From the Editor – December 2017

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Hannah Brandt working on the November edition with executive director Michael Evans (right), layout designer Joel Perez (left)

By Hannah Brandt

This month, it is hard to write this. That is not only because I happen to be sick as a dog as I do so, but as many of you know, this is my last month as editor. Even when one realizes passing the torch is necessary, moving on is often hard to do.

I have enjoyed putting this paper together line by line, page by page, month by month. It has been wonderful to collaborate with so many passionate and thoughtful people on so many important issues. I have been fortunate to meet individuals and have experiences I would never have been able to otherwise. The list of things I have learned is long.

When I became editor a little more than two years ago, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was uncharted territory for me. I had never been an editor or worked for a newspaper before. I was a self-taught journalist–if one can call it that–who had taken some online courses and written independently for a year.

Doing this job is a lot of work, and it sometimes feels like herding cats to get all the elements into position. Seeking out stories and contacts, conducting interviews and writing articles, working with writers to polish their work and the logistics of making all of it into a coherent whole are just some of the tasks I undertook every month. For someone who can be perfectionistic, you can drive yourself crazy with the little details. A job like this with so many moving parts is a constant challenge. It is an endeavor I mostly enjoyed and strove to do well.

It is not just perfectionism that makes work and life a challenge for me, I also struggle with anxiety and depression. This can make doing small things hard and big things very hard. It is easy to get overwhelmed.

I am only just learning about how clinical anxiety and depression have affected me for most of my life. For years before I knew I had this condition, I knew something was wrong. But like so many of us do, because I did not understand it, I was ashamed of it. And that shame led to trying to hide it. The only reason I bring it up here is that I know anxiety and depression are realities for many people and often hidden in shame. It is easy to believe you are alone in it all, and learning that you are not is liberating.

Those of us who battle depression and anxiety become accustomed to stealing into the shadows. Although it seems like we should be able to control something we can conceal, it is not that simple. Before I became editor, I was in a particularly low place. I had struggled to find full-time work after being laid off from teaching high school. I had been a caregiver for many years to my husband who had a disability and severe health problems. I was broke and demoralized. I had become thin and for a variety of reasons did not have anywhere to stay until a friend took pity on me.

I want to express my gratitude to all those people who have helped me along the way. To the people involved with making the Community Alliance, thank you for taking a chance on me and giving me an opportunity I never dreamed I would have. I want also to thank all the people who contributed stories and volunteered their time. Lastly, of course, thank you to all you readers out there who made it all worth doing.