Writing memoirs helps us understand both horror and hope in our own lives.

Bloody handprint on a broken and dirty white door.

Years ago, I found myself binge-watching Scream Queens (2015–2016), a comedy that satirized all of those slasher films I mainlined in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It brought back to a time when horror was something I couldn’t get enough of.

For much of my young life, I was a horror buff.

I watched Michael Meyers and Freddie Krueger. I watched random serial killers target mostly white women. I watched evil children creep out of the corn. I kept my eyes on the monsters lurking in the shadows and those that stalk during the light of day. …

A poem about depression in a world on fire.

Close up of a fire with orange flames and burned wood.

Why can’t you be happy? they ask, as if the world isn’t aflame.

As if your happiness matters.

As if the already cracked world isn’t about to shatter before we can cement it back together.

As if you can simply be happy.

As if you should be happy.

As if you can shift from despair to joy because you wish and will it to be so.

As if your wishing and willing matters.

As if you aren’t depressed. Again.

As if depression can be cured by someone telling you that you can be happy.

As if depression can be cured…

Halloween was that moment out of time that allowed me to be anyone but me.

Cat on a branch in front of a harvest moon.

For as long as I can remember Halloween, I have loved it. Consistently. Faithfully. Deeply.

Halloween was often my favorite holiday, and it remains so. It was easier than the bigger holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, which required me to be shuttled back in forth between my divorced parents. Half a day with only family, half a day with another, always waiting for the tension to boil over. Always waiting for my biological dad to find a way to let me know that I ruined yet another holiday simply because I missed my mom.

I dreaded both Thanksgiving and Christmas…

This essay is an excerpt from Kelly’s forthcoming essay collection, Final Girl: And Other Essays on Grief, Trauma, and Mental Illness from Raven Books.

Close-up of fractured ice.

As my daughter and I readied her room for a sleepover on a Saturday, she surveyed our accomplishments carefully. Her hands darted out to straighten her comforter. She shifted her pink and green stuffed caterpillar, Cady, to the left and then the right. Cady ultimately landed in the spot that she started from.

“I want everything to be perfect,” she shouted. Her excitement about her best friend and the sleepover could no longer be contained; shouting…

I once had an impoverished definition of bravery. Luckily, I no longer do.

Tiny plant growing up through a crack in path.

Two weeks ago, my five-year-old and I were walking across a the Target parking lot in the Florida heat. The heat wavered above the asphalt as we rushed to the glass doors and the A/C. As always, he was holding my hand tightly and chatting with me about his day at preschool, whether he got a gold star for good behavior, the class’s new sight word, and how he, again, hadn’t napped.

But then there was a lull in the conversation. He frowned, looked up at me, and said, “I’m not brave.”

Startled at the strange turn in our conversation…

Depression can take away a writer’s most precious tools: her words, and her desire to write them.

A typewriter in a black and white photo.

In July, I wrote my first piece of creative nonfiction since December 2017. It’s the first long-form essay that I’ve written since my most recent bout with depression.

Starting that essay marked the first time I actually wanted to write something, anything really, which tackled the hard things that have happened in my life that I’m still trying understand. This was one of many small moments when I felt like myself again. Like I could write how I wanted to. Like maybe, just…

Blue ocean waves crashing on rocks.

I could feel the hum starting on an ordinary Friday, but I tried to ignore it. Swatting it away like you would a mosquito buzzing near your ear.

As I dropped off my oldest kid at her last day of art summer camp and headed to a coffee shop to work, I almost convinced myself that I wouldn’t be anxious, if I could just pretend that its hum wasn’t there.

All summer, I worked in coffee shops because her camp was only a half a day, and I had to squeeze work, editing and writing, in any way I could…

Who would I be without my anger? I don’t know.

Alt Text: A photograph of yellow and orange flame on a black background.

I’ve been going to see a therapist since early May. I call her, Dr. Angela, but that’s not her name. Every week, I sit down on her overstuffed loveseat, which attempts to swallow me whole, and talk about my feelings, my childhood, and my mental disorders.

(This is the first time I’ve gone to therapy after actively avoiding it for decades. I have my reasons, none of them compelling. Some day, I might share them.)

Angela is no-nonsense, and she doesn’t let me get away with easy answers, shallow confessions, or my strained mask of normalcy. She sees through my…

I gave up many things for graduate school: long blonde hair, contact lenses, the ease at which I smiled, and popular fiction. Training to be a religious historian meant that reading became my job rather than my beloved hobby. I only had time to read the 30 plus books assigned for seminars each semester. I’ve never read so much in my life as I did then. History, theory, methods, and studies of gender and race crowded my bookshelves and cluttered my dining room table. Reading for pleasure vanished from my schedule.

Instead, I trudged through the books that…

Kelly J. Baker

Writer: religion, disability, higher ed, gender & pop culture. Editor: @womeninhighered & @disability_acts. Now writing about #zombies, endings & apocalypses.

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