Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Discontent of Our Winters

“I’ve heard of that,” a coworker said, “but that’s not a real thing, is it?”

It is.

I have it.

Let me try to describe it for you.


Winter Depression.

Sheesh, that’s depressing.

Can we call it something else?

There’s a technical name for it: “Seasonal Affective Disorder.”

Or SAD for short.

Are you kidding me? Really?

Like I’m supposed to buck up and be happy when the scientific name for what’s wrong with me is that I’m sad?

I’m not going to call it that. I’m giving it a new, more apt name.

Winter Malaise, perhaps.

Winter Hibernation, like with bears.

Winter Lethargy.

Or we can skip the negative connotations altogether and call it Spring Anticipation.


I suspect I’m a lesser child of Krypton, on account of I draw my powers from Earth’s yellow sun. While the days are long and bright, I’m a normal human being. I love my husband, my friends, my job, my house, my hobbies. Every summer, I feel like I’m living the highest high life ever: I’m warm and happy.
Every summer, I think I’ve cured myself of this thing, that it won’t happen again.
By God, I’ve got it too good to let a little weather get me down.

But somewhere around October, a switch flips.

The shorter, darker days become a fog, a layer of cotton batting between my body and my brain, dulling all sensations. I live in that muffled feeling you have when you know it’s snowed outside even before you look out the window. There’s a disconnect between me and everything not me.
It’s not depression.

It’s straight up laziness.


In the winter, when the sun rises later, waking up in the morning is akin to emerging from anesthesia after surgery. There’s a bone-deep fatigue no caffeine could touch. If I had a bathtub full of coffee, I’d fall asleep in it and drown. Any day I don’t have to get up and go places, this is not a problem.

But every workday is an uphill struggle. If I can just get myself out of bed, if I can just get myself through my shower, if I can just get myself to work, if I can make it to my lunch break, if I can make it through the afternoon, if I can make it through my errands, if I can make it home, then I can go straight to bed and everything will be fine.

On evenings and weekends, I have a lockdown procedure in place: my home is a carefully maintained environment. I have tea, microwavable pillows, a fireplace. I can wear fluffy scarves and fluffy hats and hide under fluffy blankets. If I turn on all the lights, I can pretend it’s not winter.

Like, maybe it’s actually summer. Maybe it’s all in my head. Yeah, guys. I’m fine! No problems here! A-Okay!

I’m like Schrodinger’s Agoraphobic Neighbor: until you open my door, I could go either way.


It’s not that I don’t want to go places and do things. It may cross my mind that going out for Mexican food would be a super fun dinner plan, for example. It’s just that it’s cold outside. I will raid my pantry and eat plain black beans straight out of a can rather than roust myself from this super comfy couch, or change out of these pajamas which I’ve only just warmed up. Body heat aint cheap, you know; wouldn’t want to waste any.

I will make no plans. Planning not to have plans becomes the order of the day. I morph into the great anti-socialite and plan to do nothing.

And this would be fine if there weren’t five hundred holidays sandwiched between Halloween and Easter.

“I’d love to!” I say when cheerful people call me, and I say it with a smile, in case they can hear my facial expressions, but I don’t want to go.

The day of the party, I still won’t want to go. I practice my plastered smile on the car ride over, so I don’t look like the saddest party guest in the whole history of human festivities.

Once I get there, I’ll have fun.

But the funnest part will be when I get to go home afterwards.


The world is not ending just because it’s dark outside.

I say it over and over again.

I remind myself that it will not be cold forever.

I remind myself that there are plenty of good things in life. I have books and movies and video games and yoga and my guitar, and I don’t have to leave the house for any of those. It’s warm in here and I’m fine. Thick socks are cheap. Scarves are stylish. There will always be more tea. The engine runs on tea.

But I’m not depressed. I’m too busy keeping warm to be depressed. I’m too tired to be depressed. It takes every ounce of energy I have to focus on being present in this room right now, rather than thinking about my bed and the twelve hour nap I’m not letting myself take. Who has time to be depressed?

It’s just that I’ll be happier when winter’s over.

Spring Anticipation.

It’s a real thing.

I have it.

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