Feeling down

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

November has arrived. Soon, it will be time for Thanksgiving and Christmas and more parties than you can feasibly attend. For many people, this is the best time of the year. Normally I would be one of these people, but I've been experiencing a bit of seasonal depression this year.

Depression itself is no stranger to me. When I was in college, I was so depressed that I regularly visited a third-story window and wondered if anyone would miss me if I jumped out of it. I don't remember too much more from that time; mostly I remember doing a lot of things and not really caring about any of it.

I went to work and wrote press releases. I went to class and took notes. I went to dinner and ate food I didn't like. Everything felt very "blah" to me, as if it didn't matter what I did. It was all the same to me, and nothing felt exciting. Every day, I drove on autopilot.

That changed after I got out of a bad relationship and ended friendships I never should have started. By my senior year of college, I began enjoying the little things again. My work became fun, and I found myself loving all the classes I was taking. Somehow, that didn't immunize me to seasonal depression.

Seasonal depression still lurked around the corner, and it still does today. It usually starts late in October. Until it begins, I'm never sure how bad it's going to be. Unfortunately, it's already hit me hard this year.

From my in-depth research -- an Internet search of "seasonal depression why" -- I've learned that seasonal depression happens in large part because of the way the weather changes during the fall and winter. It gets dark earlier, and the days are even a little darker than they are in the summer and spring.

This can cause many people to isolate themselves indoors, allowing the depression to marinate in a closed container. I know I'm prone to this, but I don't really want to go outside when it's really cold out. I prefer looking at dead leaves from my heated apartment and feeling disappointed in myself for not exercising.

Ironically, the holidays can be a huge cause of seasonal depression. Family gatherings are fun if you have family, but some people don't. Other people, like me, spend a large part of Thanksgiving and Christmas wishing a dead loved one could be there.

For me, it's my papaw. He died when I was 12 and the holidays haven't been the same since. Just because I'm enjoying time with loved ones doesn't mean I don't miss him. I'll always miss him; the holidays just exacerbate it even more.

That said, I do love the holidays. I love seeing my family and eating food and giving presents. I've been buying Christmas presents since January, so it would be a bit of an understatement to say I'm excited about Christmas.

Being excited about the holidays and having seasonal depression aren't mutually exclusive. Though I am lucky my boyfriend understands that, I know it's a difficult concept for lots of people to grasp. It really helps me to have someone I can talk to about it, though.

If your loved one struggles around the holidays, I'd suggest you lend an ear. Depression is complex. Once you bring Thanksgiving and Christmas into the mix, it's even more complex. You probably can't understand or solve it, and that's OK.

It's the being there that helps.

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Samantha Jones is a reporter for the Carroll County News. Her email address is CCNNews@cox-internet.com.