January 29, 2013
As you may have guessed from the name of my blog (or if you know me, then you definitely know), I live in (more specifically, across the river from) Boston.
You may also know that at one point, I lived in sunny and mild San Diego, but chose to COME BACK. To one of the oldest cities in the country, and home to not only the most puritanical culture, but also some of the most progressive ideas. I love this place. I have lived in Massachusetts nearly all my life (with the exception of the San Diego stint) and have lived in the Boston area for twelve-ish years. When I decided to come back from San Diego, I decided one thing: that I wasn’t going to complain about the snow or rain anymore. This is New England, and unpredictable weather goes with the territory. While most New Englanders I know complain about the weather as a side job (in the summer, it’s too humid, in the fall it rains too much, in the spring, there are too many allergies, and in the winter…oh the winter), I chose to see the beauty. I told myself that in place of complaining about the snow, I would decide that shoveling would be exercise, and when there was a snowstorm, I’d drink hot cocoa and then take my snowshoes and walk in the woods in the powder. What a nice idea!
Winters in New England before last year’s historic fallwinter (where there were 65 degree days in January, and only a total of four inches of snow, two of which landed on Halloween) were picturesque: branches with a crest of snow highlighting each twist and turn, snowmen dotting lawns everywhere… Well, that’s what I saw, at least. And it’s one of the main reasons I came back to Boston from warm and consistent San Diego, where things didn’t change quite enough for this New England girl.
This Winter is a little different. We have had snow, but LAME snow. One inch here, another two inches there – and more often than not, it all gets washed away by cold, bitter rain before I can say slush.
The problem with this, is that there is no shoveling for exercise. There is no fun winter excursion into the beautiful Middlesex Fells Reservation. There is no beauty. Only cold, wet, dry, barren landscapes, and compromised immune systems. And my emotional health has taken a hit.
In the past few years, I have had some self-diagnosed issues with seasonal depression (otherwise known as SADD or Seasonal Affective Depressive Disorder). Around mid-January, I start feeling down, for no apparent reason, and despite otherwise good circumstances. The thing that stinks about this reality, is that there’s nothing I can knowingly do about it save taking pharmaceuticals. I am outside periodically throughout the day driving and walking from one place to another, so I do see daylight and sometimes sunshine, and I do get exercise (though not enough recently because of the negative degree temps) which can help. But the past two winters have been rough. There has been no real snow, which means that my winter coping skills have needed to change along with the climate.
So, what’s a girl to do? I eat healthfully, I take vitamins (and St. John’s Wort and Ginseng presently), and I get to see the sun. What that means to me, is that I need to put on my big girl pants and deal with it. Which I do.
However, feeling more tired and less alert in general does not generally mix very well with this line of work, and it is difficult to find the motivation to deal with certain things. Plus, there are these two young ladies who spend an awful lot of time with me and depend on me to be on top of my game. Yikes. Furthermore, I was talking with one of my interns yesterday about how people often brush off these types of feelings because they are not completely pervasive or acute, like other more serious mental health diagnoses symptoms can be. But!! They still should be addressed, especially if your job and clients depend on your usual enthusiasm and energy to last, even through cold, wet winters.
Where is the line between putting on your big girl pants, and seeking help? I have never needed to act on that latter step in the past, and with any luck a tropical vacation I am going on soon will curb some of the ennui I am feeling, but if it doesn’t, where is the line? For those of you working as therapists or caregivers in health care or other areas, does seasonal depression affect you? What are your solutions to that problem? Are there any holistic treatments that have helped you in the past? Please share your self-care techniques with me and the other readers, and we’ll make it through this, I swear!