It’s 10:15 a.m. on Sunday morning, January 30, 2011. It’s sunny, about 68-degrees with a high of 75 degrees. I just rode my bike to the park with my dog – whom I have rained to run in front of me on my bike. I’m going to putz in the garden today.
I am happy.
I am telling you this not to rub it in. West Palm Beach in January is lovely. I am telling you this because I have felt your pain and, unlike the pain of childbirth, I have not forgotten it or those of you who suffer with it. Seasonal-affective disorder is one of the most crippling, insidious types of depression there is. It is like running that last two-tenths of a 26.2 mile marathon for about 4-6 months – depending on your latitude.
I know. I have done it. I was born in northwestern Wisconsin. It’s 17 degrees right now but it feels like 6 degrees. The high today will be 19. It’s cloudy – of course – and there will be only 9 hours and 45 minutes of daylight today, which means there will be 14 hours and 15 minutes of darkness. To say it is cloudy is a stretch. It’s more like someone painted the sky an opaque, flat industrial gray.
I later moved to southwest Michigan, which was more of the same except with the added bonus of “lake effect” snow – and snow blowers did not exist until I was into my teens. I spent a lot of time shoveling, drank and did a lot of drugs – which only made my depression worse.
I wish with all my heart that I could bottle this morning in south Florida and share it with you. I wish Scotty was with me and he could beam you up and we could go for a walk on the beach. I know your depression would lift immediately. God, I wish I could do that for all of you.
My life changed dramatically when I moved the south Florida 26-years ago. Although I have sunk into deep dark depressions while I have lived here, my depression is much more manageable and overall, my quality of life is much, much better.
A couple of years ago when my company was “down-sizing” – the politically correct word of scores of scared workers losing their jobs – I had a nightmare. I was not laid off but I was transferred to Detroit – where I went to school and lived for five years after college.
I pleaded with my boss, “NO! YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING TO ME!! I WILL DIE!!! I CAN’T LIVE THERE!!!! I HAVE SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER!!!!! PLEASE!!!!!! DON’T DO THIS!!!!!!! I WILL DIE!!!!!!!!” I had tried to, twice, as a teenager.
Please, if there is any way you can do it, get to a climate where the winter days are longer and there is sunlight. I am begging you. You can change your brain’s winter to spring. If you cannot get here, use the lighting recommended for seasonal-affective disorder. On those rare days when it is sunny, spend as much time as possible outdoors in the direct sunlight. Be kind to yourself because deep down you know it will be summer again.
I did not lose my job or get transferred. I am still here in south Florida. I am not leaving.