Stories, skills, and positivity- to anxiety sufferers from anxiety sufferers.
By Alyssa Logan
Fall has always been one of my favourite seasons. The cool weather, the beautiful colours on the trees, and the falling leaves. But it also signals the beginning of my SAD (seasonal affective disorder) symptoms. I notice it’s first effects as I take my dog for a walk and realize it’s almost dark at 7pm. I see the leaves falling off of trees and know that soon it will be dreary, dark, and grey for the next six or so months.
Mittens and hats, while warm and cosy, tell me that it will soon snow and become icy, my willingness to go outside and get fresh air will be gone. I never thought I would be sad at Christmas, through my birthday, and the month long holiday’s between semesters. But that’s what SAD does to you. While others are out enjoying hot chocolates, skating and Christmas, I feel like I’m frozen in time.
With SAD comes this constant feeling of heaviness. I just want to spend my days alternating between sleeping, lying in bed watching Netflix, or sleeping. But anyone who suffers from depression knows that those things, while helpful in short doses, can be hugely detrimental if you do it for say, the months of November through to April. During these months I don’t really want to do anything, even things like reading or playing with my puppy. Everything feels sad and miserable, I can’t concentrate, I’m tearful all the time, and I feel utterly useless.
I am very moody during the winter, but worse, I am very, very shady. I am stuck in bed, ashamed of the fact that I make promises to friends I can’t keep; I start projects that I don’t finish; I make plans just to cancel them with friends that can’t handle my moods. I’m constantly saying
“I’m so sorry, I’m just too busy tonight. I have a lot to do.”
But in reality, that “something” is usually stuffing my face full of my favourite comfort foods (i.e mac and cheese, chips, bread), curling up in bed and staring at the wall, or crying.
Winter is a black hole, and this is how I deal with it.
When I’m faced with this spiral of stress, faced with guilt and helplessness, I begin to distance myself, miss classes/work/appointments and sleep all the time. My friends start to worry, or get fed up with my newly abrasive personality. And it happens every. single. fall. I wish for the days of sun, warm air, and sandals because I know that speciality teas, cute scarves and beautiful fall air just aren’t going to cut it this season. Instead, I spend my days hidden away, questioning what I am doing with every aspect of my life.
I want to scream, but I honestly don’t know if anything will come out. The energy it would take to form a word from the thoughts that are going on in my mind would just take way too much effort. Every little movement feels like my body weighs a thousand pounds heavier than it actually is.
The worst part isn’t that I am sad, stressed, fed up and angry, but because there is nothing I can do to fix it. I am a fixer. I spend hours talking to people who are struggling with their problems. I tell people everything is going to be okay. But in all honesty, I can’t tell myself these words. These problems cannot be fixed by me because I don’t really know what it is to begin with that is making me feel this way. I just know that there is a change that needs to happen in order for me to continue existing. Existing on these days is hard because I just want to fall back asleep and skip the entire day. I just want to tuck away all of the emptiness and lack of feelings I have for life, I just want to start fresh. I know that there is help, but as I see these feelings rising inside, I know that it will fade. The concept of therapy, medication, meditation, it all sounds too severe knowing that by April I’ll start to feel the warmth again.
I know that I will overcome these days. I know that I will survive, and that along with this survival will accompany learning about myself, about my strength and my power. So even though I know this struggle is hard, and it seems to be never ending, it always ends. These struggles come to a halt with the sun, with the spring. If they don’t, (and in the past they haven’t - this year I’ve been struggling consistently since January), I know I can get the help I need. That I am getting the help I need. I know that I am smart, and strong, and loved. I know that these gloomy days (internally and externally) will end. I know that I’ll survive this season, and you can too.
Katie McLean holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and bases her anxiety aid in personal experience, as well as techniques that have been passed on to her by counsellors, friends, and fellow anxiety sufferers.