Seasonal Thoughts

Matt and I spent the weekend in New York, where Mother Nature has already made the changeover to fall. We went for a morning walk/run (I walked, he ran) on Saturday at a brisk 60 degrees, and the highs during the day were in the low 70s. After watching the meteor shower Saturday night, we awoke after sunrise to temperatures in the low 50s.

This made me happy.

I’ve always disliked summer. As a child I generally associated it with lack of friends (whom I mostly only saw at school), moving (we were military), and lack of structure and routine. We had great fun during the summers, of course, visiting family, going on exciting road trips, and just having fun playing outside or swimming at the Officer’s Club pool in the oppressive Texas heat.

Fall always represented new beginnings: a new school year–or maybe even a new school. A slight reprieve from the heat. The return of routine and school days, where, as an aspiring academic, I flourished. Most of the public schools I went to were underfunded or generally staffed with questionable characters (middle school science teachers that told dirty jokes while watching the 12-year old girls for their reactions), but my math and English teachers were all dedicated enough to get me to where I am today (I didn’t have decent science teachers until high school).

Perhaps the lack of a full four seasons living in the Deep South also led me to idealize fall and winter. Growing up in stifling heat and humidity in Alabama, Texas, and Florida made me crave the snow we experienced the one year we lived in Maryland (during the Storm of the Century) and at various times visiting my grandmother in upstate New York.

In college I took an introductory psychology course. In covering an array of issues, we touched on Seasonal Af fective Disorder (SAD). I could identify with the general symptoms, but realized I felt them during the summer, not the winter. A short sentence in the textbook stated that some scientists were beginning to investigate reverse SAD, which affects people during the summer months.

It was a small amount of validation, but I couldn’t quite rationalize how the abundance of sunshine in the summer could possibly lead to the same symptoms as a lack of sunshine in the winter. Now the internet has all kinds of information, including the difference between the two SADs:

Fall and winter seasonal affective disorder (winter depression)
Winter-onset seasonal affective disorder symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of energy
  • Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
  • Social withdrawal
  • Oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating

Spring and summer seasonal affective disorder (summer depression)
Summer-onset seasonal affective disorder symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Weight loss
  • Poor appetite
  • Increased sex drive

Frankly, the symptoms on both lists also align with symptoms of my OCD/depression/anxiety issues, so I’m not really sure how to parse through the issues. All I know is I become increasingly depressed as winter ends and summer peaks. My favorite day of summer is the first day of summer, at which point the days start becoming shorter again.

Anyone else experience SAD?

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