I noticed a few yellow leaves on the trees that surround my house recently. My heart sank. Then when I realized I have to wear my fleece slippers as the floors in my little house are already cold in the mornings, I felt my heart grow cold too.
I’m not afraid of the inevitable Montana cold; I love the quiet of winter, the beauty of shadows on snow, the crisp air, the occasional moose trotting down the road. What I am afraid of this season, is watching, helplessly, as my mood plunges along with the temperature. I observe myself looking over my shoulder. I am stalked by depression.
I know I don’t force depression; I have been this way since I was 19 or 20. The seasonal changes from winter to spring and then, like now, the change from summer to fall are the two changes that effect many others as well as myself. The first clue that I’m sinking is when I catch myself staring at nothing, my eyes out of focus. I will say, out loud, “Oh no!”
The difference between now and when I was younger is that over the years I’ve learned how to recognize, although not eliminate, the horrible effects of seasonal depression. I know it’s coming by staring, know that I must reach out, must jot down this change in mood in my daily planner. When I’m depressed it’s as though my life is standing still; bills go unpaid, food gets eaten but not replenished, dogs don’t get walked. It’s as though I’m suddenly in a black tube, traveling along but slowing down at every turn until I stop all together.
Keeping track of my mood is important, not only for me but for my doctor. Because it’s difficult to keep track of my mood when depressed my doctor is better equipped to keep track of me than I am. This sounds as though I give myself up to the mood and, in all honesty, that is what happens, involuntarily. Depression is a dangerous place to be and there’s no shame in asking for help not only with medication but for moral support. Since I tend to isolate, (even more than usual), when depressed, I try to force myself to pick up the phone and let family and friends know what’s up. When I don’t pick up the phone the timbre of my voice is a dead give away when someone calls me. I can’t trick anyone into thinking I’m not depressed. Over the years I’ve resigned myself to this particular symptom.
Seasonal depression cuts right through my anti-depression medication. As I said above, it’s very important to keep close to your doctor, if possible, when experiencing seasonal depression. My psychopharmacologist tries to help me without an increase in the anti-depressives. He suggests using a light box, exercise, vitamins. These suggestions, if I follow them, really do help until the seasonal depression fades away. But when under this particular cloud it’s very difficult to remember what it feels like to not be depressed. Letting others in, as well as your doctor, is very helpful. And remind yourself over and over that ‘this too will pass’.