If you haven’t heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, then you probably haven’t lived in a place that gets very cold and very dark during the winter. In Minnesota, we faithfully observe daylight savings time, and the days begin to shorten in early November. As of December 2nd, the sun is set at 4:32pm. On a day like today, we were not lucky enough to say we saw the sun at all. It was fully hidden by heavy snow clouds from morning on into evening. The rumor was that it rose and shone somewhere, but as far as I know it’s hearsay.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, aptly called SAD, is a mild to moderate depression that concurs with the onset of winter’s shorter, overcast, and bitterly cold weather. If you’re like me, you’re at work before sunrise, and you get home as the last sliver of daylight settles on the horizon. It’s a twilighty feeling, like you missed a day–everyday. Unless you enjoy an outdoor sport, the majority of us come home to Netflix, social media, or a thick hardbound novel.
SAD is the emptiness that’s left where bonfires, grilling, evening walks with the dogs, and swimming at the cabin once filled. It’s the long understanding that there won’t be much to do but eat, drink, watch, read, and write for 5 solid months. SAD is the compound effects of boredom, hopelessness, solitude, and inactivity. Whether it’s caused by an adaptation of animals that no longer hibernate, or some result of light deprivation, I can only do my best to stave it off for as long as possible.
Mama Linda bought me a SAD light. It’s one of these full-spectrum lights that tricks your brain into believing that it’s had enough day. The prescription is to sit between 30 to 60cm in front of the box, facing it but not looking at it directly, for between 30 and 60 minutes. After this, irritability, anxiety, or mania can set in. So each night, I faithfully switch on my SAD light, and bask in its semi-florescent glow for between 30 and 60 minutes, or until I find myself too tired of it.
Does it work? I don’t know.
Am I still beginning to experience the dysphoria and withdrawal of winter? Certainly.
But it is only another winter. My 26th, at that. It will come and pass as all the winters before have both came and passed. It is difficult to remember this early-December feeling in late-May when the world has melted out and the undergrowth is resurrecting, just as you would be hard pressed to convince now that I’d ever laid out in my back yard and got a suntan that was hot to the touch.