Wednesday, February 27, 2013


“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”
Albert Camus

I have a confession to make.

I hate February.

Not just hate the way some people hate mosquitoes or brussell sprouts or their in-laws, but really vile and intense hatred. Sure it’s only 28 days, and there’s a couple of Mondays off in there, but for me it’s little comfort. Each day is like living time in dog years. I don’t sleep well, I eat carbohydrates like an overweight cat lady, and I’m not that fun to be around.

And I’m not the only one. Therapy offices fill up in February. Christmas is over, bills are here, and the snow is still falling. There’s about 4 hours of sunlight to get things done. People get irritable, cranky, and depressed.

And I am one of them.

All kidding aside, to live in a place like Chicago is to experience some piece of the ebb and flow of nature’s rhythms. I get that. But this year, for the first time, I came to understand that I do in fact suffer from seasonal affective disorder, or “SAD” (nice name!) to those of us who like to use acronyms. It’s not a joke and it’s very real to people who are experiencing it.

A quick definition of this disorder, indicates “Symptoms of SAD may consist of difficulty waking up in the morning, a tendency to oversleep and overeat, cravings for carbohydrates, and weight gain. Other symptoms include a lack of energy, difficulty concentrating on or completing tasks, and withdrawal from friends, family, and social activities and decreased sex drive. All of this can lead to depression, pessimistic feelings of hopelessness, and anhedonia, which characterize a person suffering from this disorder.

That about covers it.

Although people have successfully used light therapy and vitamin D supplements to treat this disorder, I think it’s the “pessimistic feelings of hopelessness” where we also have a lot of control. Winter actually feels like it’s never going to end at certain points, but a part of us also know these feelings are a lie. Spring eventually shows up. First with little moments of sunshine, then, eventually with the first glorious day where the weather breaks for real. It’s a great day in Chicago. The outdoor patios are full of people talking and laughing and drinking, and a LOT of people feel no immediate urge to go to work. FINALLY we have our city back.

Soon enough we are complaining about the heat...

In any case, for myself at least, I am going to take these last couple of weeks of winter and try and work on my attitude. I can’t make the days last any longer and I can’t stop the snow from falling, but I can try and share my experiences with others, and hope we can create a kind of virtual campfire of warmth through sharing our experiences. As with all kinds of depression, we often isolate ourselves when we are feeling like this, and this is a dangerous approach to the problem that almost certainly makes it worse. This is the time to embrace your friends, get out in public, join a group, do whatever it takes to weather the storm. For many it means scheduling an appointment with a doctor to actually treat this depression, and this is something I also encourage. This thing is real. I know it. I’ve lived it.

And now I’m going to go outside and look at the snowmen the children have built, and try and resist the urge to make yellow snow as a sign of protest..

Tomorrow is the last day in February..

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