Although, I suppose the tears weren’t entirely out of place. Did I mention the rain? If I didn’t, let me mention it again: rain. Lots of it. Vis a vis, there is a serious lack of sunshine. Having grown up in the Northern half of the province, I was never exposed to the trials of a dull grey winter. You see, even the clouds don’t like cold weather, so when it’s cold enough up there it’s clear as a heavenly bell and just as bright; minus-45-and-you-still-need-sunglasses kind of weather.
So while I had heard about the Lower Mainland winters – “Rain, followed by rain. After the rain, we expect rain. In addition, there will be some sort of rainy like substance” – it took moving here to fully understand the reality of the situation. My first November on the coast, I actually went to the doctor in a medium-sized panic, for fear that I had come down with some sort of sudden-onset-brain-eating disease. It was like I had been powered down overnight. “I sleep all the time, and when I’m not sleeping, I feel like I’m sleeping, and if I’m not sleeping, it’s because I can’t *%&^$ sleep. Also, I weep a lot for no reason at all.” Dr Walkinclinic looked calmly over my head and reassured me that what I was experiencing was quite normal, and told me I had Seasonal Affective Disorder; that I would feel better in a few months. The short form of that disorder’s name? …S. A. D. The irony of the name was not lost on me, and I immediately wondered if they purposely spelled the words with that acronym, or if they discovered only after naming it that “Hey! We just pointed out the obvious!”. Perhaps these are the same brainiacs that named the Rinoplasty. In any case, every November through to February or March, I cry a lot. Ready for the weighted word? SAD is a form of: depression. In truth, this (depression) is something I’ve dealt with since early highschool; something that’s only been accented by the long grey winters here.
#1 – “Don’t talk about that with her. You’ll make it worse”. A common misconception about most (if not all) forms of depression is that talking about a sad subject with someone who is depressed will make the depression “worse”. The truth is that while depression can be circumstantial, or can start with circumstantial changes, most often the immediate surroundings of a person will have very little to do with it. The truth for those that don’t know it yet: depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, and is far beyond “circumstance” or “choice”. If anything, depression (seasonal or not) is a heightened or intensified ability to feel, not a lessened capacity to do so.
#2 – “I don’t want to ask, I don’t want to embarrass her”. Another common misconception that I have encountered with frequency is the trepidation people feel around me when I am obviously not “doing well.” The thing about depression is that, because of the heightened emotion, there is usually also a heightened perception (truthful or not) of what other people think or notice. In short: we can tell that you can tell, so just ask how we’re doing. Sometimes, all it takes to save my day is knowing that my friend noticed how I was doing.
#3 – “It’s just depression, you can’t take her too seriously.” On the flip side of the above, another misconception is that it’s not important to take a depressed person seriously when they are sad. Not every sadness relates to our depression (ladies: this is like when people assume your bad day is simply your PMS and write you off; it feels about that frustrating). This isn’t a cry for attention, it feels genuinely horrible (if even for a moment), and as I mentioned above, the acknowledgement of the sadness is sometimes all it takes. One of my best friends has handled these moments with me incredibly well: by taking me seriously. Not by agreeing with my irrational thoughts, but by acknowledging them and reminding me of the reality. Sometimes we can’t tell when an incident is isolated, and so we need a trusted voice to remind us of the real things in life. That being said, sometimes we just had a bad day; don’t coddle us, acknowledge it.
#4 – sometimes we are happy, too. I think the biggest misconception about depression is that the depressed person = a negative person. In actuality, the most negative people I know are simply negative people, and the most depressed people I know are some of the most positive.
Well this turned out to be a lot more weighty than I thought it was going to be. I was actually just going to make a few jokes and then sign off (what like that’s a habit of mine or something? Pssht). However, I figure most of you have noticed my entertaining mood swings by now, so I figure I’d name the source for them. Thanks for reading.
I also happen to know (simply by the fact that so many of you actually enjoy my ramblings) that a number of you must understand the world the way I do. I don’t want to call you out (I realize this is a deeply personal journey), but if you’d like, I’d love for you to add to this conversation. These were my thoughts; what are yours?
Stigma? What stigma? F*&$ you, Stigma.
Recommended reading: by far, some of the best articles I have ever read on the subject of mental health have been written by Michael Schratter, a guest columnist last year in the 24hr newspaper. Click here and scroll down to “24hr Ride Don’t Hide Columns”.
For some helpful information on SAD specifically, visit this link