With the exception of my magical wedding day in Italy in September, I haven’t felt so alive since… since 2013, when I last lived, briefly, in Spain. This time, however, I am not alone. We left northern England two weeks ago in our VW Camper van and have been in Valencia for around ten days.
It is no secret that I have not wanted to live in the UK for several years now, for various reasons: lack of jobs in my sector (teaching EFL); terrible weather; the ‘work hard, go home and veg out’ ethic; the cost of living; the undercurrent of tension on a night out. Add to that a winter that seems to last most of the year and being a sufferer of SAD; it’s no wonder I’ve been itching to leave for years.
Everyone feels better in the sunshine, there’s no denying that. But as you may have seen from previous, dark blogs, it’s a little more than that for me. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of seasonal depression, not yet completely understood, which affects people in countries with little daylight in the winter months. I use a light box, which definitely takes the edge off it, but from October to around May I simply feel miserable and negative, constantly questioning my inability to feel positive about life. Even things which I normally enjoy hold little pleasure; I become paranoid about friendships and generally feel ‘dead’. The constant grey skies, cloud cover and epic flooding of last November, December and January left me feeling crushed, as if the weight of the solid grey sky were suffocating me. So, our escape South came just in time.
The thing about SAD is that it leaves you feeling like this is just you; it’s just the way you are. You’re a dissatisfied, negative character, constantly yearning for something to make you feel alive again. Then, as the days lengthen in late April and May, you start to unfurl like the new flowers in Spring. Suddenly, one day, you realise that you don’t feel dead anymore. The sun shines and literally puts a spring in your step. You are reminded that you are someone who enjoys life; going out, seeing people, having fun. This is who you are, oh yeah! For a few months, anyway.
And that is the thing about living in a warmer climate; it allows me to be a better version of myself. Waking up to blue skies and sunshine gives me the energy and confidence to face the challenges ahead and right now, we have taken on an epic challenge! I feel alive for the first time in years. Yes, this is partly due the fact that I am somewhere new, and I also thrive on difference (not everybody does). Every day I experience new things and my confidence grows. It is so much easier to feel happy when the sun shines every day. I just wish everyone in the UK could feel the benefits, too.