A Few SAD Words about Seasonal Affective Disorder

It’s been strange weather in Toronto lately. I came back from Florida to frigidly cold temps and a bunch of snow, and then yesterday, it warmed up to 14C (about 60F) and was raining sheets that melted all the snow. As winters go, this one has been fairly typical. Last winter, we had almost no snow and really oddly warm temperatures. This winter has been rife with snowshowers and cold winds. You get what you get and you don’t get upset when it comes to Canadian weather.

I love winter, but it doesn’t seem to matter what the weather is when it comes to the end of January, early February. I get tired of the grey skies and the freezing temperatures, or in the case of last year, the endless rain. I start feeling hopeless and apathetic, and I feel like I’m never going to see the sun again. I stop sleeping. And I start feeling like no one likes me and that I need to just hide in a hole and never come out.

This is by far not unique to me – there are millions of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) sufferers. And we all feel similarly. There’s an old Latin word, acedia, which refers to this exact feeling. The feeling of desperation, of boredom, of wanting to break out of current circumstances but having no energy to do so.

I’m suffering from a lot of acedia lately. I don’t really want to see friends or go out. I had a brief respite during my time in Florida, but it’s back to what it’s been. I’ve been fairly sick, suffering from a heavy respiratory flu, and I have been physically unable to keep up with my chores this week. I’m back to it now, but the feelings of uselessness and self-annoyance built up a lot and I had a day or so of naked self-hatred.

I’m treating this as a blip on the radar. I know it gets better at the end of February, when spring comes again. I do love the glitter of the snow and the fresh winds when I step outside. I try to focus on the positive things. I love taking pictures. I love playing with the cats. I love watching Toronto life. It’s just not enough lately. I am a person who prides herself on being able to work without stopping. Since I’m now only working part-time, I have a lot of hours in the day to fill. There are only so many times you can clean the same closet, or write a blog, or even tweet on Twitter to celebrities (hey, I’m still a teenager at heart!). I’m naturally shy, so I find it hard to just step out and go to a coffee shop and write there, though it would be so easy to do. But that’s where the apathy gets in the way – it’s so hard to pack up and go only to come back to this drafty, cold house.

My only consolation is that I get more functional when winter lets up a little. That I feel extreme joy when I get to buy the first tulips of the season on the Bloor St flower stands. That walking in the park, or visiting a friend, becomes a lot easier because it’s warmer. I don’t hate winter; in fact, I love it. But I hate the shut-in feeling I get at this time of year.

I don’t know why I’m writing this, really, except that I think this is something that doesn’t get talked about a lot. That it’s hard to admit that you feel less than stellar when there’s so much pain in the world. That as much as you love your friends, planning to see them takes a lot of effort because you basically want to hibernate until the cold and snow are gone. And it’s just easier to do nothing at all.

I’m working on my next book, a volume of short stories inspired by historical Toronto and the Archives’ wonderful photos. I’m planning, even if it’s just a dream, to go to London, UK, in June, because I want to visit my best friend and meet so many of the people I’ve been speaking to for years online. And because I have such a pull towards the UK – I’m ¾ English, I want to see where I came from.

It will let up. It will end. The hour is always darkest and coldest before the dawn, and I’ve seen a lot of dawns lately, sitting here in my chair all night, watching the leaves scud across the sidewalks and the traffic go by on Bloor at 4 AM. I guess what I’m saying is, I understand now why people hate winter.

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