I was recently asked to write a few words regarding Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. This was the first time I'd attempted to write about it and as I sat down to do so, I realized just how desperate I was to share my experience. I found it incredibly liberating and therapeutic. My deepest gratitude to Tanya Pea for inspiring me to write such a candid narrative....
Here are my personal revelations:
I had never even heard of SAD until I moved to Vancouver. Coming from California and it's cozy proximity to the equator, the brutal reality of living this far North was just too much for me to wrap my head around. On the contrary, it seemed to wrap itself around me with the unyielding determination of a boa constrictor. It knocked me flat on my ass and I hadn't the slightest clue what hit me. It was impossible to identify what, precisely, was amiss. The only thing I knew with absolution was that I felt truly miserable.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but it's extremely difficult to see the quagmire when you're so immersed and I had no previous experience by which to measure this one. Nothing remotely comparable to weigh it against and find a familiar comfort in. No...this kind of lackluster melancholy was altogether foreign to me and, admittedly, rather disconcerting. I've never been so utterly lost in myself.
For me, that was the most infuriating aspect...my profound inablity to identify and resolve this ambiguous ailment. I nearly had myself convinced that I was clinically depressed and needed professional help. As in....I surrender, show me the Prozac. Through the worst of it, I couldn't even muster the energy to write...my tried and true, fail-safe cure for the blues.
I was in a quandary. More so than I have ever been in my 30 years.
My first bout of SAD happened to coincide with some painfully sobering realizations regarding my move to Canada. Namely, the permanence of my emigration and all of the sticky intricacies surrounding that as well as the knowledge that my family and friends will always be 1000 miles away...that my nieces and nephews will only know me in the smallest of doses. Such things are difficult to reconcile on their own, much less with the added duress of some improbable-sounding curse called 'seasonal affective disorder'.
Everyone kept telling me I must be suffering from SAD and that I should be staring into some special light every morning. Quite honestly, I thought they were being facetious, mocking me...'yes, thanks for stating the obvious...I am sad, it's true.' In fact, they could not have been more serious. Patrick encouraged me to visit the tanning salon but I had zero motivation to do so. The very notion that a weekly fake-n-bake session might help raise me from the doldrums seemed far-fetched and ludicrous. In retrospect, it likely would've helped, but I still didn't understand how substantial this affliction really is. I don't think I truly began to comprehend until the days gradually started to get longer. Ever so slowly my overall mood begin to lift and I could no longer deny the affects of a virtually sunless winter.
I remember one particularly dismal day in November. I was walking to work at 8:20 and the sun was only beginning to rise. That afternoon, as I headed home on foot at 4:15, the sun was already making its rapid descent. When I realized that the days were only going to get shorter.....I became destitute. Every fibre of my being told me to find a dark cave somewhere, curl up into an invisible ball and close my eyes until spring. The sky dropped endless curtains of rain, drowning out the last bits of light in me and my already faded aura seemed to lose all trace of color.
I felt so....heavy....bottomless...terribly confused...irrational....anti-social....irritable....impossibley tired....lifeless........vacant.
Like I was imprisoned in a tiny, padded box viewing the world through splintered cracks and hearing nothing but muffled scratches...my perception blurred by layer upon layer of cotton...anesthetized...dull.
There is a moment of disquiet that comes just before a black-out when suddenly the world seems muted and distant as the rush of blood to your ears obliterates every sound aside from your strangled heartbeat. Steadying oneself requires the ability to focus and calmly breathe through it....to find your solid center and regain a reliable footing. Otherwise, your world goes dark and you find yourself flat on your back, wondering how the hell you got there.
I feel like I existed perpetually in that state from September to February. I simply couldn't break myself out of it. I cursed the calendar for it's stubborn, reluctant progress and I celebrated December 20th, the shortest day of the year, because it signified the apex of my misery. Every day thereafter couldn't help but grow longer. I just had to survive until then....
And now I know how to endure. Next Autumn, as the leaves begin to yellow and fall from their source and the imminent black-out is threatening, I'll be better prepared. I know now that the onset of winter marks the inevitable sinking of the spirit. So I'm bracing myself...planting early reminders that I've just gotta breathe through it. Perhaps, with practice, I may even learn to embrace it...pour myself a glass of good Merlot, nestle in next to the fire and read a libraries worth of books. Perhaps, instead of allowing myself to be sapped dry, I can use the time to revujinate...replenish....restore. A more humane way to hibernate.
Despite my harrowing winter, Vancouver has stolen my heart, taking the lead as the most beautiful city I've ever had the privilege of calling 'home'. Of course, that's easy to say now that the sun seems to be more of a reliable resident than a sporadic guest. Everything feels so much...lighter(no pun intended.) The city, that for months felt so stale and hushed, is suddenly bursting with life. The people, it would seem, are blooming along with the trees. And I am proudly flaunting my new foliage along with the rest!
I am in awe of the beauty that surrounds me. The fragrant cherry blossoms and magnolias that drop pastel petals like snow...the lush green of fresh maple leaves just outside my bedroom window and the budding hydrangea by my front door. The vibrant array of tulips and daffodils springing up on every corner...the pungent smell of freshly cut grass permeating the air....the generous smiles and sincere 'how do you do's' of every passer-by.
While the winter found me lethargically snoozing 'til noon, I've now been transformed into a cheery morning person(Who knew!) I wake up hungry for the day, eager to get outside and drench myself in Vitamin D...a desperate effort to soak up the warm resonance of spring.
Like I'm stockpiling...
.............building secret reserves...
............................plotting ways to outsmart the sun.