Dreary, dark, sunless, gray skies…. I don’t need to look out my window to know they have arrived.
I feel it. It creeps up through the soles of my feet, through my limbs and into my veins enveloping my whole being! A deep and dark sadness that creeps in as the days get shorter and the skies turn gloomy.
This is the time of year that anything unresolved, anything left unhealed will feel amplified. During this time of year, I know it is inevitable that I am going to have to work through some serious shit. And so I do! I prepare for what lies ahead, I hunker down and I work through my shit!
I allow myself to feel my feelings. I sit with them and I FEEL every last emotion and then I release them and move on. That is the work and it is WORK! I do it and in some sense I have always done it. It is how I move on, how I move through. I do more than feel and face my pain. I embrace my pain.
I do it because I know that every heavy step I take though the mud and the muck, dipping in and out of what feels like quicksand, leads to a lighter, softer and eventually carefree step that takes me back out of the darkness.
I take each and every step with my eyes and heart wide open. You have to stay wide open. I wasn’t always able to do that, to stay wide open. I used to have a different set of tools for coping then I do now. My drug of choice was pasta! My tool for avoidance was sleep! To distract myself and feel good in the moment I used sex!
I didn’t know about self-love and self-care then.
I didn’t even know why or what was happening to me until 1997 when I was finally diagnosed with Seasonal Affected Disorder.
The Mayo Clinic describes Seasonal Affective Disorder like this:
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer. In most cases, seasonal affective disorder symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. However, some people with the opposite pattern have symptoms that begin in spring or summer. In either case, symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses.
Seasonal affective disorder is a sub-type of major depression that comes and goes based on seasons. So symptoms of major depression may be part of SAD, such as:
- Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
- Feeling hopeless or worthless
- Having low energy
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Having problems with sleeping
- Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
Fall and winter SAD
Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:
- Tiredness or low energy
- Problems getting along with other people
- Hypersensitivity to rejection
- Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
The first year I was diagnosed with SAD, I did try medication but decided it wasn’t for me. As the years have passed, I have learned a new set of tools to get me through the sad days and the healing work that will come with it. Some of those include: meditation, energy work, writing, exercise, visualization, buying myself fresh flowers, taking a bath, and an awareness that this will pass.
By using these tools consistently year after year, I am now able to reach through some of the murkiness to appreciate some of the pieces of fall.
I dare to say, I even look forward to boots, hoodies and sweaters, and surrounding myself with the rich, beautiful fall colors of burnt orange, burgundy, and deep chocolate brown. And Pumpkin Spice everything.
Photo Credit: Missy Booz