn’t one. But I wanted to share what I did because it helped me—and because it seemed to help other people, too.

I couldn’t leave social media altogether. For one thing, I have community and business stuff going on that makes it a necessary evil. I could cut back, but honestly, as an introvert and someone who suffers from bouts of social anxiety, social media is a lifeline. Not only do I keep up with my friends and family back in Australia, I have a little window on the world of people through which I can engage with them even when I’m in a cat-sprinkled Snuggie-burrito on the couch with whatever streaming series I’m bingeing on playing in the background.

So, I decided to be the change. To quote Robin Williams in Toys, I was going to fight fire with marshmallows.

I’m bringing wholesome back.


Every day in November, I decided to make the conscious choice to share things that made me smile. Not just cat videos (although, let’s face it, there can never be too many of those). And absolutely not [whatever]-spirational dross that just makes everyone want to shove a dirty sock down your throat. Things that genuinely made me smile. Sometimes posts of my own about my kid (because she’s objectively hilarious), and ridiculous things in my day that someone else might also laugh at. Sometimes links to fun websites that remind us that the Internet is SO much more than social media. Sometimes one of the thousands of brilliant web comics that remind us comics are art and have something amazing to say. Sometimes cat videos. Whatever it was, it would be funny or silly or pure or warm or some other smile-making content.

I was careful in announcing my intentions, because (especially in the lead-up to the US midterm elections) I wasn’t trying to silence anyone else. Being able to take a breath like this is a privilege and I wanted to acknowledge that. I wasn’t trying to take the high road; I was trying to take a healthier road for myself.

Now, it’s almost halfway through the month and I am astounded at the difference posting only stuff that fits under my #wholesomenovember hashtag has made. Although I usually try to post funny, moving or uplifting stuff anyway, making a conscious choice to post exclusively this kind of content—and announcing this intention before I started—made me change my attitude overall. I looked out for things to post about, both as reposts of existing content and as little stories of my own. When I went looking for warm fuzzies, I found them. I shared them. And people started sharing them with me. My Facebook wall is filled with cute, funny, smiley content that others have shared with me, which is not only lovely in itself, but it reminds me people are thinking of me.

None of the situations I mentioned above have changed. And I don’t have any more control over my job, my friends or my love life than I did in October. I still wake up to mornings so grey I want to cry just from looking out of the window. But now I have resources to draw from that remind me there is light and love in the world. Let me share some of them with you—maybe they’ll help.

Web comics

Liz Climo’s Tumblr is a wonderful source of wholesome feelings that never cross the line into sickly sentimentality.

Webcomicname is about the life of a pink blob to whom any creative person can relate.

Tiny Snek Comics self describes as being about “cute animals, sleepy boyes, nonsense words, and wholesome nihilism”.

Sheldon the Tiny Dinosaur who thinks he’s a turtle. Need I say more?

Facebook Pages

Wholesome Memes is to memes what cat videos are to videos

The Wholesome Squad is pretty much Wholesome Memes with some win thrown in.

I’ll leave you with one of the things that made me laugh the most this month. My kiddo. I don’t know where she comes up with this stuff, but it never fails to make me do this face:


For the record, neither of us eat cheesecake.

featured photo credit: marfis75 Farblos via photopin (license)


  1. Liz

    Oh Zoe this reminded me of a not cure, but help that I did for myself a couple of years ago. Someone challenged me to write 100 days of good things. It really did make a difference. Every day I had to challenge myself to think of just one good thing that had happened. And, like you, it made me feel better.

  2. Sharleena Cronin

    That much darkness would get me down too. Social media can swallow you whole and I like how you are controlling it for yourself. Now, why do I crave cheesecake…. 😉

  3. Megan


  4. Leslie Pancoast

    Enjoyed your blog and your new treatment for a better November! I couldn’t help but think of a particular chapter in The Egg and I, one of my favorite books and one of Audrey’s, too. Betty MacDonald lives in the middle of nowhere on the Olympic peninsula near Seattle on a chicken farm. Part Two of this wonderful book includes this introduction which I thought you might appreciate. 🙂

    No sun – no moon – no morn – no noon,
    No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day,
    No warmth – no cheerfulness – no healthful ease,
    No road, no street, no t’other side the way,
    No comfortable feel in any member –
    No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
    No fruit, no flowers, no leaves, no birds, November!


    • Zoë

      Thank you so much, Leslie! That little piece rings so true it’s almost as if I’ve read it before – except I haven’t! But I will now.

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