Sunshine for The SAD Girl: In Which I Combat Seasonal Depression With A Gratitude List

Today marks another full week without sun.

It’s been like this since January, which was apparently the darkest January on record for over a decade. We had about half a day’s worth (12 hours) of sunlight in the entire MONTH of January. February looked promising, what with the dazzling first four days and their gleaming glittering bluesky weather–but pretty quickly that got scrubbed over by cloud cover that just hasn’t let up since.

For people like me, this starts to stack up into some very real limitations. Everybody gets a bit down in the dumps after enough time in dreary weather, but some are more sensitive to it than others. Some are so sensitive to it that it becomes a genuine impediment on their daily lives. We call it seasonal depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (with the appropriate acronym SAD), and I’ve struggled with it for the last three or four years of my life.

The good news is, I’ve struggled significantly less with it this year. I’d attribute this easier living to three things:

  1. Trying to work with my depleted energy levels instead of against them;
  2. More attention to a nutritious, winter-conscious diet (lots of squash and spinach);
  3. Daily physical interaction with loving humans (shoutout to my incomparable roommates)

While I’ve had more or less the same low-power cycle this year that I’ve had most years, I haven’t been as frustrated about it, and that’s saved me plenty of energy on its own–it takes a lot of effort to be angry about something. Especially something that won’t change by being angry at it. I’ve maintained some level of energy by trying my best to eat foods rich in the stuff that wintertime deprives me of, and, crucially, I’ve had the love and support and good humour of two people who make me tea and snacks and hugs when I need a boost in motivation or understanding. It’s made everything astonishingly easier.

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But it isn’t a perfect solution. Far from it. I still isolate myself from other people, wanting to connect to my community but unable to work up the emotional energy to sustain a conversation; I still forget to eat, or resort to toast or crackers and cheese because I don’t have the drive to make a meal; and I still get frustrated, I really, really do. Bitter, furious weeping sort of frustrated. I still wake up and look at the ceiling and think to myself, “do I really have to get up? Or can I just set an alarm for the Equinox and take it from there?”

When life is pulling you down, what’s the best and most effective way to uplift yourself? Cultivating gratitude. It’s been shown again and again and again. My good friend and fellow eAmbassador Jasmin even published a gratitude list of her own back in November. Devoting time to considering what you’re thankful for is a surefire way to let a little sunshine in through the clouds of a miserable mind. So here’s my attempt to brighten my own skies:

The List of Little Sunshines

Self:

  • After years of wanting to do it, I finally built a morning routine that I’ve stuck with for over six months now. That’s a lot of commitment and a lot of discipline, and I’m grateful to myself for recognizing and acting on the sacred importance of self-care.
  • I finished the first volume of my book–and named it The Heretic’s Guide to Homecoming. (It has a name now!) Everyone dreams of writing a book, but I actually put in the daily work to do it, and now I have something to show. (And something to read when I need a pep talk from myself.)
  • My finances are looking better than they ever have before–I’ve received some pretty hefty scholarships/bursaries from Glendon and York in recent months, I’ve been enthusiastically invited back for a third summer with Explore, and the prospects are lining up for post-graduation. Of the things I have to worry about, paying rent is not one of them. I’m thankful.
  • In a week’s time I’m flying down to Massachusetts to visit Anna for Reading Week–and a week of snuggles and laughing and love is just what I need.
  • My Honours Thesis is giving me the opportunity to earn academic credit by using traditionally non-academic skills–graphic design, illustration, and fiction writing–and to create an end product that has real, lasting value.
  • I have the incredible gift of mobility, of movement. No matter how little energy I feel I have, I can do my sun salutations. I can sprint for the bus. I can dance.
  • No matter how miserably or apathetically I wake up, I do wake up.

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Community:

  • I received a message out of the blue from an old friend telling me how much she loves and respects me and how she wants to reconnect, which got me through a hard morning.
  • I received another message from a friend I don’t know very well inviting me out to a group singing session at Choir! Choir! Choir!–and nothing makes me happier than singing with friends.
  • My lovely partner Anna and I are only a step or two away from completing Anna’s immigration application. Once we’ve sent that in, it’s only a matter of waiting until we can start our lives together in Toronto!
  • Speaking of Anna, they’re finally writing their book after probably seven or eight years of thinking about doing it–and they’ve written nearly 100 pages of material since November! I’m grateful for being able to return the favour of all the help Anna’s given me in making my own art.
  • Speaking of art and writing, at least SIX of my friends are suddenly writing their OWN books, and I honestly want nothing else in the world but to spend my days consuming the sort of smart, well-crafted, engaging stories I know they’re capable of creating.
  • Some really good friends of mine are getting married in England this summer and I am a) incredibly happy for them and b) getting pretty excited about the potential trip to France that I can take while I’m on that side of the ocean.
  • The Glendon Leadership & Career Summit happened this Friday, and gave me a free opportunity to flex my leadership muscles and to converse and network with people I really respect and look up to.
  • Instead of getting any work done yesterday I spent a good seven hours just hanging out with my parents and talking, which we don’t do very often, and which reminded me that if nothing else I have an intensely loving (and hilarious) family to lean into.
  • People keep asking me to make guest appearances on their podcasts and to collaborate with them on their albums and to partner with them in their business ventures. I’m amazed that everyone wants me on their team, and I’m thankful for it.
  • In a similar vein, a lot of people tell me that they benefit from this blog. A lot. Friends, classmates, distant relatives (?!?!), people I’ve never met or spoken to before–a lot. I am so grateful to have a platform from which to share my musings and my little bits of wisdom. I am so happy they are useful.

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Society & The World:

  • Season 4 of Black Sails is finally here and soon enough so will the first season of American Gods (and shows like Stranger Things and Westworld exist and are eventually getting second seasons as well). Good art informs and sustains me.
  • Speaking of good art and artists, Darlingside and Anaïs Mitchell are both responsible for making music that’s helped me to survive this winter. Thank you.
  • I hear Finland is making major changes to its education system, which is a first step towards the major reform that our crusty 200-year-old education system desperately needs.
  • We’re kicking malaria’s butt. And a lot of endangered animals are repopulating. And a bunch of other things.
  • Philippe Petit is still alive and kicking.
  • So is Lin-Manuel Miranda. And Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer. And you, whoever you are. I’m happy you’re here.

A photo by Gustavo Quepón. unsplash.com/photos/pF_2lrjWiJE

Focusing on all of these things makes me hopeful. It gives me courage. It reminds me how much there is to celebrate, to take pleasure in, to be grateful for. And it helps me to usher out the clouds in my own spirit. We’re knee-deep in snowstorm right now, but I feel just a little sunnier on the inside.

What are you grateful for today? This week? Let me know so we can celebrate it together. ❤

With love and sunshine,

~Sisi

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3 thoughts on “Sunshine for The SAD Girl: In Which I Combat Seasonal Depression With A Gratitude List

  1. Thank you so much for writing this post. It has helped me with my Seasonal Depression(because I needed the reminder that I am not alone with suffering), it is so comforting to know that there are other people who suffer from some of the same things that you do. You are a strong and wonderful person and I appreciate your being in my life.

    Like

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