Just because you have the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have.
– J.K. Rowling, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”.
It’s almost February. Which means I should be planning my garden bounty for the summer of 2016. But I’m not. Instead I’m grumbling about my numb toes, trying to zip up my coat with mitten-clad, but still cold, hands. I’m more than daily, scraping and brushing off my car. And in general, I’m feeling lazy and sluggish. Honestly, at this time of the year, it can be difficult for me to see the sunshine through the cold, bleakness of a western PA winter.
To be honest, I was doing well this winter, the unseasonably warm (still hovering under 40 degrees) was great. But then winter really showed up. I thought the great weather we had been getting would give me some sort of buffer, or a free pass on S.A.D. this year. And if you ask The Goat, he’d probably tell you that it did help, that I’ve been more myself this winter than in the past.
When I was told, last February, that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, I took it seriously. However, I tried dealing with it in a very systematic and proactive manner – I simply didn’t (and still don’t) want to treat it with medication. In September and early fall I started changing out my lightbulbs to daylight spectrum bulbs, I repainted some of the spaces in my home in sunnier colors, I started therapy, I changed my work schedule, I added some vitamins to my regimen (B & D), and I started meeting a friend at the gym regularly.
But that’s not enough. I need to give myself permission to admit that I am affected by the weather and lack of sunlight. I have to accept that this is ok. I have to accept that I’m really not alone in this. I have to admit that, like so many others, I’m trying to deal with depression. The dreaded D word.
The thing that makes this hard, is that I thought I was doing this – I thought I was permitting myself the space and time I needed; I thought I had accepted that it is OK to slow down and do some hibernating at this time of the year.
But the inner affirmations only gets you so far when society around you is clammering to be busy, busy, busy; repeated media outlets are offering ways to “get happy” during the winter; weather forecasters continue to predict doom and gloom; and normally bubbly people are agreeing that they get “blue” too, while they smile as they continue to tell you about the great time they had yesterday.
I need to remember that it’s ok to feel sad, that it’s not a defect, it’s simply a state of being. And that state of being is acceptable. I might be struggling with some strange health issues that sound straight out of a science fiction book. I may be cold and can’t feel my toes. I might be optimistic about the future. I might be looking forward to a business expansion. I might be worried about my Grandparents, my dad or my sister. I might be trying to help The Goat with community projects.
Put all these rumblings together in one inner struggle and is it any wonder I’m a bit blue one minute and ok the next? Some of us are optimists, some pessimists, and some of us are simply trying. None of these states are better or worse than the others, they simply are states of being. People dealing with depression can’t “snap out of it” any more than a pessimist can see the gilded lining in the cloud or an optimist can plan for the worst case scenario.
Sure this makes it difficult for some of us to get along – there are days when I want to slap the happy off the faces of those eternal optimists. But isn’t that the point of building relationships, accepting the people in your life as they are? (However, don’t let this be an excuse to hang onto a toxic person.) I’ll accept that your life might be full of rainbows and unicorns if you can accept that mine might not be.