British Summertime (daylight saving) ended on Sunday morning. For many of us, that signals the beginning of darker months in more ways than one, as depression often worsens during winter time. The last couple of winters I have greeted with a touch of panic, but I feel rather resigned this year. I know there’s no need to wonder if it will affect me – it will. It is what it is. There is comfort in accepting that.
But then with every succeeding winter, I get a little more expert in managing my depression. I know the things I need to do in order to keep it reasonably under control. I need as much light as possible, so I will get outside as often as I can, I will keep lamps switched on all over the house, even during the daytime, I will festoon dark corners with candles and fairy lights, I will use a sunrise clock in the bedroom. I need exercise, so I will try to do something every day from now until Spring. Even if it’s just for 20 minutes. I need good nutrition, so I will stay off sugary stuff, caffeine, and alcohol, and try to get plenty of protein. I need sleep, so I will follow a good bedtime routine, drink sleepytime tea, and when necessary, taken medication without feeling guilty for doing so. These are my 4 foundation stones. I can’t lapse on any one of them without paying for it. I’ve learned that by experience.
But there are more subtle tweaks that need to be made too. Socialising when it’s the last thing I want to do. Learning better ways to manage stress. Remembering to take time to rest and relax, instead of rushing around at 100mph all of the time. Reminding myself of the bigger picture of life, when all I can see are petty little things. These are smaller things, but they are harder to achieve, consistently. But, knowledge is power. The more I know about myself, how I work, and how I don’t work, the better equipped I am. That’s one of the gifts that an ongoing illness, mental or physical, brings you, if you can see it as such.
Because it’s not all bad, having depression, although to begin with you think it’s the end of the world (and there’s no denying that it is very painful and terrifying when your own mind starts to play nasty games with you). It has its flip side, and there comes a point when not only can you not imagine life without the challenge of depression, but you almost wouldn’t want it, because you can see the benefits it has given you. Patience. Endurance. Compassion. Resilience. Doggedness. Softening. Black humour. The realisation that few people are what they seem on the outside, (because to begin with you think you are crazy, no one else feels like you do, you aren’t normal, everyone else is happy and serene) that few people really are, and that how you feel is actually VERY normal!
So, winter isn’t going to be easy. But maybe it doesn’t have to be too hard either. We’ll get through it, if we help one another. Let’s light it up, together.