I hate the winter. It seems like everyone I know does, too. The days are short and dark, and the air is bitterly cold – being in an old house doesn’t help much, either.
The other day I asked my Instagram friends if they had a hard time with their mental health this time of year, too. And aside from four bots and one lone winter fan, the answer was a resounding yes.
As I sat here thinking of ways I could create content to help us all through this period, I started to get philosophical (send help). All the people in my community feel this struggle. So maybe, we’re meant to?
It circles back to the old adage that you can’t have light without shadow. You can’t truly appreciate the good times if you don’t remember the bad. And while it is tempting to wish that things like depression, seasonal or otherwise, didn’t happen to me, I’ve gradually taken a different point of view as I’ve learned to live with the way my brain works.
What if I am this way on purpose? What if there is a lesson, an upside to all of this?
Even if there are a thousand negatives that go along with the darkness, maybe there is one positive. Maybe more. If the darkness is already here, then it’s worth a shot to try and believe this.
This is like the careful truce on suffering that I reached with my anxiety a few years ago, when it was the plague du jour. A decision that if we were going to inhabit this body together, there would have to be some compromises on both sides.
For all the confidence I lost, I gained self-awareness.
For the lack of stability, I grew resourceful.
For the loss of control, I gained the necessary but painful ability to speak about my feelings with others.
Such are the terms of our agreement, anxiety and I.
So as I sit here writing by the wood fire, warm blanket on my lap and a belly full of food, I look out at the black windows and see my latest tenant. The dark muffling of winter depression comes just as I start to feel the summer waning in my bones.
It comes with a choice, this year. I can be trampled by it, like many times before. I can try to swim through it, with tired arms against a thick current.
Or I can open the door and shake hands with it. Welcome back, old foe.
Maybe winter is meant to be dark. Maybe my seasonal depression is like a heavy blanket of snow surrounded by unseen, unquiet woods. At least, when I look up, there are still stars.
I may not have all the answers as to how we conquer this. In truth, that’s not what I strive for. All I want is not to be caught off guard by it, which is why my community is so important to me in this season. It keeps me aware, alert, and assessing. Ready for that familiar stranger to look at me through the mirror.
But where are the upsides? I promised you upsides!
I have learned to appreciate my unending appetite for rest.
I have learned to do the hard things first, and to save a number of easy things at all times.
I have become grateful for things I overlooked for decades.
I have learned to be a warden for my body, an advocate for my mind, and a preacher for my soul.
The downsides may outnumber these lights. But, as I remind myself constantly, it is only a season of life. I can choose to walk alongside the winter this time, rather than be crushed by it.
I will continue to try, to learn, to survive.
Besides – I bet the sun in shining somewhere.
Connect with me on Instagram if you’d like to join my online community of creative, interesting folks during this next season. All are welcome!