Have you ever woken up one day and just wished you could turn over and go back to sleep for the next few months? This begins happening to me around the end of October every single year. Every morning of the year I awaken and stumble for the coffee pot. During good weather I like to take my first cup outside and enjoy it on the porch watching the birds at the bird feeder and greeting my neighbor’s cats. Then I go back inside and get to work organizing and checking emails before starting my writing for the day. But when the late fall and winter sets in I sit inside and drink coffee while playing games on Facebook for a few hours before I even check my email or think about working. Heck, there are days when I simply sit and get lost in my own mind while I sip my coffee. As the temperature begins to drop in the fall so does my mood. It is called Seasonal Affective Disorder and it can make the holidays quite miserable for anyone who suffers from it.
Many people have short periods of time when they feel unmotivated or just “blah” and these times pass and they go on about the normalness of their everyday lives. No one has all happy days every day of the year, there are always ups and downs but for those of us who suffer from SAD wintertime is a whole different can of worms from the rest of the year.
While I have many years and instances to recount. Let’s have a look at how this year has gone for me so far. After emerging from my winter slump around March I had a very productive and successful summer that included a lot of work and stress but also an upbeat attitude and time to relax and unwind. I enjoyed the summer and being outdoors. Even when I was cooped up inside working I could look out my window and see green trees, my colorful flower beds and cats lying in the bright sunshine. For me summer is a positive and uplifting time that goes from when the first trees begin to bud out in early spring until it becomes too cold for a summer person like me to go outside and enjoy the fresh air. Being wrapped up and shivering is not my idea of a good time, even as a child I was not fond of the winter.
Once the weather began to cool I was unable to go outside and garden or simply sit in the sunshine and read so I began sinking into my fall doldrums. Even the least bit of work suddenly seemed unbearable and I would procrastinate for hours before doing tasks that would only take a few moments. As a freelance writer my ability to sit down and produce words is a necessary part of every single day so to wake up, have coffee, and spend hours sitting on Facebook playing games or watching TV instead of working meant that I was losing money. My family is aware of this problem and they try to encourage me, offer me fun things to do and distractions during the time when I’m not working, but it doesn’t change the way I feel or the fact that each morning I still have to wake up and try to get some work done.
It is very stressful to look up and realize it is after noon and I haven’t so much as gotten out of my bathrobe or bothered to check my email. There are only so many hours in a day and I should be working at least 8 of them. This just serves to add stress on top of my listlessness and leads to me feeling more useless and ineffective. During the winter I would like to drop out of participating in life, because I feel like I’m not doing a very good job.
I tried to fight it. I told myself that this year I wouldn’t let it set in. I would be motivated, I set weekly earning goals and I tried to find some form of exercise or hobby that would take the place of being able to go outside. I tried doing Nintendo Wii workouts, and listening to upbeat music, scheduling work and house cleaning for early in the day so that I would be able to just sit around once I was done. It worked for a day or two…if getting my work done meant it was working. But even getting stuff accomplished couldn’t seem to lift the cloud over my head. I was, actually I am, depressed. No matter how important something is I have no enthusiasm for it. I may struggle through it because I have to but there is nothing that excites me during this time of year.
I start getting headaches and a variety of illnesses each year around Thanksgiving. This year I started out with a 3 day headache, then a sore throat, eventually it evolved into a nasty cold. For 4-5 days I’m sick and then I feel okay for a few days and then it comes back again. Right now it is about a week before Christmas and I just got over another bout with a cough and congestion. I am getting some work done each day but my mood is darker than ever. I contemplated putting up a Christmas tree but decided against it because I simply don’t want to. My excuse to everyone else is that we will be visiting various family members and not entertaining here so it would just be a waste of time. I have cabinets full of baking ingredients and lots of great recipes for holiday desserts but I can’t muster up any energy to go to the kitchen and bake.
When someone asks me what is wrong I can’t put my finger on it…I can’t point to one specific thing other than the weather and say, “that is the problem”. It is the weather; it drains me of energy and enthusiasm, and makes my body ache and my head hurt. It makes me want to sleep until spring arrives. Maybe I should have been a bear instead of a person because then I could hibernate through the depressing months.
SAD is a form of depression and I know for some people it is more serious than it is for me. I don’t go to bed for weeks on end, I do enjoy the holidays (unless they occur during a cold or headache period) and I’m in no way suicidal or even unhappy. There is just a sense of gloom and laziness that takes over in the winter. I have no urge to do much of anything and I can come up with a million excuses not to do something.
You may wonder why I don’t visit my doctor and take anti-depressants. After all it is a medically recognized condition. That sounds like a very reasonable suggestion but most anti-depressants take several weeks to offer a full and balanced effect of relief. There are also huge lists of side effects that scare me, as well as not being able to just stop taking them when the weather changes. So for now I will just force myself to get my work done and sleep as much as I’m able until springtime.