There are few things you should know about me.
I work from home. I hate the winter.
That second thing is relatively new. I grew up in Siberia for god’s sake. Winter started sometime in August, and ended in May. Or at least, it seemed that way sometimes. But it was also sunny, and crisp, and snowy, and we didn’t care.
Now, when winter is here, I find myself on the couch, moping. I find myself in bed at four in the afternoon. My head is both empty and full of big existential thoughts. Why me? Why not me? What does it matter? What is the meaning of it all?
And then I get a text from my husband. “It is sunny today. You should try and get outside”.
I groan. He is right. And so I start putting on layers – long sleeve, another long sleeve, a t-shirt over top, then a sweater. I know that I will be boiling within minutes, but this is the only way I can bring myself to face the elements.
I used to see my therapist once a week – years ago. Seeing a counsellor sounds better than seeing a therapist, doesn’t it? Counsellor counsels on further course of action. With a therapist… well, you are in therapy.
In the last few years, I see her once or twice a year – for a booster session, so to speak. It was her, who finally pointed out that the booster sessions always happened in November or December. Every year – without fail.
Once I make peace with the realization, I ask her about anti-depressants. She asks if I feel like I would benefit from those. I shrug. Realistically, I know that with good diet, regular exercise, and sunlight (Nicaragua, anyone?), the benefits of an anti-depressant will be only incremental. We decide against anti-depressants. For now.
I have now managed to get through four winters of seasonal affective depression unmedicated. It’s not a source of pride, or a badge of honour of any kind. It simply is. For many folks, anti-depressants make the impossible possible.
(My) Depression is bad enough to impair functioning, but also “good” enough to manage via other means – food, exercise, occasional therapy session, travel. Getting outdoors has been instrumental. Of course, once it gets cold and dark, it’s the actual getting outside that is difficult. Italian (bless him) makes sure he pushes me out the door at least once a day. Sometimes, literally.
I drive to the trail head near my house. There is frost on the ground. Occasional pile of snow under the evergreens. “I hate snow”, I think to myself, still moping. To prove how much I, in fact, hate snow, I kick it with my boot. And then I see green. The grass underneath the snow – perfectly preserved, perfectly green – like bag of peas in my freezer. For a split second, a fraction of time, it’s summer again.