Every year, usually around the last week of August, I sense the shift. Gold light turns to silver, and the sound of rustling leaves in the afternoon breezes has a slightly more tinkly feel to it. They may have changed a hue or two, less green, more yellow or brown, dessication setting in. Summer leaves in full light and humidity are wet and shaggy, the do not bristle. Autumn leaves sound like faint whispering chimes. The wind may carry the lightest of howls and whistles behind it.
The first week of October always arrives. Somewhere between cooler nights and the sounds of twigs snapping, the Harvest moon heralds the last of the warm yellow light. Autumn is not only here, but she is collecting her dues. Swapping shadow for sun on the patio, decreasing days and sleepier mornings, even Sol wants to sleep in a little longer. Flower heads are clipped, leaves dropped, piles of debris collect around the pots for mulch. A shiver is felt in the middle of the day, no matter the temperature. And suddenly it is always night before I get home.
I can't remember a time when my moods didn't change with the season. I always loved the fall and smell of cold and wet and leaves and smoke and the idea of pumpkin patches and apple pie. Somewhere in my teens, there were no hayrides, only darker mornings. Somewhere in college, the wind cried out against me instead of just riding by. Somewhere in my hours my heart became darker, my eyelids heavier, and my mood ....
I have SAD. I know it. I didn't know it, but I do now. I knew it before it was an IT and before there was a catchy name or anything. The light changes and smells would trigger little parts of my brain, and maybe the serotonin goes down or maybe the dopamine goes sideways or maybe the tryptophan runs out. I don't know, I just have to try to catch it before it catches me. Every year, I think I will outpace it. Every year, I am wrong.
It isn't worth the drugs, at least not anymore. Perhaps, in the past, when I was a little more psychotic they might have helped. Of course, those drugs didn't exist then and I had to learn to cope the hard way. Or not. I found some herbs that helped when I finally got a clue, and then I thought I was better. I moved to Europe, where it is much, much worse. Cigarettes and alcohol go well with melancholy. If you stay up all night, you still may not see the sun rise until the day after tomorrow.
She came early this year. My well was full, and I wasn't paying attention. I dove into the madness of busy times and catching up and overextending and overused my reserves before I realized I had dipped under my horizon. Full moon and hormonal changes coincided and forced my attention to the harsh snap of "damn it, again". I am not having any crying jags, but I was angry. And sad. And overwrought.
You can only do better when you know you are doing bad. I think I caught this one early, and maybe it will be mild. Like the flu, you can get it really bad or really easy. I am not fooling myself anymore and just have to start setting the boundaries I know will help. I have to set them with others, and with myself. No self pity. No retail therapy. No junk food binges. No elaborate plans. Get rest, have water, take what it is you need to take to keep you balanced. Remember what it is that keeps you balanced. Take a nap if you need it, take a walk because you need it. Get some light in your eyes. Watch for the sugar monster. Cry if you need to, but remember, it isn't anyone else's depression.
My father died in November, when I was in college. I had just gone through a horrible 6 weeks of SAD and boyfriend stuff and anxiety and sleeplessness and depression and bad, bad dreams that my parents would die. Just as I started to snap out of it, the call came. Every year, the first week of October, I brace myself for the ride. What will come my way this year? I can fight it or flow with it, but it is it and it is here and it will stay until it goes. I still must show up bright for work, I still must attempt to keep myself well. I let it slack last year and almost shattered disk number 2. I wasn't working much and it fell apart so easily. Now I have more to juggle, and, happy or sad, I may not have the time to swim in the deep pool of despair. Just dip me toes.