Ways I Combat Seasonal Depression

Hello, dear Psychos, and welcome to Day 8.

Seasonal Depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (appropriately SAD) is a real thing. Oregon is cold, it’s dark, and it’s freakin gray. It’s hard to get out of bed some mornings, and I often can’t get warm, even in my own house. It’s no mistake that Jo Rowling (we’re on a first name basis, people) gave the dementors, a metaphor for depression, the power to create an icy chill in their midst while sucking the soul out of their victims. When I’m cold, like that chilled-to-the-bone feeling, I’m irritable. Moody. Unable to feel contentment. I feel like crawling back into bed.

I have several tricks up my sleeve to try and keep the soul-sucking dementors at bay. I wish I had a magic wand, but I guess my Hogwarts letter got lost in the post.

Until that ruddy post owl is found, here are the things I try:

Note: This post is not a replacement for real, amazing therapy. These are simply things that work for me personally. Psychology Today is a great place to start looking for a therapist if you’re in the market, as it were.

  • My light therapy lamp

Last year, I finally went out and got myself a happy lamp! Getting up in the morning is hard for me, especially in the winter time when it’s pitch black outside. Somehow, that just seems wrong for a person to have to function in those conditions. I just got my lamp back out for the season, and I put it on my bathroom counter and flick it on as soon as I get out of bed. It’s on and shining into my eyes for about 10-15 minutes as I get ready in front of the mirror. It helps to perk me up in the mornings and makes me feel less dead inside. I wish I could get the effects for longer, but I have active kids who need to be places and I no longer sit in one place for very long. At this point I’ll take whatever I can get.

  • My slippers and hats and sweatshirts and blankets. And sometimes my cat.

Did I mention that I get cold in the winter? I’m actually always cold, but in the winter I’m knocking-on-death’s-door cold. I still can’t believe that I survived living in Boston for two years. I attempt to stay warm by wearing fuzzy slippers. I have ones with down feathers in them. And memory foam. I also have those buttery-soft slipper-socks. When I’m feeling saucy, I’ll wear slipper-socks and slippers at the same time. It’s also not unheard of for me to wear a jacket indoors, or one of my many knit hats. The couch is covered with blankets. And when I don’t hate my cat (and when she doesn’t hate me), I will allow her to sit on my lap to keep my nether regions from frosting over. When animals aren’t total assholes, they can be kind of comforting.

  • Those microwavable ricey/beany heat pad thingies

They are warm when I am not. The end.

  • Hot drinks, sometimes with sugar and caffeine

In the winter, I’ll often make hot decaf tea in the afternoons and evenings (in addition to my normal caffeinated morning beverage) to take the chill off, but also because they provide this psychological cozy boost. I enjoy feeling the warm, solid mug between my palms and breathing in the sweet, warm vapors. The Dutch call this feeling gezellig, which roughly translates to “cozy,” and I find myself often chasing it.

  • FIRE. (Candles and the fireplace)

First off, let me just say that Oregonians have a weird obsession with scented things and lighting shit on fire. Haven’t any of you heard of a spare the air day?! Having said that, I do enjoy the occasional scented candle or switching on our gas fireplace because Oregon creeps up on you after a while. It’s the warmth, but it’s also the psychological boost from the bright, flickering lights and the yummy, spicy, earthy, comforting scents that can fill up the house and my soul.

  • Music

Music is the perfect drug; there is a piece of music to induce any mood you’re after, with little to no side effects. Spooky Halloween music, cozy Christmas music, after dinner dance party music (pants optional). Music shoos them dementors straight back to Azkaban. Also, if you don’t get these Harry Potter references, consider yourself on notice.

  • People

I tend to isolate when I’m anxious and depressed, so I schedule events on my calendar to get me out of the house and interacting with humans over the age of 5, even if it’s cold and rainy and gross and disgusting outside. We might get wet or cold or muddy or all three, but at least we have a fun time hanging out with others, and then we’ll get warm and gezellig once we’re back home again.

  • HUMOR!!!!!! DEAR GOD, THE HUMOR!

Humor is my EXPECTO PATRONUM!!!!!! Laughter boosts the mood and the immune system. It brings people together, and holy crap it makes me feel less alone. The best cross-section of humor and mental health I can think of can be found at The Bloggess. Jenny suffers from anxiety and depression, but she doesn’t let that get in the way of being fucking hilarious. She’s the reason I started blogging, and I love her and I met her once and she signed my DSM because that’s how deep her commitment to hilarity runs. She normalizes and humanizes mental illness, makes me feel less alone, and makes me laugh – which makes me feel better. Boom. If you’re at all interested, read her blog, check out her books – geez, I wonder if she’ll pay me for this? Shout out, Jen! Call me.

As an example to show how much Jenny Lawson just gets me, here are her calendar pages for October and November:

 

She gets me.

 

The timing is no mistake

 

Ok, I’ll stop here. I hope this is helpful for some people. TELL ME – What do you do to combat the cold, dark, gray, damp winter months of torture?!

nanopoblano2019

 

 

 

The Gray

Today I took a walk with Dylan, and I am so glad I did.

We squeezed it in, forced it into the tiny space of time between the end of cleaning up from lunch and the moment when D self-destructs without warning, in need of a nap.

I am glad I forced it.

Why?

Because I can feel the Northwestern winter creeping up on us all too soon and it’s freaking me out.

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We had a few days of gray and rain and coolness already, and I hoped that we hadn’t said goodbye to summer already.  At this time last year, I remember it still being quite hot, or is that just me seeing through the foggy, thick pea soup of having a newborn and carrying around the extra heat-producing baby weight and wanting sleep so badly I’d do something illegal to get it…?

I can handle the depressive gray for a few days here and there.  And when I know it’s only temporary, then I actually like a change of pace where the weather’s concerned (of course, then my therapist self reminds me that everything is temporary if you give it enough time….so there).  Last Sunday I actually started to feel that twinge of excitement and coziness that I get around Halloweentime.  It makes me want to throw on a sweater, watch movies, and consume warm, sugary beverages (as opposed to the warm months, which make me want to consume cool, sugary beverages).

This will be my third winter but only my second fall in the Northwest.  This year, approaching Fall and Winter feels different.  Last year, I had a snuggly newborn and I was overwhelmed and tired and had a great excuse not to go anywhere or see anyone.  I didn’t get dressed, and I breastfed and cuddled and snoozed and rocked and bounced and sang and ate and watched TV.  Yeah, the weather sucked, but I was too wrapped up in my own personal ball of crazy – each gray day blending into the next – that I didn’t notice.  Or maybe it was that the gray backdrop matched my gray days and so everything seemed to fit.

But now – now I have a kid on the verge of walking.  He wants to MOVE.  And go outside and see things and explore.  And as for me, I want a life, too.  Seeing the world through his eyes also makes me want to go outside and see things and explore.  But the weather.  The gray.  That makes it hard.  It’s like The Nothing from The Never Ending Story.  Sounds a bit dramatic, but I assure you, Seasonal Affective Disorder is real and it sucks.  I have to push through it and I am not looking forward to pushing.

Which reminds me why I pushed to get outside and walk today.  Because it was SO NICE outside.  It was beautiful, and for that I am very thankful.  School was just letting out, and I enjoyed getting to see all the littles getting picked up by their parents who love them.  Dylan and I watched and I told him that’ll be us in 4 short years.

Four very short gray winters from now.

We Put Birds On Things!

I have a big announcement, you guys.

Guess what, Psychos?!

This shit is happening, y'all.

This shit is happening, y’all.

Portland, Oregon is about to get a little bit crazier, folks.

The story is that Brian got his dream job, and this is our time to pick up and move to seek new adventures!

You hear that, World?!

This is our time!

I can’t wait to sign up for clown school and sit around eating vegan muffins on my days off.

But, in all seriousness, I am excited, but I am also scared and sad and anxious.

We’ve been living in the same place for the past 5 years, and this has been the longest time we’ve been in once place since leaving our childhood homes to go to college.  We can’t believe our luck in how our lives just fell into place here in Northern California.  We both found jobs in our fields, we found a town and an apartment we both love, and we were close to our families.  Even though we’ve been complaining about living in an apartment, living in a college town with noisy shitheads, complaining that we’ve learned all we can from our current jobs…I’m scared that we won’t have such good luck again.  This had to be a fluke, right?  Couldn’t have possibly been from hard work and compromise…that would just make too much sense.

This is also the first time I’ll be moving and not have something waiting for me on the other side – either a job or school or family.  That’s scary for me.  I’ll be supported by my husband, and while we both accept that and it’s what we signed up for, I’m still used to pulling my own weight.  For the past 5 years, I’ve been 100% financially independent for the first time in my life, and it’s felt pretty damn fantastic.  I know I won’t be giving up freedom, but I feel like I’ll be giving up a little bit of pride…at least temporarily.

There’s also the logistical aspect of this freakshow in getting all our shizz up to Razorblade City.  I never moved as a kid.  When I was 3, my parents moved us into the house that they continue to live in to this day.  My soul will shrivel up and die if they ever sell it.  Seriously, I’ll chain myself to the front door.

Anyways, the point is that I don’t really know how to move.  I hate moving.  I also hate feeling like my stuff owns me, and right about now I am finding out that I have a crapton of stuff.  The stuff outnumbers me; it could totally bury me and claim my life and make it look like a freak accident.  We’ve made the hard decision to have movers pack our stuff for us, because there’s no other way we’re taming this domestic jungle.

And then there’s the cat.  She’s only been in a car 4 times, and each of those times, she’s howled like a banshee going through a meth withdrawal, save for when we’re stopped at red lights.  I don’t know why, but I love this furry poosack like nothing else, and those screeches just cut straight through my heart.  The only solution – she’s getting doped up.  That’s right, Poopstick, you’re going to get high and you’re going to pass out so I can drive you in peace for 10+ hours.  You are not going to piss in my car.  You’re not going to throw up the meds.  Don’t make me regret signing up to be your human mother.

So there you have it.  I know the excitement will grow on me once I get past the hairy logistics.  I have a feeling we’re going to jive really well in the land of evergreen trees and unicycling hipsters – where composting is mandatory, where food is delicious and organic and plentiful, and where people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (named SAD for a reason) and will desperately need my services.

Please hire me, Portland.

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