When you think of depression, the chances are you think of cold weather. The endless stretch of Winter, minimal daylight. Bleak rainy days and grey skies. Whilst many people with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) do experience a direct link between the seasonal shift and their mental health, depression can affect us at any time of year. And this year I have been suffering from Summertime sadness.
This year the months of July and August have been tough. Usually I relish the warmer months (it’s the Cancerian energy) and get anxious at the prospect of the seasonal shift, desperately clinging on to sunny weekends at the beach, barbecues and park frolicking.
But this Summer has felt different. I’ve been overcome by a period of depression. I haven’t wanted to do anything or see anyone. My routine has been staid and stale – work, home, work, home. Partially it might be the inconsistent weather, a Brits favourite topic of conversation, but we really haven’t had much of a Summer this year. Some fleeting heat, a lot of rain, some grey days. Someone I know even put the heating on one evening. It’s been a real mixed bag.
I’ve had two colds in as many months, both occurring during heatwaves, which lead to me hiding indoors drinking iced Berocca and applying cold flannels to my feverish brow. In a bid to save money for my upcoming studies, I decided to forgo a holiday this year. Sensible – yes. Fun – absolutely not. I’m not normally one for Insta-envy, but torturously scrolling through my feed seeing my pals various jaunts made me feel even more isolated, especially when doing this from my sick bed.
Not usually one for issues with my body, I’ve noticed that I’m not feeling as comfortable in my own skin as I have been previously. I feel older and I’m aware of it. Unsure of how to dress and what suits my changing shape as my metabolism slows and my weight slowly increases. The warmer weather is a particular minefield; I’m less confident with showing as much skin as I used to, but covering up leads me to feel “hot” in temperature, and “not hot” in the desirability stakes. I’m in that strange mid-thirties no mans land of style, stuck in the purgatory between my twenties self and a more grown-up me. Who am I? Someone in need of the Fab Five (which I have binged and weeped at throughout my period of malaise, perfect hiding-from-the-world viewing).
The sour cherry on the dry cake of this Summer has been losing our beloved cat. In the last week of August she became suddenly very sick with kidney failure, and we had to let her go last week. It has been a heartbreaking end to the holidays.
All of these things have been contributory factors in my poor mental health. Listlessness, taking little pleasure in doing anything at all, sleeping time away, and avoiding socialising have been signs of my melancholy clear as day. I haven’t written or created in weeks, very much experiencing the “famine” part of my unintentional feast and famine approach. Self-care has gone out the window, I’ve not been engaging in any healthy practices, instead preferring to lie on my sofa whiling away the hours playing addictive games on my phone. I’m all for spending some time unproductively, but there is a point where this can verge into unhealthy avoidance, and I was so far past the line it was pretty much a dot to me. I also spent a lot of time watching Friends reruns which you may have noticed from this oblique reference.
If you’ve been in the midst of a depressive period this Summer, hang in there. Keep trying all the usual things – self kindness, gratitude, take some fresh air, see people, move your body. The analogies of depression usually refer to it as a passing cloud, with the sun signalling the shift into a more positive mindset. But maybe that’s not what we’re waiting for. Maybe we’re just waiting for the sun to go in and for the rain to come and wash it all away.