The weather today was absolutely disgusting. High 30s and cloudy. I’ve always wondered why hell is fiery because an ice-cold atmosphere seems much worse to me than any level of heat. Anyways, as I was raking the leaves in my front yard, I pondered the same things I’ve been pondering on a daily basis the last few weeks. Why is the cold so much harder for me to handle than the heat? Why does the sun have to set so damn early these next few months? Are there places where the sun doesn’t set this early? Would I be happier living somewhere warmer? Would I want to give up the pretty fall colors and the cozy snow days to live somewhere where I’m not constantly freezing from November to March? Why am I so much sadder in the winter than in the summer?
There’s nothing like seeing the sun still peeping out at 8 o’clock in the summer. There’s nothing like being able to run around in a tank top at 10 o’clock without getting the least bit chilly. These feelings make your life feel never-ending, hopeful, and romantic. Even if you have a bad day, if it’s summer, there’s always an innate level of joy in that day. I miss that summer joy SO much on gloomy winter days like today.
Winter might bring the holidays and the snow days, but to me, it will never compare to summer. We love summer for what it is, but we love winter for what we make of it. For example, I feel like we often go ALL OUT for Christmas because it distracts us from the darkness of the season. We have songs about Frosty the Snowman to remind ourselves that the snow doesn’t have to always suck. We love the blankets we get to cuddle in, but the only reason we need them in the first place is to protect ourselves from the bitter cold that winter brings. I know there are some people who luckily don’t have this mindset, but I think my summer-oriented people and I can agree that winter absolutely sucks.
This brings me to seasonal depression, or what’s medically known as seasonal affective disorder. It’s a type of depression caused by the changes in season. It usually affects people in the fall and winter months, and it can be caused by a drop in serotonin or melatonin levels that often come with these seasons. Some symptoms are feeling a lack of energy, having an increased appetite, having trouble sleeping, and feeling hopeless and sometimes even suicidal. After diagnosis, those with S.A.D. are treated with phototherapy, antidepressants, and talk therapy.
Here’s my issue. There’s a clear difference between those unimaginably challenging symptoms and a typical wintertime sadness. I know I went on and on about how sad winter makes me, but I by no means believe I have seasonal depression, and frankly, I’m tired of everyone saying they have it.
I’ve talked with a bunch of people about seasonal depression, and EVERYONE claims they have it. Now, to be fair, before I did my five minutes of research, I believed I had it too. I don’t think most people intend to be ignorant when they claim they have it, rather it’s a matter of a lack of education.
I did a poll on Instagram in which I simply asked “Do you think you have seasonal depression?” 69% of people said yes, and 31% of people said no. I refused to look at who answered what because I didn’t want to judge anyone, especially considering that a week ago I would’ve been part of that mostly misinformed 69%. There very well may be a handful of people in that 69% who truly have seasonal depression, but I’m sorry, there’s no way all of them do. Moreover, if everyone claims they have it, how will the people who truly suffer from it get the attention they deserve?
To not sound like simply an apathetic asshole, here are some direct quotes from medical websites to justify my frustration:
” About 4 to 6 percent of people may have winter depression. Another 10 to 20 percent may have mild SAD. SAD is four times more common in women than in men. Although some children and teenagers get SAD, it usually doesn’t start in people younger than age 20″ – American Family Association. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0301/p1531.html
“Six percent of the US population, primarily in northern climates, is affected by SAD in its most marked form. Another 14 percent of the adult US population suffers from a lesser form of seasonal mood changes, known as winter blues. Of course, seasonality affects people all over the world. The prevalence of SAD in Oslo, Norway, was reported as 14 percent in contrast to 4.7 percent in New York City” – Dr. Rosenthal, Psychiatry MMC. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2686645/
“Specific symptoms of seasonal depression can include:
Depression: misery, guilt, loss of self-esteem, hopelessness, diminished interest in activities, despair, and apathy
Anxiety: tension and inability to tolerate stress
Mood changes: extremes of mood and, in some, periods of mania in spring and summer
Sleep problems: desire to oversleep and difficulty staying awake or, sometimes, disturbed sleep and early morning waking
Lethargy: feeling of fatigue and inability to carry out normal routine
Overeating: craving for starchy and sweet foods resulting in weight gain
Social problems: irritability and desire to avoid social contact
Sexual problems: loss of libido and decreased interest in physical contact” -Mental Health America http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/sad
I’m not a doctor by any means, but common sense tells me that 69% and 6% are a little different. Now, do lots of people feel more tired and less bubbly in the winter? Of course. But I’m begging you, stop saying you have a disorder when you just have the winter blues. If, however, you intensely exhibit multiple of these symptoms, you may very well be that 6%. I don’t want to steer people away from getting help if they truly need it, but I really do believe it’s just become somewhat of a trend to claim you have seasonal depression.
On a lighter note, there’s a lot I’ve learned over the years about handling the blues that come with winter. I honestly haven’t found the one clear panacea, but here are some things I do to make my heart feel a little warmer in these cold months:
1. Taking Vitamin D pills. I don’t know if they actually help or not, but even the placebo effect itself makes me feel a little more energetic. Vitamin D is in sunlight, so the supplements are good to hold me over until it gets warm again.
2. Investing in hot chocolate, sweaters, and fuzzy socks. When I can pull off the winter aesthetic, I feel a little more positive about the gloomy weather.
3. Working out. The high I get from releasing endorphins often balances out the lack of serotonin I may be experiencing.
4. Not sitting near windows. When I get home from school, I sit in the only room in my house without windows so that I’m not focusing on how early the sun is setting.
5. Talking to someone. This isn’t just for winter blues, but for every problem ever. Talking always always ALWAYS helps 🙂
I hope I could shed some knowledge on something I was ignorant about until about two hours ago. Anyone who truly has S.A.D. can probably attest to the fact that it’s not something you want to have by any means, so unless you’re in that 6%, be thankful!