For me its always been back and forth, a constant tug of war in my head, my friend and editor Anna Learis refers to it as a pendulum. The relationship between puberty and depression was r = 1 during my middle and high school years. Moods shifted in days, weeks, months, but I always knew the sunken feeling would come back. The timing is quite predictable; when days get shorter, the air gets colder, and life gets busier I can feel it crawling back to me. November brings family, it brings Thanksgiving turkeys, it brings a much needed break from school, but it also brings depression.
I honestly thought I had conquered it somehow. I was coming off of a summer that was the most joyful time I’d experienced in my life. That happiness bled into the school year. After each day I’d ride my bike over to my friend Perie’s house, sit on the roof, and bake in the abnormally warm September sun. The time spent on the roof felt magical. There’s something about leaves falling off of trees in 90 degree weather that makes the boundaries of reality blur in my psyche. Nature was putting on a show just for us and it felt like summer was never going to end.
The relationship between nature and my mental health becomes more translucent each year. This summer I interacted with nature in more intimate ways than ever before, and the moments where my happiness was at its height all involved its beauty. Beaches, mountains, sand dunes and rolling hills boosted my serotonin to unforeseen levels. I can’t even go to the Arb now for more than an hour without getting uncomfortably cold.
Part of it is the clouds. When the sun refuses to show its face for more than a few days I start to feel trapped. All I want to do is escape the overcast blanket covering the sky but I can’t. Like any student I have responsibilities I can’t walk away from, so I look for escapes in unhealthy places. I start taking more drugs, and take them at irresponsible times. Maybe the answer to my emptiness will somehow appear in these neuroligically amplified experiences, but it never does. I ignore what I should be doing and only do what I absolutely want to in the moment, hoping it will make me feel happy, if just for short time. I go back on medication, but I refuse to be consistent about it. I only take it on days where I feel particularly empty, which as anyone who takes medication knows, isn’t how it works. Self-awareness doesn’t always lead to improved behavior. I go back to my therapist but I lie to her about how I’m doing, over some fear that she’ll think less of me if she knows how fucked up I feel. She’s the one that’s payed to help me, but how is she supposed to help if I’m not honest with her? Again, self-awareness, improved behavior.
It’s not as if my depression moves with the seasons in absolutes. I have bad days in the summer, but I have a plethora of outlets. I can go walk around in the Arb, swim, take a midnight bike ride, or sit around a fire and smoke with friends. Cold weather destroys all of these possibilities. This year the cold came like fire, sudden and vicious, and it drastically contrasted the intense heat of early fall. I can complain all I want about global warming, but I know I’d be happier if the heat returned.
Lately I never want to leave my room. Anything that forces me to get of bed is the enemy, and using the brilliant logic of depression - is clearly not as important as laying down. Sleeping any amount of time less than 9-10 hours feels cut short and illogical.
I still have good days in the winter, yet when I do they’re extremely intense. I feel so good that it’s almost manic, I’m filled with so much joy that I don’t know what to do with myself. Then it dissipates, and the starking contrast from my brief time of joy only makes me feel worse. I don’t know what to do with this frustrating phenomenon that occurs within my head every year, I don’t know how to fix it, I just know it happens.