I have a very brave friend whom I have known since kindergarten. She recently shared a post on facebook about her struggle with anxiety. Instead of battling alone, she allowed us, her friends, in on her battle. Well, every year around this time I begin my own battle. Call it winter blues, call it seasonal affective disorder, either way it doesn’t matter. I just know that every year I feel this shift and I usually go it alone. It winds up coming across as winter-hate or Minnesota-hate through my veiled vaguebook posts. But, this year I am taking a different approach. You are all my friends, whether through facebook or my blog readers, and I thought that this year I would share my struggles as they occur so that you can understand where I am at and perhaps someone out there might even be able to relate. But mostly, I am tired of battling alone. Life takes a village. If that makes me sound like a liberal, maybe I am. But I know this, no man is an island. And although our libertarian roots might tell us differently, my human-ness has not allowed me to stand alone. So here I am to share my burden, pass me by or pick some up and carry it. Whatever you choose, I have done myself some measure of good in sharing it at all.
It begins every October. I usually don’t realize what is happening, but by the middle of the month I wind up feeling really sorrowful and full of melancholy. I am usually life overflowing, but in October I feel the overflow slow to a trickle. I have less and less extra of myself to give and feel needy for more and more emotional input. It becomes challenging to discern between what is actual sorrow and difficulties, and what is just being over-dramatized by my emotional vacuum. I do a good job of putting on a happy face because that is how I want to feel and what good will it do to mope around and bring everyone around me down with me? And don’t get me wrong, in October it comes more in waves, so there is still plenty of actual happiness to support that smile.
I start to wake up in the morning with knots in my stomach. I feel anxious. There is nothing actually to be anxious about. Sometimes I search through my circumstances to try to find some way to explain what I am feeling, attach the anxiety to something that makes sense. But mostly, it is just a nebulous blob of unrest residing in my stomach. I often feel like a turtle who wants to shrink back into his shell. Whereas the rest of the seasons I greet the day! In October all I want to do is pull the covers over my head and have someone tell me when it is April.
Around this time the trees go dormant. Quite quickly here in Minnesota we go from a wondrous display of autumn to what I call “winter trees”; gray and brown collections of empty branches, sticks, for as far as the eye can see. Sometimes a few trees will hold onto their leaves and you will see one faded gold tree in a sea of brown and gray. I laugh because that tree is like me, holding on by the skin of my teeth, grasping on by the tips of my finger nails to spring and summer and early fall. But eventually the trees lose the battle, and so do I. And winter comes again.
In October I find myself in anxious anticipation of winter. This may sound like a good thing to some, but this is not a good version of anticipation. I am waiting. Waiting for the snow to fall. Waiting for the white to rob my world of color. Waiting to feel cold all the time. I find that in some ways October and November are worse months for me than just the all-out winter months because of my nature. I am a realist. I deal better with facts, and so I feel like once winter arrives I am better equipped to deal with it than I am to deal with the worry about it coming. So in October and November I feel like I am always on the edge of my seat, waiting for something bad to happen. This something is winter.
I have friends who don’t mind winter, I even have a few who like winter and one who is going to throw a “Learn to Love the Snow” party for me. A week or so back I was riding in the car with some of these friends and I observed that the trees were suddenly winter trees. We had experienced a blustery day that had prematurely stripped many of the trees of their autumn glory. I felt a little panicked because those trees are harbingers. I look for harbingers around this time, signals, that it’s coooooommmmming. And as I observed the winter trees and expressed my panic about winter, my friend said, “See, and life doesn’t stop. It keeps going.” And at any other time during the year this is the advice I give in many situations. But my October perspective gets so skewed that I forget my own good advice. So, yes friend, thank you for the reminder.
I am going to engage in more self-talk this winter season. Instead of just listening to my inner voice; to the sorrow, the sadness, the anxiety. I am going to do more talking to myself and saying those words. Life doesn’t stop in winter, the world keeps turning, seasons change, but they also change back. Today is a good day, there are many good things happening and many great people around, adventures to be had, things to hear and learn. The sun is even shining. One moment at a time through this season. And maybe some of your voices can remind me of these things too. 🙂 I am also thinking of getting a light box. I will keep you posted.