I have Seasonal Affective Disorder.
I have, in the past, taken medications to deal with some of the symptoms. I have used light therapy (I had this great doctor who had therapeutic lamps in his office and I could just stop in a few times a week to read/study
under them). I make sure to get outside as much as I can in the winter to capitalise on as much natural light as I can, even though one of the problems is the shortened days and the inability of winter sunlight to provide adequate vitamin D to our systems. I have taken vitamin D supplements and B12. I exercise. I eat well. I have lots of things to do and lots of weapons in my “how to battle mental illness” arse…nal.
While the approach of winter gives me anxiety and mental anguish – sometimes
even trauma, I guess – I’m not going to ask people not to mention how much they love winter. Even though it bothers me when they do it. Even though the first snowfall of the year makes me irrationally miserable. I’m not going to poop on your parade. My SAD is my issue, and I’m responsible for my own reactions to stimuli. So I might be rumpy when someone gets all !!SQUEE!! over new fallen snow, but I’m not going to freak out about it.
Yeah, Saskatchewan is pretty bloody tough when you have to live with something like SAD. Eight effing months of winter. Eight. Effing. Months. If we could have four months of winter, I’d be fine (in theory). Four months of -20ºC – -40ºC would be just fine, provided there was lots of sun and heat for the rest of the year. I could move. I could pick up stakes and find a lovely beachfront property in a place where it never snows. I could move to Hawaii or the French Riviera or Morocco or somewhere where palm trees grow by choice.
I know winter has a lot to offer. There is a lovely crispness about a shockingly cold day, with the crunch of snow underfoot and fresh, sweet air nipping at your cheeks. Skiing and snowshoeing and skating and why do all winter sports start with the letter ‘s’? It’s terribly automatopoeic. I can see the beauty of winter. I love that it kills bugs. There’s nothing better than laundry freeze-dried on the line. I love when new fallen snow blankets the world around you and there’s a dampened sound and everything is quiet and the light reflects off of sparkles in each flake.
It’s a strange relationship, really. I completely understand what they mean by “love-hate relationship”. They mean “the way cenobyte feels about winter”. Except in my case it’s more of a hate-accept-hate-love-hate-hate relationship.
There is a creeping horror that begins around this time of year – some years it’s better than others, like when we have a long, warm, and bright/sunny autumn. A couple of years ago, cold, grey weather hit like a brick in November and all I remember from that year is wanting to warm some rocks in the oven and then put them in my bed and crawl under them and stay there until June. This year, with the “winter-like conditions” (they can’t actually say “blizzard” unless the wind is a certain speed and the temperature is a certain speed and the snow lasts for a certain amount of time, but we all know that a blizzard is a blizzard is a blizzard and the bullshit weather we’ve had for the last two days is a blizzard) hitting before Thanksgiving, there is a heaviness about me. A heaviness that doesn’t come from deep fried pickles.
Ultimately, I’m scared. I’m scared that this will be the winter I can’t deal with the sadness and the exhaustion. That this will be the winter I’ll have to go back to medications. That I won’t be able to get away to a sunny place with palm trees and (preferably) waves crashing on a nearby shore. That I’ll be stuck looking out a frosty window at a gray sky and a bleak (if quite striking) landscape. That I won’t get the projects done in our home that I wanted to get done when I had energy and drive in the summer.
Is the fear of anxiety worse than actual anxiety? Does anxiety about depression lead to depression? I don’t know. I don’t know much of anything, really. I just know that while you’re excited about cookies and Christmas and snow-laden branches, I’m taking a deep, deep breath and trying not to hold it until the first trickles of meltwater. I’m trying to hold it together. I’m trying to remember to live in the moment.
So I’ll apologise for not sharing your enthusiasm, but I won’t apologise for hating winter. My body – my brain – won’t let me share your joy. And my fear of where I’m going to be, mentally, in about a month and a half won’t let me.