Monday, January 25, 2010


halfway through the afternoon, apropos of nothing at all, i felt my spirits lift. while i was sitting at my desk dutifully answering emails, something ... lightened. i paused mid-mail, startled. you couldn't call this feeling happiness, exactly, but it was the spiritual equivalent of switching a carry-on bag from one hand to the other.

of course, it wasn't apropos of nothing at all. at the exact moment i felt my spirits lighten, there was a thinning of the clouds such that you could believe that the sky, behind the dismal grey, really was blue. this isn't something i was aware of seeing. i was staring at my computer; i felt this strange sensation of lightening; and when i looked out the window i saw that, literally, the sky was lighter.

it only lasted for a moment, but it made me understand, for real, that i am suffering from seasonal affective disorder.

in one way, it's my own fault, the wages of never really believing in SAD. c'mon, i think, it's winter: of course you feel down. 'tis the season ... for hibernating. winter is why god invented hot tea, bourbon, cashmere. the idea is to get out into it - run, ski, skate, walk! - then come indoors for hot chocolate next to the fireplace. don't wish winter away; take it for what it is. love january for its long yellow light and blue sky against white, for the hissing sound of snow on leafless trees and ice fog on the river. that crispness you feel, that sting in your fingers, is how you know your urbanized body is still, somehow, natural. winter is for reading long novels. winter is for cooking with cinnamon. winter is for rallying.

this year i'm all out of rally.

what makes me think this is fullblown SAD? first, there's the bitchiness. at least, i think that's what you call picking approximately 473 fights since december 21st. then there's the sleep disorder. i head to bed early, unable to stay awake, only to lie in bed for hours, unable to fall asleep. exhibit three: migraines, at the rate of 2-3/week. i think a synomym for that is 'serotonin deficiency.' another symptom: i can't concentrate on anything, every day is an endless agony, yet i am obsessed by how many minutes of daylight we are (not) getting. i bought three iPhone apps for this, every one of which, worryingly, calculates sunrise and sunset differently. as for listlessness: yeah, i guess so. budget crisis: whatever. promotion: who cares. prorogued parliament: i'll post the protest on facebook but there never was a chance i'd go. my boss could come to work wearing socks and crocs and i wouldn't give a damn.

still, you can find most of that filed under winter blues. however, even i cannot make myself believe that normal people cry all winter long. it used to be daily, but lately i find myself crying more or less every waking hour, for no reason. i cry while i brush my teeth in the morning; i cry on the way to work; i turn around twice in my office and have to scrounge for the kleenex. i look out the window and cry; i don't look out the window and cry. could i paint a more pathetic picture?

i am doing everything the books say to do. i am exercising as much as i can, which is to say as much as i can force myself to do it. i am keeping regular hours. i am eating whole grains and spinach, taking vitamin D. i see people: resisting the sofa's lures, i go to dinner parties, watch plays, attend evening meetings. today i spent an hour at the muttart conservatory (mo's idea, for the record, not scott mckeen's!), just so i could see green things. it all helps, though never for very long. i was ok in the muttart, but i burst into tears again in the parking lot.

diagnosing yourself with a named disorder makes you feel at once more and less crazy. although i cry all the time, i don't actually feel sad; the emotion i feel is not what you would call unhappiness. what i feel is ... well, it's not really a feeling exactly, more like the absence of a feeling, unless you count bewilderment as an emotion. i feel lost in an endless grey, befuddled by the lack of (emotional) bearings. in this sense, i cry like a baby. disoriented, i grope around for precedent. do i always feel like this in winter? are all winters this bad? if this one is worse, why? how can it be, after two weeks in mexico? can i blame genetics? chemicals? environment? am i at some sort of age-related watershed - must i fashion a new, more equatorial, life?

or maybe i just need some fucking sun. in the name of all things holy, is that really too much to ask?


Kim said...

I suffer from SAD too. Not so much in my current Mediterranean abode, but still a bit, even here. It was crippling for me in the prairies.

I highly recommend SAD lights. I'd wager that your benefits plan covers their purchase. Get up in the morning and sit before one for an hour or so, drinking coffee, reading, whatever tickles your fancy, and you'll probably start to notice more of a spring in your step.

margrit said...

yep, i finally caved and got a lamp. feeling much better these days. i guess we can strike that smug "yeah, it's cold in Edmonton, but it's a dry and sunny cold", eh?

Dana Wilde said...

I have experienced this "disorder" for years. Tried getting into Winter...dumb. Now I've embraced my dislike. I feel much better this Winter for some reason. No idea why, but its tolerable! I've heard the lamps work well too. I hope they do.
We went to the Muttart today! So divine, until we had to go :(

Jo-Ann Wallace said...

The socks and crocs tolerance is worrying.

Heather Zwicker said...

let me say: it was pretty great to see the sun today. and *all 3* apps call for sun tomorrow....

Anthony said...

its hit me really hard the last two weeks--dante talked about meloncholics being punished with lead capes, that's what it feels like, spending weeks or months with an endless weight bearing down on me. in therapy i compared it to wet grey felt...

my doctor says that sad lights are not nearly as good as JUST GOING OUTSIDE and i have told people to drag me out by my hair, but it yeah, i understand.

would you like me to call you this week?

Anonymous said...

'blue blue electric blue
that's the colour of my mind
where i will live: blue blue'

bowie blue not the seasonal kind...
chin up miz z...
you are not alone in the grey zone
january has been a slog
xo LK

mari said...

Count me in. I got up this morning at 9:30 and immediately wanted to have a nap. I'm not unhappy. Life is grand. But oh man, do I resent having to work. It makes me wish for a career with simpler expectations, like sorting bottles or something. But mostly I just want to lie down and sleep for a long, long, time.

Kimmy said...

having spent time away in a hot place this fall, this winter is unbelievably hard for me. for both of us. it seems that this winter, there's the crippling knowledge that one lives somewhere but that one *belongs* somewhere else.

i don't like winter, never have, never will, and occasionally i feel myself falling into what you describe. i've decided to embrace my dislike. i'm through pretending. i hate winter. fuck it. i like to live in the moment and am troubled by my desire to be somewhere else daily. i'll get there again, and before i know it, but in the meantime, what does it say that although i love this province 7 months of the year and i love a million people here, i should live someplace else, at least in winter. Greek fishing village to be precise.