Depression = Dreading Winter in August

Autumn is coming. Growing up, it was my favorite season because I loved the crisp New England weather for racing cross country, the beautiful foliage sparking the blue sky, pine needled trails beneath my footfalls. I still enjoy the season, but my lust for it has waned and it rather brings in a hint of loss and sadness. Primarily, I long for those more carefree days of my beloved cross country team, surrounded by friends and a happier time when my family was more stable and shared the same roof over our heads at night. The structure of high school and team dynamics always lent themselves much more favorably to feeling connected and forming friendships. I’m so lonely now in a physical way. I have maintained some friendships from other places and chapters in my life, but I never see these friends; we maintain contact with varying degrees of regularity via phone, text, email, etc., but it’s not the same as having their (or someone else’s) physical presence for companionship to do something together.

The other issue with autumn now that never used to cloud my appreciation for it is that I’m more aware of the realities of what the season means: it’s short and morphs into winter faster than water flows out of a cracked bottom bucket. I have real PTSD from the attack, but I also seem to have vague PTSD symptoms attributable to winter. Every winter, my seasonal affective disorder (SAD) grows progressively more severe and its interference with a decent quality of life grows. Since I’m always in a chronic state of dysthymia or even clinical depression, the insult of SAD brought on by the decreased intensity and duration of sunlight and freezing weather, suppresses my already damaged mood and results in a deeper, inescapable depression. I equate it to someone treading water in choppy seas. On any given day, it’s hard enough for me to keep my chin above the waves. Some days, the wind and boat traffic make for especially turbulent seas and monstrous waves with exceedingly high amplitude. I fight with all my might to kick and flail in my treading pattern to stay afloat enough to breathe and resist the undertow trying to sweep me into undersea depression.

Winter rolls in with her huge mitten-clad hand, determined to hone in on my bobbing head and submerge me like palming the head of a whack-a-mole. Last year, it was particularly difficult because of my mandated immobility with my foot injury and the fact that we were pinching pennies so desperately that the house, where I work, was unbearably cold at 57 degrees. I’d become a frigid knot over the course if the day, my muscles threatening to permanently contract from my chronic tension and hunched posture in an attempt to pull my body inward toward my core in a tight ball to maintain body heat. It felt like months until I finally thawed and could relax into a more comfortable temperature and restore physiological homeostasis. I was constantly too cold, grouchy, lonely, isolated in the house, and down. It was an ongoing struggle to think of things to look forward to because I wasn’t enjoying much of anything and not physically able to partake in many activities. We kept getting buried under more and more snow, which I hate, and is a sensory nightmare for me.

I feel like I’m scarred from last winter and dreading this one so vehemently that I’m unable to think rationally. I seriously need to talk to my therapist about it. When I have breaks from work, I find myself looking into the financial viability of taking frequent weekend getaways to Florida or just being a snowbird for three months. Unfortunately, Ben has to be physically present here for his job so that latter idea is more of a pipe dream than a realistic option unless we were to live apart for three months, which isn’t something I want. At the end of the day, I’ll be here and I’ll get through it. Hopefully, it won’t be as bad as last year for a host of reasons, but I also do need to take this mounting anxiety as an impetus to be proactive and find ways to make it more tolerable (or dare I dream it could be pleasant?) before I’m blindly sucked into the belly of the deep ocean of depression.

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