Winter Is Coming: Diary of a SAD Girl #1

Everywhere I went yesterday I could feel how excited people were for Time Change Sunday. They got an extra hour of sleep, after romping around real sexy-like in their Halloween costumes the night before. Starbucks rolled out its festive red cups and all the pepperminty goodness that goes along with them. Thanksgiving is on the way, and so: family and stuffing and leaves that crunch under your new boots (it’s boots season, too!). Then, of course, Christmas songs and Christmas lists and Santa Claus and egg nog and kissing in the New Year and and and and…

‘Tis the season! Winter is coming!

I took a bubble bath last night, had a cup of sleepy time tea. Sat on the floor and let my foster kittens crawl all over me and purr their soothing purrs. I read a book. I watched an ASMR video. I stretched, I spoke my intention to do good out into the universe. Around midnight, I crawled into my girlfriend’s lap while she watched the World Series and ran my fingertips over and over her softest cotton pajama shirt, pressed my open palms against the warm, smooth skin of her back. I tried to match my breathing to her breathing, to anchor my emotions in the rock of her constant warmth and affection. I was sick with anxiety, like being nauseous and knowing you’ll feel better if you can just throw up, only it was a panic attack trapped inside me that wouldn’t come out.

Time Change Sunday is my personal gateway to hell. It gets dark earlier (and then earlier and earlier). It gets cold in the morning and night (and then stays cold all day and all day). I stay inside to keep warm and then I stay inside because I don’t want to leave and then I stay inside because I can’t get out of bed. In recent years, I have been flattened by Seasonal Affective Disorder nearly every winter. SAD, it’s called. SAD.

sadf-2

I have struggled with depression my whole life. I didn’t know what it was when I was a kid, of course. No one did, really. It was the ’80s and my parents spent all their time fighting and trying to feed us, and anyway, they’d already told the doctor no (multiple times) when he tried to put me on Ritalin. The best way to deal with complicated emotions was to pretend they didn’t exist. So I went to bed every night praying to not wake up; or to wake up into a different life, and maybe this one was just a dream, and my sister would be there for real, and my cats, Tuna and Silly, and my dog, Skeeter, but everything else would be different. I wouldn’t be sad in my bones.

My depression got worse when I was a teenager, because on top of everything else, I spent all of my mental energy trying to hide the truth from myself that I’m gay. It carried over into college too. People would have called me funny, back then, if you’d asked them. Hilarious. Hysterical. I made them laugh. I made everyone laugh. And I went home to my dorm and stayed up at night and wondered if there was a way I could die that wouldn’t traumatize anyone. I didn’t want to hurt my friends. I didn’t want to hurt my family. I didn’t even really want to die. I just didn’t want to exist anymore.

Coming out changed things for me, in inconceivably enormous ways. When I finally flung open the door of my brain and heart and embraced being a lesbian (and allowed many of my friends and family to embrace it too), a lot of other stuff started tumbling out of that closet. My untreated ADHD. My perpetual struggle with depression. The growing collection of emotional wounds and scars that come from having a mother with Narcissistic/Borderline Personality Disorder. I was 26 when I dumped it all at my therapist’s feet and we started picking through it like war rubble.

A decade later, I am more mentally healthy than I ever have been. I’m in a loving, committed relationship with the woman I’m going to spend the rest of my life with. I have a job that sustains my soul and massages my creativity and every single day I get to work with some of the cleverest, kindest, good-est human beings this world has to offer. My family loves and supports me, and so do my close friends (who are my family, too). I’m making the world better, every day! And I’m rewarded for it! But winter is coming. Winter is coming, winter is coming, winter is coming.

sadf-3

I am never wholly happy. I mean, I experience happiness, and excitement, and even incandescent joy. I get ooey-gooey in love feelings and laugh deep and often and feel the rumble of that healing energy reverberating throughout my body.  I am happy, generally. I have happiness every day. But there is always a deep well of sadness inside of me. My “baseline sadness,” is what my therapist calls it. The pain of the world, of the people and animals in it, it gets to me more than what’s normal. The hard decisions I’ve had to make for self-preservation, about my mentally ill mother, especially, they haunt me. When Seasonal Affective Disorder comes knocking at my brain’s door, it doesn’t start at zero and work its way to ten. My sadness is never at zero. Seasonal Affective Disorder walks in on at least a four.

One of the worst parts about suffering emotional trauma at a young age is that way it freezes your mind and suspends it in time. I’m a well adjusted, mostly mature 36-year-old woman. I resolve conflicts like a grown-up. I apologize like a grown-up. I face my fears and desires like a grown-up. But when I see the tentacles of depression slithering their way toward me, I feel as helpless and terrified as I did when I was six years old, playing Chicago’s Greatest Hits record as loud as it would go so my sister wouldn’t hear my parents yelling — there was a scratch on the A side that made “You’re My Inspiration” get caught on a loop, like: “You’re the reason, you’re the reason, you’re the reason … in my life.” — and wishing I had any way to fight back against the darkness that was enveloping me.

The panic I felt last night as I tucked myself into my girlfriend and clutched at her pajamas wasn’t the panic of a grown-up. It was the panic of a child.

The thing is, though, that I do have a way to fight back. I do have the tools I need in my life now. I may not feel like a grown-up when I’m squaring my shoulders against seasonal depression, but I am one. I know how Seasonal Affective Disorder manifests itself in my life, and I’m thinking clearly because it’s not here yet. I know the waterline of my baseline sadness. I was watching Home Alone early this morning when I couldn’t sleep, and I started wondering if maybe I could summon my inner Kevin McCAllister this holiday season. If I could run out into the snow and shake my fist and shout, “I’m not afraid anymore! Do you hear me?! I’M NOT AFRAID!”

sadf-1

I mean, it would be a lie. I am afraid. I’m afraid of the despair that always accompanies this thing, afraid of the hopelessness and sleeplessness and mood shifts and anxiety and inability to connect with people and create things I love. I’m afraid of eating too much and drinking too much to self-destruct and self-medicate. I suppose being afraid doesn’t make my defeat inevitable, though. I suppose I could choose not to hide under my covers and wait for SAD to get here and hook itself into my soul and suck all the joy and productivity out of my life.

I could start my vitamins now, plan my meals (around omega-3 fatty acids), get serious about vigorous exercise, reach out to my support network and actually let them support me, get a light box, plan walks into my day and set a timer and enforce them, make my workspace brighter, lose those (extra-)extra pounds, have more sex, try yoga, try acupuncture, try to learn (again) to meditate, socialize, plan a romantic getaway, stick to a schedule, get enough sleep, be honest about my struggle, my journey, write about it.

Maybe I could build a fortress out of the war rubble, with floor to ceiling windows to let the sunlight in.


I’ll be journaling my progress fighting seasonal depression and posting it for you here at Autostraddle dot com bi-weekly. If SAD is something you struggle with too, I’d love to hear from you. Maybe we can fight this dark winter off together.


Are you following us on Facebook?

Profile gravatar of Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

Heather has written 599 articles for us.

91 Comments

  1. I love you so, so much, my friend. You know I struggle with this, too. Let’s make an effort to talk to each other this winter. Try to tell me how you’re feeling. I’ll try to tell you how I’m feeling. Anything but end up like years past, where January/February/March feel living on a cold, dark island.

    As always, your words inspire me. And your brave spirit amazes me.

  2. This was a great essay, Heather! When I was 20, winter coincided with a depressive episode that I’d never had before. I got better pretty quickly but ever since then I get SAD every winter, though never as bad as that first time. It sucks, but I’m mostly happy too 🙂

  3. I feel like I could have written this, it hits so close to home. Especially the sadness baseline. I’ve never heard it described that way, but that’s exactly it. I’m still trying to figure my way through this, but finding it tough (also just lost my support network, and it’s hard to build a new one when you have SAD/are sad).

    Sending you love, Heather.

  4. I’ve actually gotten one of the alarm clocks that lights up slowly before it goes off. Mainly for the idea of a “gentler” wake-up, but I’ve heard they are helpful for SAD as well (if you get up when it is pitch black outside during the winter).

    • Yes, I have one of those too! It took me several years of talking about it to get it. I remember one November it rained every. single. day. & my best friend made me come over & sit under her sun lamp before I did myself a mischief. I don’t know how much the sunrise lamp helps my brains, but it definitely helps me get up. (Prior to that I made myself get up because I don’t have a safety net, so if I don’t go to work I will be on the street. So that was a joyful start to the day.)

  5. I went to sleep at 9:30 last night and cried until 1 am. I was doing so well up until that point. I didn’t understand what was happening or why. Every year I forget and the reminder of SAD tumbles into my life. Thank you for putting this to words.

  6. This is so beautiful, thank you for sharing this with us all. I’ve never suffered from all-out SAD but I do get pretty melancholic in winter, especially in NZ where there’s no Christmas or New Years or holidays to take your mind off things. I’ve realised recently that making myself eat healthily and getting some time in the sun make me feel less like a cave monster. Having a partner to help look after you is also great 🙂

    • Well, you could always celebrate the winter solstice. Yule is a magical time for growth and rebirth. Also, where I grew up they celebrated the inti raymi on that day. It’s such a nice colorful celebration.
      If you get sad during the winter, start planning a winter solstice dinner party and invite all your friends and family. It could be the start of a new tradition 😉

  7. Heather, I also am a lesbian with ADHD, SAD, and parents that fought a lot when I was a kid! We are almost twins with an 11 year age difference!

    I thnk we both should be doing all we can to manage all this; no point in needless suffering, right?

    Have you considered living in a sunny state? I lived in California for 13 years and thought I would never leave. Literally, it was rare to go three days without sun, and I remember playing football outside in shorts on New Year’s Day once. Lotsa places on this earth that have a lot of sun.

    Do you take vitamin D and fish oil with your ADHD meds every day? OmegaBrite is the stuff for our creative genius brains.

    And are you using SAD lights? A wake up light for dark mornings and one to work under in the winter???

    I promise to take better care of myself if you will. Bless.

  8. Heather, I struggle with a lot of this too. Thanks so much for your thoughtful honesty.

    Maybe there could be a coffee/tea Autostraddle meetup in NYC at some point, for Dark Winter Fighters & everybody else to hang out? I know socializing gets harder for me in winter, idk… Also I like your ideas list of things to try to feel better!

  9. Thank you for this. You capture the fear and dread of it approaching so well. Depression is a many-tentacled monster lurking just below the surface, like the Watcher in the Water before the mines of Moria. You can’t see it, but just disturb the water, and soon enough it will come out to drag you back down.

    God, every other year I’ve had things to look forward to–classes to take, then a long break, then more classes. And this year I don’t. I don’t have a job yet. I’m still clinging to hope that I can escape to Ecuador for four or so months, so long as my buddy can get back to me with something regarding a job that’s more solid that “probably”.

  10. Thank you for this, especially for the part about panic freezing you in the past. I feel that so often. I am an adult, yet when the panic and depression takes over, I am a child feeling an adult’s sadness. That is the clearest way I can describe it. You are so brave to write about this, and I am so grateful you shared it with us. Here with you, step by step.

  11. I love fall.
    Fall is my favorite season.
    Don’t get me wrong, I love summer, too, the way the nights wrap around you like a gentle lover, how the sun warms your skin, heals your creaking bones, loosens limbs and soul in days that stretch on forever and ever.
    But fall is the bearer of my normalcy.
    The gradual slowing down, the increasing quietness heralding the withdrawal back into myself, after summer demanded so much from outside.
    Most of all it is the soft melancholy of the season.
    The still beauty of leaves turning colors, of the sun growing soft and caressing in its kiss, in a last goodbye.
    And thus the struggle begins.
    The darkness and the cold comes and it hits me over the head with a shovel, every year.
    We have no snow, mostly, just hyperpermeable coldness and a lamentable abscence of sun.
    Five hours of light and those are slate grey and unbearable for weeks.
    For months.
    I have learned to fear winter these past years.
    I have learned to fear it for my life.
    This year, I will go into battle early on.
    As early as today and tomorrow.
    I will make TV show dates at least once a week with my friends.
    I will eat at least two meals a day.
    And I will go to the gym, two,three times a week.
    Most of all, though, I will try to be someone else, play pretend, that there isn’t a debilitating heaviness dragging at my feet, threatening to drag me down and under.
    I will pretend to be Dr.House and immerse myself in scientific articles, I’ll pretend to be the Arrow and work out like a Superhero, I will pretend to be the good and kind and well adjusted friend who keeps order and a full fridge and has people over all.the.time.
    Maybe I’ll head South for a couple of weeks in January or February, to get myself to snap out of it, maybe I’ll finally start taking medication.
    Who knows?
    I’ll try to treat this winter as an adventure.
    An adventure you go into with a little bit of hope in your terrified heart, sword drawn, grip tight.

  12. Every year around this time I tell myself that this winter will be different, this time I’ll deal with it in a healthy way and fight against self-destructive actions and thoughts. Every year, my good intentions disappear in the face of dark evenings and icy mornings. I get depressed, irritable, and anxious. One year I burst into tears because I was completely convinced that it would never get warm again. Scariest of all, I drink too much in the winter. When I think back to the times when I’ve drunk too much and done really stupid, reckless things, they’re all in the winter. Something about the cold and the dark makes me feel really hopeless inside, like it doesn’t even matter whether I make good decisions or bad ones. I’m going to try not drinking at all this winter, and see how that goes.

    Thank you for sharing your story so honestly with us. It makes me feel less alone in this.

  13. Thank you so much for writing this. It’s such a relief to hear other people talk about depression that is always part of your life, rather than something that you experience for a couple and months and then never again (“like a broken leg” as my first therapist helpfully analogized – not a great comfort to me when my depression came back worse than ever a few months later).

    I just bought a super warm winter coat, which I’m hoping will encourage me to go outside more, and I’m starting to take vitamin D. Fingers crossed this winter doesn’t kick my butt as much as the last one did :~(

  14. “My sadness is never at zero. Seasonal Affective Disorder walks in on at least a four.”

    Yes yes all the yes. I can not yes this post enough. Thank you so much for saying these things. I am right there with you. Difficult family past, hereditary depression, the panic that comes with the cold and black. I have my weapons as well – sun lamp, gym membership, friends to support me, but still. Sometimes it is all just so much.
    I will be right here for this series and this winter and hopefully we can keep the darkness at bay.

  15. This really spoke to me, especially the part about the panic that accompanies Daylight Savings Time. I didn’t consciously make the link between winter and my depression worsening until I was 23, but looking back, the pattern had definitely been there for years. It was exhausting; starting to sink in October, hitting rock bottom around February, and spending the spring and summer building myself back up only to have it start all over again next fall. Each year I would be so determined that I wouldn’t succumb to it, that I’d fight tooth and nail to make this year better than last year, and each time it was just too much, too hard, and I’d slip into the recesses of my mind and forget that I was ever able to feel anything different.

    Two years ago I realized if I stayed in New England it would kill me. I moved to Colorado (average of 300 days of sunshine a year, thank you very much) last summer and had the best winter since I was 13. After a year and a half of the right antidepressant, a year of incredible therapy and three months of not smoking weed, it’s November 2 and I don’t think I’ve ever felt this good. I honestly never thought this was possible. I thought the pattern I described above was something I’d just have to deal with for the rest of my life, however long that ended up being. It feels like a miracle. I feel like the luckiest damn dyke on the planet.

  16. I haaaaaaaate winter. I also have baseline always there depression, although it’s treated pretty effectively with medication. But then winter hits, and the light goes away and I start sleeping way too much and missing any daylight and avoiding everything and feeling awful. And I haaaaate it.

  17. this is lovely and something i have never articulated half as well.

    “I am never wholly happy. I mean, I experience happiness, and excitement, and even incandescent joy. I get ooey-gooey in love feelings and laugh deep and often and feel the rumble of that healing energy reverberating throughout my body. I am happy, generally. I have happiness every day. But there is always a deep well of sadness inside of me.”

  18. I never had SAD before I moved to Boston, and then I had SAD and severe baseline homesickness (which Sarah Silverman says feels like depression, so there’s that). SAD on top of homesickness feels like being locked into a cage and thrown into the ocean, and I’m not looking forward to it.

    But since it’s my last year in Boston (only 218 more days, my countdown tells me), and the kiddo’s last year before college, these seasons chock-full of lasts are a nice challenge to really make the best of it. That and running, I think (I hope) will help keep the worst of it at bay.

    Good luck to us all this winter! May it be so much more merciful than the last.

  19. Sometimes I never know I really needed a cry until it happens. So thanks for the tears, I like to bottle them up and I should get better at releasing them.

    I feel you on all of this. I used to be affected by SAD, I’m in Palm Springs now soooo….uhhh I don’t think it will be an issue compared to the frozen tundra of Wisconsin.

    Thank you for this and I can’t wait to read more Heather! I love the mutual, I’m a happy-sad person bond.

  20. I feel this so much and I’m sorry <3
    Last winter was really bad for me because of emotional abuse and Snowmageddon 2k15 and this time it seems like SAD has reared its ugly head early (I mean I'm depressed year-round but it's been pretty consistently worse the past couple of days and it feels like I'm slipping down into the same hole I was stuck in from December to April). But I'm going to actually consistently sleep and eat and take my vitamins and power through it and I wish you the best of luck *hugs*

    • (The worst part is I really really love fall – I live in New England and like my calc professor said today, “we kinda dominate this whole autumn thing”, everything is beautiful and colorful and vivid right now and not being able to fully enjoy it sucks major ass.)

  21. Just hearing someone express that they don’t love fall and winter is extremely liberating!There’s so many wonderful things about time, but that doesn’t outweigh the darkness. It’s difficult to explain too. But you do it really well. I recognize that basic sadness from the last fall in high school. I went to a therapist a couple of times and he asked me to name the feeling. I called it Squimpy XD. Now I know it was probably SAD (not that I have a diagnosis).

    It’s been getting a lot better for me, though. I hope it does for you too. May you kick your depression’s ass, Kevin McCAllister style!

  22. Its articles like these that make me so, so grateful I found this website. Written with heart-achingly honesty that hits close to home. I don’t think I have SAD, just regular ole’ depression, the chronic and “minor” version to major depression, though i’ve had a few depressive episodes.

    The hoplessness combined with sleeplessness is a lethal combination. When I can’t sleep, I become a desperate person. Ugh. Hate it so much. I can’t wait to continue to read these articles.

    Thank you.

  23. Thanks for writing this. I’ve never had SAD (afaict) but I’m all too familiar with depression, dysthymia, and the non-zero baseline you mention. That’s one of the things I wish people understood: for folks with depressive disorders, the baseline is almost never zero. That’s part of why it’s so hard to “just get over it”; when you already spend a third of your spoons on the good days, there’s no resiliency left for when things get bad.

  24. Holy goodness sake cookies, I just got back from my therapist’s office, and I read this.
    It was as if it was waiting for me, just sitting here waiting to tell me, “You aren’t the only one who feels heavy with the weight of the cold and teary-eyed with the thought of the darkness creeping in.”

    Thank you so much for this!
    Also, yay for more articles about mental health issues.

  25. Moving south has helped a bit.

    I’ve been floating along, even enjoying fall quite a bit (it’s so damn warm and beautiful this year), but this weekend the panic came full force, right on cue.

    I’m so glad not to be alone with it, Heather. I hope it’s as helpful to you to write about it as it will be for me to read it.

  26. It took me years to realize that I actually don’t like the fall or winter like I used to think I did. Maybe I just romanticized them because all the movies that make me feel warm always take place when the leaves are brown and yellow and people wear sweaters and coats. I guess I am 24 and still trying to figure out how to adult but I don’t like the time change, I don’t like anything under 80 degrees F, I don’t like the darkness. I feel sad, unfulfilled and empty.

    Thank you for this Heather.

  27. Heather, as much as there are other writers I enjoy, I seek you out for your insight, your honesty, your truth and your humour. You gave me PLL, and Orphan Black, and so many other shows I just couldn’t live without. But more than anything, you weave all of your talent and your intelligence through your writing, and it’s this that I value the most when I read your work.

    This essay is no different. My (former) best friend has a narcissistic / borderline PD, and I have made the exquisitely painful decision to cut her out of my life – I can’t begin to imagine how I would cope with a parent using that illness to shape me.

    I think you’re amazing, and I will continue to visit AS solely to read your work.

    Take good care of yourself. xxxx

  28. I dread winter every year and for a long time I thought it was because of the cold and how it seems to creep into my bones, or, because everything is grey, and unless that grey is a sweater I find the colour kind of miserable. Within the last few years I’ve had others who suffer from SAD ask me if I’ve ever talked to anyone about how I feel during this time and I’ve always shrugged it off (I shrug a lot of things off though). I have talked to someone now, and among other things I’ve been told it’s likely I do get SAD but because I’m so inconsistent with my healthcare it’s really hard for them to say one way or the other. This really hit me though. I’m already depressed, so I guess maybe I just figured it was another downswing coincidentally taking place in the winter? I mean, I have a lot of those, it’s not very often I feel like I’m alright. But reading this really made sense to me. The part about the “baseline sadness” especially. Thank you for writing this and I wish you all the best this season!

  29. SAD is a huge problem for me year after year, particularly since about 60% of the bedrooms i’ve inhabited in the last 10 years or so didn’t have windows or natural light of any kind (both of these things are DEALBREAKERS for me in subsequent apartments). Since I mostly work at night, I need to see the sun just a little bit every day or I feel terrible. This will be my second winter on medication for depression, something I’ve only just begun to use to deal with this thing. I had a lightbox, but gave it to an Autostraddle reader when I moved a couple of years ago (no idea if it helped). I spend a lot of the winter trying to challenge myself to leave the house.

    Anyway, I’m really glad this exists.

    • the French are generally kind of obsessed with window blinds that close really tightly or very heavy curtains. the curtain rod for my window is broken and when I moved in my roommate started to apologize and said, “I’ll fix that right away!” and was confused and pleased when I said “OH DEAR G-D NO YOU WON’T!”

      I didn’t realize how important windows are to my well being until I lived with my GF who can’t sleep without the binds 100% closed and I could never get out of bed.

  30. There’s nothing better than an open heart and spirit to inspire other open minds. Heather, I may not share your experience dealing with SAD, but now I get to participate in empathy. Thank you for writing this. I’m really looking forward to the rest of this series!

  31. This is really lovely and I am very invested in the fact that this is going to be an ongoing series here at Autostraddle. But it hits a little too hard and a little too deep for me since I in no way have a grip on my own SAD, so I think I might have to be invested in it by hearing about it from my girlfriend instead of reading it directly. <3
    Maybe if I need help bringing everything emotionally to the forefront (which is necessary from time to time) I'll take a peep.

  32. I don’t think I have ever left a comment on a website before but reading your heartfelt and honest story hit home. I have suffered from SAD for all of my life; the dread building from October onward as I begin to fear winter and the inevitable depression.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’ve always felt misunderstood and melodramatic when I’ve tried to share my hatred of short grey days with others and seeing so much of my story in yours is incredibly comforting.

    My friend was telling me just yesterday about the Danish concept of ‘Hygge’, inadequately translated as ‘coziness’ and warmth, it is a concerted effort by friends and community to support each other, create nice atmospheres to relax and socialise in, and an all round effort to make the dark winters more bearable. It seems like a nice idea and one which I wish could be adopted here in the UK

  33. Heather, if you’re looking for good and affordable acupuncture in NYC I highly recommend City Acupuncture! I love, love, love, love them (especially Craig and Sonya). They’ve gotten me through two law school finals periods and have helped with the horrible wrist/hand/arm pain I get from being on my computer all the time.

  34. I cannot express to you how grateful I am for this article and those to come. Thank you thank you thank you.

    For me it’s important to make plans, kind of like your list at the end. If I identify things that make me happy or things I want to try, then when I’m feeling like shit I can go to that list without having to think and choose an activity.
    A lot of those things I have to do alone though, which I recognize is a major problem for me a lot of the time. For so many years I was used to being around other people/friends constantly, from high school through college and then nursing school where I spent every waking moment with the same people, and we were always on the same schedule. I LOVE being out of school and being an actual nurse, but the shift work can be very isolating. Working rotating day/night shifts and every other weekend (mandatory) means I’m often awake at weird hours and off work when everyone else is at their respective jobs during the week.

    When the weather is nice and the sunlit hours are long I can do more outdoor activities like go to the park, go for nice walks, explore, etc, but once it’s dark early and cold it makes it harder to find fun things to do outside of my house, alone.

    I’m so glad you’re writing this series. I think it’s better to know you’re not alone with these feelings especially during a time that’s making you feel extra isolated.

  35. I feel like I have reverse SAD? My depressive episodes always seem to happen during summer/when summer is ending. I hate that it gets darker earlier because I LOVE to be outside in nature and the time change doesn’t really make it possible to do that after work. But I love the rain, the cold, the trees changing.
    Also I totally feel the “maybe I should take this time to get my life together and do a, b, c, d…yeah” because I’m ALWAYS thinking that, and yet I just want to come home, cuddle my cat, and take a good long nap in my comfy bed.

  36. Thanks for this. I’m a fellow S.A.D. sufferer, so I’ll be looking forward to future installments! Yesterday when I walked out of work and it was pitch black, I almost burst into tears. Friends try to talk me into “seeing” it differently or tell me I hate winter just because I was born in summer, but this is just not it. It’s a legitimate diagnosis and it’s VERY real.

    I think for me also, moving from an academic world (both as a student and then teacher) and a theatrical world into a land of regular days jobs and mortgages, it’s gotten so much worse. Because I’ve lost the world of beginnings and ends (semesters, school years, productions, etc), so every winter is just another winter. I’ll now see sunlight only 2 days a week until springtime, and nothing will happen in between. Every day, the same routine, no “finishing” anything or starting anything new. That makes everything feel so much darker and colder.

    I will say one tiny thing that has made a difference in the past two winters: I close all the blinds and curtains the second I get home and turn on twinkle lights. I don’t want one inch of visible darkness. It’s been oddly helpful.

    And I do meditate every morning, which helps. And I use a light box. I can’t do the thing where I just sit in front of it for a half-hour, but I use it while getting ready in the mornings. The most frustrating part is having to find all of these things that make a 0.005% amount of difference, and sticking with them and combining them instead of giving up and waiting for that one thing that makes, like, a 15% difference immediately. That thing is not real.

    Anyway, looking forward to more, and to everyone else’s experiences as well!

  37. Thank you so much for sharing. I too have major depression with a dose of anxiety and suffer greatly from SAD. I’m really worried about this winter because at the end of winter this past year I ended up in the hospital for five days for a major depressive episode. I have better psych care now, which makes me feel a little less worried, but still I worry.

    Your line about a baseline sadness really hit home for me. It is something that I’ve tried to make non-clinically-depressed people understand over the years.

    Saying that I look forward to more of this series feels weird, I really wish that we all didn’t suffer so much, but I appreciate your willingness to be so transparent with your life and experiences.

  38. I am so thankful to you for writing this. That baseline sadness description could not have been more perfect. I just moved to northern England from DC and the combo of the weak sun, fog, and early nights are rearing SAD up hella early this year. SAD sucks but hell yeah we’ll get through this together!! Winter ain’t got nothing on an army of angry lesbians+!!!

  39. There are so many things I’ve read on autostraddle that have touched me, amused me, made me cry and made me think. 0ut of all of them, this one affected me the most deeply. Though it has nothing to do with queerness (and there are so many great articles that do) this one touched me right where it hurt and reminded me that I was not alone. In the content and the comments I was reminded that so many were fighting this invisible, in so many ways stigmatized battle. In my life, save for a close few, no one knows I go through these things. There’s so much more I could say about this. I have been thinking for a long while about contributing to autostraddle financially and I have now decided to do it because we NEED this kind of space and community…for the queer parts, for the hurt parts, for the human part and for the deeply important reminders that we are not alone in this sometimes very difficult world. Thank you, thank you for this, I am so glad there will be more. And to all my fellow humans…we can make it through this, together, with love, glitter and sharing. Be well, my dears.

  40. Rationally, I know that I’m not the only one who feels this way, but it’s always a relief when someone else articulates your anxiety/depression like you just did. I’m terrified of dying, but I also don’t want to exist sometimes…yet I also don’t want to miss anything because there are so many good things in my life, so, like, I wanna be a ghost? Anyway, thumbs up, Heather.

  41. I’m just so glad a place exists where we can safely and openly discuss the realities of dealing with mental illness. It’s so easy to live day to day and feel so wrong and broken for feeling things the way that you do and to wonder why you can’t just feel the right things at the right times like everyone else (and wonder if you really are making it all up). I may not have anywhere near the kind of support system I probably need for dealing with my depression but things like this really do help. It’s something to hang on to.

  42. Admittedly this post brought me down some, BUT it was in a really good “oh gosh this writing style is amazing and translates wonderfully into my brain space and all the nooks and crannies that haven’t been stimulated in a while” like the way a magnificent book does and makes you want to write and write and write-”

    Anyway. I am sorry that SAD hits so hard for you, and that the prepping for it causes you such anxiety. Thank you for being willing to write about it and your experiences. Mental hugs and long distance support for you from my speck of the world.

  43. “I didn’t even really want to die. I just didn’t want to exist anymore.” THIS.

    I have SAD. My SAD comes in the form of depression and anxiety. I used to work nights, and the hardest part was leaving my apartment to go to work when it was already dark. I’m okay going somewhere when it’s dark, but if I’m leaving my apartment when it’s dark, I get anxious. It’s hard to describe- it’s like when it’s light out, everything’s safe(r). I’m afraid of the dark. I’m not scared of anything actually happening, except being anxious. I have a lot of anxiety about my anxiety.

    Yet, fall is my favorite season. I hate summer- I can’t deal with the heat. Spring doesn’t happen in NY anymore. And winter just never ends. The height of my illness was during the fall. I got better during the winter. My thought still is, if I can get through the fall, I’ll make it to the new year, and I’ll make it to Life Day (a personal anniversary of my recovery) and my birthday (Feb 2).

    I actually want to get a fall themed tattoo. Just to remind myself that leaves fall…it’s what they do. It’s going to happen every year, and I’m going to survive it. But for now, I’m going to leave my apartment a bit earlier to make sure I’m out before the sun goes down.

  44. I’m really looking forward to reading about your experiences with this. Thank you for sharing. I struggle through winters as well, and since moving to a new state and starting grad school a couple months ago, my anxiety has reached new heights (multiple panic attacks a week.) Needless to say, I’m worried about the winter.

  45. Oh, I need this this winter. I’ve quit Facebook for the rest of the year because seeing all my friends’ posts who are in the same field (yay acting-based insecurity!) as me was giving me anxiety attacks for the first time in my life. It was making me crumble because I felt so helpless and left behind, and how do you voice that to your loved ones without sounding bitter and insecure? Anyway, I’ve quit and I’m forcing myself to write a short film. I’ve also posted a list of all my fears next to my bedroom door so I have to look at them before I leave to go anywhere. It’s crazy how something so small is keeping me grounded.

  46. Oh jesus. I have some version of this (hard to tell since I move around a lot and come from a country with no winter) – I can’t deal with grey weather, like at all. There needs to be SOME sunlight otherwise I am even more in a depressive hellhole than usual. Last time I was in the UK over Winter I bailed on my family and went back to the Bay Area a couple of weeks earlier because it was TOO GREY and I needed some COLOR ARGH I DON’T KNOW HOW MY SISTER DOES IT.

    I also really do not understand people who like rain. Rain is terrible. It’s grey and muddy and there’s no light and urgggggghhhhhhhhhh whyyyyyyyyyy.

  47. I have been staring at my screen for at least half an hour trying to comprehend how someone I have never met has just managed to decode this at times crippling darkness that has blanketed me for as long as I can remember. I feel a need to try to sort through these thoughts and feelings but on the other hand I don’t want to cry any more. Heather, once again your writing has sliced through the walls I have so carefully crafted and knocked me right on my ass. Damn you and thank you for being so open and honest.

  48. I bookmarked this when it was first posted because, like all your writing, I wanted to read it but knew it would be difficult for me. And, it was but in that good way, you know? That way of, oh this sucks that someone (or as the comments show many someones) understands this on such a meaningful level. It makes me sad (lol) but it also reinforces that we are not alone and that there is kindness and good and hope out in the world. I hope this is making some kind of sense. <3

  49. Heather,
    You are a really brave woman. Even if your writing had no personal resonance for me (cut off contact with my bpd/narcissistic mother) it would still be worth reading for the wonderfully eloquent insight into a beautiful heart and mind. Thank you for sharing yourself so freely. Thank you for being you.

    By sharing you are being selfless, so please keep ignoring what your mother has to say. You are a good person and you touch so many lives for the better. The good list is overflowing – keep making it though. Read it this winter when SAD attacks. Please take care of yourself, don’t feel that you have an obligation to any of us to continue sharing, but do it as long as it is helpful for you.

    Thank you.

  50. I have to add my thanks to the many others, as well. I’m not particularly articulate, so having someone be able to describe this situation that so many of us are in so well is really helpful (and surprisingly cathartic). I will be joining you, so to speak, with my paper diary at home, and I think writing it all down is a great plan. Thanks for the idea. 🙂

  51. Hi Heather! I really enjoyed this a whole lot. I shared it on my blog, even. Thanks for being honest about this. I think far too many people don’t take this form of depression very seriously at all and it is often pushed under the rug, if you will.

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.