On being SAD….

I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Winter is, without question, the worst time of year for me. This is not surprising or new information for anyone who knows me. I survive the first half of winter through the knowledge that Christmas is coming which means baking and parties and music and general excitement are well on their way. I survive the latter half of the season through the knowledge that spring and summer are mere weeks away.

When I first found out I had SAD, I muddled my way through it by going to a tanning salon every day at lunch for a few minutes of my ever-needed UV rays. For many years of my life, I was a bronzed goddess not in the dead heat of July, but in the blizzards of January. The humor in that is another thing that helped me get through the winter season.

For a long time, I never told anyone why I was a) so damn depressed for four to five months out of the year or b) why I was so incredibly tan (thereby leaving myself open to the scrutiny of vanity). Anytime someone asked how I was doing, I would typically respond with, “I’m okay…just ready for winter to be over.” The reaction was (and remains, to this day), “What?! I love winter! Winter is great! How can you hate winter? You’re from Colorado!”

I hated that reaction. I hated it because no one knew why I hated winter so much and I really had no interest in telling anyone WHY I hated winter. I still hate that reaction. The first big snow of the season is rough on me. The time change makes it worse (though, mercifully, this year both happened pretty close to each other so it’s been a little easier).

About five years ago, I finally started telling people why I was so depressed during the winter and why I hate the season so much. All my friends know that I live for Christmas, so I’m sure it was a bit of a relief to finally understand why I was so schizophrenic about winter. I’ll never forget where I was or who I was with the first time I really opened up about what is “wrong” with me. See, all of my friends (my husband included) really love winter, cold, snow, all that jazz. I’m pretty much the only one that would rather have it be 85F and blazing hot than have to deal with layers of clothing and scraping my car, blah blah blah.

I remember getting a card from some of my girl friends shortly after letting everyone in on my SAD secret, reminding me that they’d be on my case to get me out of the house and that it was going to be their mission to make me enjoy winter (one friend actually got me to enjoy small-ish roadtrips recently so I have faith that she can work the winter idea).

Winter is still torture for me. I still hate it. Looking out my window right now, there’s nothing but hazy fog and cold. And wind. Gross.

But winter is becoming a warmer and warmer time of year for me, thanks to the community I’ve surrounded myself with and engaged in. It’s what I love so much about being in community. It’s the place where we can lean on each other at our weakest and celebrate at our strongest. Contrary to what Simon & Garfunkel would have me believe, I am not a rock. I am not an island. None of us are, if we’re completely honest with ourselves. I have always believed that we, humans, are designed to be in community. It wasn’t up until very recently, however, that I really started believing that for myself. The beauty (and often, the challenge) of being in community is being able to admit when we need help. In it’s purest and most basic form, community is the place where we all have needs and we all have something to offer. We don’t trade bread for meat anymore, or clothing for milk. Rather, we trade jokes for laughter and dinners for togetherness. I can buy just about any physical “thing” I want. What I can’t buy, and what I desperately need my little community for, is those very intangible and very necessary “things”: laughter, comfort, peace, understanding, conversation.

I need my friends and my community every day of every year. But when I need them the MOST, they are ever present, ever ready. They know that I just need a little nudge (and a cute pair of winter boots) to get me out the door, into the cold to be with them when they are at their best and I, at my absolute worst.

That is the essence, I believe, of true community and true friendship. Knowing that where one of us ends, another can pick us up and keep us going…it’s a perfectly lovely way to live life. We fill in each others gaps. We are wonderfully broken individuals for whom togetherness has provided a safe place to be put back together, in whatever tiny ways we can do that.

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4 thoughts on “On being SAD….

  1. Aw thanks Karla!
    You sort of hit on the overall point of the post…I love that you love winter because seeing your joy at it (and my sister's and so many other people) makes it a little more bearable for me. I may never understand how people can love winter and the cold and dark so much, but the simple knowledge that people DO helps me.

    I love summer as much as you love winter and I think that's part of what makes us all so interesting and how we all tend to “work” so well…I can drag you out into the heat and make it fun just as much as you can drag me into the cold and make me enjoy it haha!

  2. That's so terrible, but thank you for your story. I didn't even realize what SAD was. And I love winter so much that I'm probably one of those insensitive people that asked why you didn't like it. I get it now. I didn't get it before. Hope I've never hurt your feelings. Here for you, friend. 🙂 -Karla

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