Tis The Season
Every year I know it’s coming, and every year I try my best to block its path. Every year it happens anyway. This season, from about October to January, is my toughest time mentally. It isn’t just because I’m no fan of winter, even though I try to embrace it every year and still do daily walks and outings. It’s because the change in seasons really does wreak havoc on my mental illness. Science knows this to be true and there are some who live with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and others who simply feel a little less productive and a little more sluggish. For me, this is my dangerous time.
Terrible anniversaries of traumatic times during these cold months don’t help the situation. It’s a funny thing that even if I don’t consciously remember something, my body will tell the tale. This happened a few years ago when I realized that the night I called an ambulance to take me to the ER was the exact same date that a significant moral injury had occurred. Coincidence? I think not! And it is far from an anomaly as it’s not the first time it has happened. Each year those memories do their hardest to come flooding back and every year I prepare for battle with them. Some might say this is self-fulfilling prophesy, however I disagree. This is pure self-awareness of knowing that this season will try and knock me down and that I must do all I can to prepare for and respond to it.
The holidays don’t hold a lot of warm and fuzzies for me anymore. They tend to be a reminder of what I don’t have and what I have lost. That mindset is a tough one and I work really hard to be fully aware of it and keep myself in the present. Sometimes it is literally me talking myself through each moment and saying, “Focus Sharon…..stay in the here and now” or “This moment will never come again so breathe and enjoy it”. By doing this I am trying to drown out the negative voices in my head that are desperately trying to overpower me; “you are a worthless piece of shit”, “everyone is happier than you because you suck”, “you’re alone cause you are a loser”. I could go on but you get the picture.
I know that every year the winter must come and, as I am doing right now, I take a deep breath and prepare for the battle. I make myself keep walking every day even when it seems too hard to get off the couch. I do my mindfulness practices and try to pace myself. I keep a close eye on any obsessive practices that may try to overtake me as a way to disassociate from life. I even use a special therapy light every evening to combat the darkness of the days. Even with all this, I know that there will be times I am unable to get out of bed; days when no matter what anyone says or the amount of positive self-talk I do, those negative voices take over. It scares me every time, even though I know it’s coming. I’ve learned to not blame myself for those moments and to make sure I reach out for help if needed. And, most importantly, I always remember that no matter what the winter is like, spring always comes without fail.