Last week I told my occupational therapist that I’m worried I’m starting to get the winter blues. I told her how it’s only September and I’m already trying to shut out the dark; how I hide from it by closing my curtains as soon as I get home from work and do my best to avoid leaving the house once the sun starts to go down; how I don’t want to run in the dark, so soon I won’t be able to run at all on the days when I’m working; how I’ve started taking my anti-anxiety medication in the evenings because I get anxious when natural light disappears; how I’m checking BBC Weather each morning to see how much daylight I have left today; how it’s just a month before the clocks go back and I’m panicking.
I asked how I could stop it before it develops into a depressive episode that lasts for months. I asked whether my medication needs to change, but that I really don’t want it to change because I’ve struck gold with mine. I asked whether I should by an SAD light therapy lamp. I asked how other people get through the winter.
She reminded me that last year I stayed stable throughout the winter. I reminded her that I had been signed off with depression in December. She reminded me that the episode only lasted for a week. I reminded her that it lasted for 10 days. She reminded me that it went away after 10 days.
She asked me whether I was actually getting depressed or whether I was getting anxious about the possibility of getting depressed. I told her that I’m a 22 year old who is scared of the dark.
I told someone last week about how I’m looking forward to good things next year, if I can get through winter depression. It’s a very real and scary worry that’s been chasing around in my head. I’m healthy, happy, stable: I’m terrified of anything that could disturb that. They told me to embrace the darkness.
Embrace the darkness.
Can I steal back winter, to claim it before it claims me?
I went for a walk as the sun had started to set. There’s a supermarket a 5 minute walk from my home, and there’s a convenience shop a 30 minute walk from my home. I decided to walk to the convenience shop. I didn’t need to buy anything, so I tried to think of something that would make me happy. Cherry pie. A cherry pie with vanilla ice cream would make me happy. I put on my thickest jumper and my winter coat to seal in the warmth. I grabbed my headphones and selected my big band swing playlist. Benny Goodman would make me happy. I walked to the shop with a silly smile on my face. By the time I came out of the shop, the sun had completely set and the only light came from the houses and street lamps. They were out of cherry pie. I had picked up an apple pie, vanilla ice cream and lavender bubble bath. I went home and had a hot bath. I put on jogging bottoms, a jumper and a thick pair of socks. I cut myself a really big slice of apple pie and scooped two really big scoops of ice cream. I sat down to watch an episode of Luther with my youngest brother.
Maybe winter isn’t so bad after all.
Scarves and woolly hats.
My panda onesie.
I’m not so naive to believe that a chilly morning stroll is going to cure seasonal depression. But I’m not depressed. I’m happy. Things are good and positive, and I have things to look forward to. Winter makes me anxious and I’m scared of slipping into an episode, but for now I’m going to try to hang on to the good things that the winter months bring. My life isn’t going to come to a standstill as the days get darker. I’m making plans and working around my anxieties. I have support in place to get me through the ups and downs, so I’m reminding myself that I’m safe. I’ll face the blues when they come, if they come.
Seasonal depression is a very real thing that can be debilitating for its sufferers. Even for those who don’t suffer from seasonal affective disorder, lots of people with recurrent depression, including those with bipolar disorder, are more likely to experience a depressive episode in the winter than in the summer.
If you think you might be suffering with depression, please don’t shrug it off and struggle through it. Make an appointment to visit your GP.