I am sad. And I don’t just mean sad, I mean, SAD. I should have seen it coming. A few weeks ago, I started getting really homesick, the kind of homesick where you look up flights to America 24/7 (or wherever you’re from) and dream of clicking the “Book” button to take yourself away from it all. The kind of homesick you can’t share with the people around you because you worry that they’ll think that you think they’re not good enough for you. And that’s not it at all. You’re just homesick, even after all these years.
Then the general sadness hit. And I realized – oh god, it’s time!
I first suspected I suffered from seasonal depression back in 2010, my first winter in Pittsburgh. Not only was it the bleakest season I had ever experienced weather-wise, but it was the bleakest season I had ever had emotionally. I had incredible friends, great classes, and was known for being positive, and yet my best friend had to constantly ply me with hashbrowns and send me uplifting playlists to try and get me to be ‘myself’ again.
I’m not sure if these feelings are caused by spending 18 years in a climate with constant sunshine or if they were within me the whole time and just never showed themselves because the weather never changed, but the fact of the matter is — I don’t live in Florida anymore. The leaves are changing, the days are getting shorter (very quickly), the light feels dimmer, and winter is on its way.
I used to think seasonal depression was not even a thing. I mean, yeah, the weather isn’t the greatest, people probably aren’t as happy! Makes perfect sense to me! People tell you – “It’s England! You can’t just stop doing things because it rains and is cold!”
Except it’s a lot more than that. It’s just this general heaviness that you carry around with you. It is a lack of excitement over things you used to get excited about, it is difficulty being anything but flat and emotionless, it is a lack of a desire to do anything but live life on autopilot mode. It’s not like I spend the winter crying my eyes out. I just feel…mostly nothing. And I want to do…mostly nothing.
This is hard to come to terms with for someone who has somehow gained a reputation for always being able to see the positive side. It feels, in these moments, that I am somehow broken. I typically have tons of things on my plate that I’m working on and trying to accomplish and I like to work hard, so how could that person also be the same person who can barely muster up the energy to get out of bed?
I am probably lucky, because I can fight it enough to carry on a somewhat normal life this time of year. But I’ll have episodes, on occasion, like my birthday weekend last February where Guy had to drag me out of bed to go get a buffet breakfast (you know I’m not myself when a buffet breakfast doesn’t entice me) and try to cheer me up. And we got home, and I crawled back in bed and stared at the ceiling for the next couple of hours until I fell asleep.
I’m not fully there yet, right now, but I can feel it coming. Guy noticed it last week. My coworkers noticed it this week. Other who interact with me frequently will probably start to notice soon, if they haven’t already, because it’s kind of hard to miss it when I’m basically staring right through you, not reacting to anything. And I have to admit that it’s happening again.
The good thing is that I’ve been through this before. I know that these feelings will pass, that I will be myself again. I’m going home in January and know my mood will instantly snap back as as soon as we land. But I have to find a way to deal with it here, in the now, because there are a lot of dark months ahead.
Whether you’re an expat in the same situation as me having gone from the land of eternal sunshine to the land of eternal rain, or maybe you haven’t moved at all but you’re feeling the SAD effects starting to kick in – just know that you’re not alone, that the feelings you feel are real and it’s okay that they don’t make any sense.
For more information on SAD and tips on how to combat it, check out this article.