Grappling with a silent foe
And how I learned to overcome
Published: Monday, September 17, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 15:09
Part of the lovely thing about living in the upper-Midwest is experiencing the seasonal changes because they are so distinct and beautiful. I appreciate how the seasons seem to provide our lives a sort of punctuation. The seasonal transition from summer to fall brings a cascade of brilliant colors to the treetops and a peaceful softness to the sky, before the bleakness of winter descends. I try to savor each falling leaf, feel each warm ray of sunshine upon my face and let it trickle into my soul.
Yet even with the beauty of fall, I tend to gravitate towards focusing on the negative. I hate how the brightness of summer is fading and the sun is disappearing increasingly early every night. As much as I want to be positive, it is deeply embedded in my circuitry to experience depression and melancholy with the seasonal transition.
While everybody is affected by seasonal changes, some people like me are extremely sensitive to them. It is as though our circadian rhythms are entirely knocked off their axis. People with such particular seasonal sensitivities are often diagnosed with “Seasonal Affective Disorder” and prescribed a light therapy box that mimics the sun.
I dusted off my handy dandy light therapy box last week. My cat also enjoys sitting in front of it, so I think he has kitty seasonal affective disorder. This might seem outlandish to use a light box already in September, but doctors recommend it for people in northern latitudes.
I use light therapy as part of a holistic approach to dealing with depression . I have struggled with serious bouts of depression throughout all times of year, but found that these depressive periods are intensified during winter with experiencing a lack of light.
In winter especially, a blanket of melancholy covers me. It sounds extremely dramatic I realize, but in those moments I feel completely hopeless, misanthropic, worthless and as though I have never and will never experience joy. I go into hibernation mode and sleep becomes my best friend. Simple tasks like showering, eating and leaving the apartment seem monumental.
Those moments and the propensity to feel so strongly can knock me out of orbit. Some days I can straddle that edge where daylight and night blur, where sanity and insanity may bleed into one another. But at the end of the day I try to center myself. I realize I do not need to let the pain of the past overshadow me or consume me. I am able to express these strong, turbulent emotions through writing, creativity and sharing with others.
It has been a really difficult battle but now I embrace and accept my depression as part of who I am. As much as I would like to pinpoint a specific reason for it- it is too intricate, too intense, too abstract to find one.
Even if I knew the reason for my depression, it would not change the fact that I have it. I have wasted too many years trying to fight it or hide it. That is why I decided to write about it publicly in The Spectrum. I hope that whoever reads this and struggles with depression can find some sliver of hope.Look to the next issue of ‘The Spectrum’ for the rest of her piece on depression.
Tessa is a senior majoring in English.