I recently noticed a pattern–one that I’ve been ignoring. I’m not sure why I’ve been ignoring it. Fear seems like the only logical answer. Fear makes us do crazy things.
I noticed that in the last 2-3 years, the winter months are tough for me. And I don’t mean tough because of the snow or the cold, I mean emotionally tough.
I LOVE Christmas, so I always enter December in high spirits, but somewhere along the way, a subtle sadness starts to set in. It’s like the bleakness of winter gives me cause for melancholy.
At first, I try to ignore it. I have way too much to do to be sad. Gifts to buy; cards to mail; meals to prepare; family to entertain; a business to manage–who on earth has time for sadness?
I always manage to make it through December in a pretty good place. I enjoy the time with my family during the holidays, and I am eager to start a new year. But the sadness starts to settle in even before the new year begins. Finding motivation is a struggle. Following through with what I want to do seems harder than ever. I feel different.
I hold on to the belief that the new year will take away the sadness. Isn’t that what happens when a new year starts? It’s like a reset button, right? But it doesn’t. I realize that my emotions could care less about a countdown or confetti. My struggle continues well into January.
So it all finally clicked for me this year. I felt this way last winter and the winter before that. A lightbulb goes off.
Why have I been feeling like this every winter?
SAD. That’s it. I must have Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD is defined as a form of depression related to the seasons. It typically comes and goes around the same times every year. For me, it starts in December and drifts away in March.
Why did it take me so long to figure this out?
Because depression terrifies me.
My mom suffers from depression, and I’ve seen the damage that comes with the condition. At one point, her depression was so bad it changed her into someone I couldn’t recognize. It broke my heart to have my mother here but still feel like I’ve lost her in some way.
She’s gotten better with time, medication, and therapy, but each day is still a struggle for her. A struggle I don’t always understand. A struggle that seems cruel and relentless. A struggle I never want to encounter, because I am scared I could lose.
So with SAD and fear in tow, I am taking my butt to therapy. I know it’s almost March, but it’s never too late to work through any issues we have, right? I went to therapy years ago and it made all the difference. I guess it’s time to head back. A lot has happened in the last 7 years. My saving grace has been my ability to talk it out, write it out, turn to God, and engage in ugly cries when needed. Maybe it’s time I did more.
You know what makes all of this even harder for me? The fact that I can still motivate, inspire, and encourage people even on my saddest day. Maybe it’s a gift, but it also makes me pray that people never question my integrity. Even in my darkest moments, I want to help others shine. That desire comes from an authentic place.
Sure, I have days where finding a positive word to share is downright hard, but by the grace of God, those days come and go. I always find the strength to at least stick my head out of the hole so I can get a peak of the light. When that happens, I try to pour into someone else–even if it’s just sharing a quote. Experience has taught me that the smallest effort to inspire others can change lives. It sounds dramatic, but I’ve seen it firsthand.
So although I actually love the change in seasons, I hate SADness. I hate feeling so down so often. I hate that extra push it takes for me to get going every day. I hate the strong desire I have to sleep a lot! I want my old self back.
Depression is hard to talk about, even for those of us who understand the condition and what it means. You would think that my background (I was once studying to be a therapist) and my personal experience with my mom would make this an easy conversation to have, but it doesn’t. It still feels deeply personal and hard. But I know it might help someone find hope.
I know for some, depression is far more than seasonal. One of the reasons I am headed to therapy is to determine if my self-diagnosis of SAD is on point, or if it’s something more.
Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel might feel impossible. But, I promise, you can get better. There is hope. Don’t suffer in silence. Isolation can do so much damage. Remember: you are not alone. Countless people struggle with depression, and help is there if you need it.
I’m sure your journey may be very different from mine, but I hope that sharing my experience has helped you in some way. Depression looks different for everyone and the road to healing and treatment is different as well. If you think you make be suffering from any form of depression, please seek help. Below are a few resources that you may find helpful.
And please, hold on to hope. I know it’s hard, but hold on. Even though you can’t see it right now, the light on the other side really is there. Some of us just have to do a lot more to see it.