Can a season make me sad? I think so.
They call it Seasonal Affective Disorder, another way in which people in health care are quick to label disorders and difficulties that sometimes seem quite inevitable to me.
If your read much history – I love history – you will see writing dating back thousands of years that talks about the depression and sadness that often comes with a new season, especially the dark and grey days of late Fall and Winter.
They often called it the dark days, and I’ve read about it in spiritual writings and farm journals and even in medieval screeds.
People get sad this time of year, and then come the holidays, which make some people joyful and a lot of people even sadder. Family is often a mixed blessing.
Some people drink more, some think of suicide, some are exhausted.
It’s a time to be good to one another, I think and practice radical acceptance. We can’t be up every day, or happy all of the time. I think funks can be nourishing and cleansing and healing.
I think of them as a flushing out of life’s poisons.
In our country, we don’t expect to ever be sad or depressed, and when we are, we look for symptoms of illness as well as 10 ways to feel better instantly. Or ten pills to feel better, or ten glib bits of wisdom.
Or maybe special lamps and prayers and music to lift is up.
If I went to a therapist, he or she would tell me – Maria also – that I probably have some variant of Seasonal Affective Disorder. I am a fan of therapy, I had many years of it, but I wouldn’t care to see a shrink for this particular affliction.
For me, this is under the heading of life, and what it brings.
SAD is a type of depression related to changes in seasons – it begins and ends about the same time every year.
The symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping energy and bringing moodiness, and depression.
They also include sudden weight gain, oversleeping, a sense of being exhausted and sometimes hopeless.
The treatments, says the MAYO clinic, are “light” therapy, as opposed to the heavy kind I have needed, and some medications. For me, the treatment is patience, meditation and Spring.
My daughter once sent me an SAD anti-depressant kind of light for the dark says.
It sits on my study desk, I have never turned it on. SAD has made me sad at times, it has never stopped me. I think of it as the way God might have made Spring so wonderful to help us humans appreciate color.
I believe Maria also suffers from a form of SAD. Today, November announced itself with rain, cold, ice and snow and onrushing darkness in the mid-afternoon. It reminded us of what is to come. She looked sad all day.
She and I both live close to nature. Color and light is our work, our food, our treatment and inspiration. Color and light is what my photography us about, and I hope my blog and much of my writing.
When it goes, when I am entering the dark days, I often feel listless and somewhat hopeless. Usually this ends when winter finally gets here, and I can see a different kind of light – the Winter Pasture. Winter here is hard but she is also beautiful, a kind of color and light all of her own.
I don’t minimize the suffering of SAD, I know it is real. The spiritual challenge for me is how to find grace, not perfection.
November has brought the darkness, and I am feeling it. My naps are deep, my sleep is restless.
Maria crashed today, I could see it, she so loves the warmth, she is always barefoot in summer, tending to her gardens, singing to her animals, walking through the woods, talking to her trees, bring color to her art. For a few weeks, she will sleep a bit later, rather than leap out of bed, as she normally does, yelling “we have to get up!”
She is a naturally cheerful and hopeful person, she can’t wait for each new day, but not today, really. It was all gray out there, all cold and rainy. Just the first, the Winter Solstice is bearing down on us, we are slipping into the dark days.
We both looked at one another and shook our heads. It’s time, we both said, to crash a bit.
The shrinks say people with SAD have to work to stay motivated, but that is not our problem. We go to sleep motivated and wake up motivated.
What we do is accept some sadness as part of the wondrous recipe that is life. For what is joy without sadness, what is peace without fear, what is hope without helplessness, meaning without emptiness, what is light without darkness?
We honor the sadness and let it move through us, I wouldn’t wish to take any pill that would make it go away.
The dark days will come, and they will go, as always. A time to be strong and embrace acceptance. I respect life, even as the darkest days come tip-toeing with great purpose and strength, just over those beautiful hills.
I expect to be here when they are gone.