When fall arrives, there’s something in the air besides woodsmoke and the gorgeous color of the surrounding landscape– gloom. Oh, it can be a delicious gloom: the kind of gloom that’s the perfect setting for cuddling up to a pile of big, fat books with a pot of tea and a bowl of…popcorn? Okay, make that shortbread cookies–popcorn isn’t really cuddly. Gloom is also great for cuddling with your sweetie, or reading to little ones. Gloom is perfect for such moments. Gloom is the lifeblood of the romantic soul.
But sometimes the gloom can go from romantic and cozy to emotionally gothic in the span of a day.
By nature I’m not a gloomy person. But when the dark, rainy skies of fall show up, Eyeore has nothing on me. I think I write about having S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) every fall, but only because it keeps coming up. And I know a lot of other people who get the winter blues, too.
It sneaks up on a person. One day you’re enjoying a spontaneous rebirth of summer sunshine in October, and the next you’re wondering did I really eat that entire bag of tortilla chips, and is that salsa on my pillowcase? What day is it? Talk about a shock to the system.
Common symptoms include:
–Not giving a damn.
–Taking one or more naps a day.
–Not leaving the house for several days.
–Inability to remember when your last shower was.
–A craving for anything in a crackly bag, a chocolate wrapper, or in a package labeled cheese-anything, including actual cheese.
–Higher than normal desire to have an extra glass of wine with dinner.
–Did I mention naps?
Wait. That’s the exact same list the would explain a day in the life of a writer! How interesting.
I’m kidding. Sort of. S.A.D. is not something you mess around with. It should be recognized and diagnosed by a doctor.
When I look online about controlling S.A.D., I read a lot about exercise, medication, happy lights, and proper sleep and diet. I’m achingly familiar with all these things. Ironic, yes? Because it’s sometimes hard to break out of the blues for long enough to get up off the couch, let alone eat vegetables and–gasp!–exercise.
After years of online reading, I’m heading for my first and last lines of defense: books.
I am not a doctor, and this is not medical advice. But here are two books I’ve added to my own S.A.D. treatment schedule.
The first involves what I like to call the Bootstrap Method. As in, suck it up, girlfriend. (With zero apologies to Gay Talese, who should seriously know better.) Or, in classical terms, getting stoic about it. And if you’re talking stoicism, there’s no better teacher than Marcus Aurelius.
Marcus was the ultimate self-control freak. He was also beloved by many, and moderate in his thoughts, words, and deeds. What could be more effective than adding a little acceptance and positive thinking to kickstart one’s way out of seasonal depression? Think of it as an all-season solution.
The other addition I’m making is a bit more direct. There aren’t a whole lot of books on S.A.D. It’s disappointing to find it’s not deemed all that critical. But Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D. has written about it extensively in WINTER BLUES. The information is probably all online in a thousand places, but bless Doctor Rosenthal for putting it all together. Take a look yourself, or wait and I’ll let you know if it’s any good.
I hope your fall is more full of delicious books than winter blahs. How are you affected by the short days and gloom of fall and winter?