Another January in this goddam ‘city’. I have been hoping, trying, to leave for the past year. And now I know that I will be here for at least another year, it’s not exactly making me do the happy dance.
However, the reason we have postponed our ‘go to live in Valencia’ plans is a deliriously exciting one for us. We have finally decided to get married after our 18 month engagement. As the wedding will be at Lake Garda on 1st September 2015 (this year!) we, especially I, thought that planning a wedding and moving abroad in the same 8 months might be a little much. I want to enjoy planning our wedding.
Still, remaining in York means another year of slogging through the dark days, of which there are way too many. For the past four years I’ve suffered quite badly with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is more than feeling a bit down/tired because of the dark mornings and afternoons in midwinter. This is fighting back tears every morning as I get ready for work; not wanting to bother seeing friends (on the rare occasions that they’re free); being plagued by insecurity and self doubt; feeling overwhelmed and stressed by tasks that wouldn’t even register if it were June; feeling like my head is full of cotton wool and being unable to think clearly. Then, towards the end of April/start of May, like magic, I start to feel normal again and come back to life.
One of the things that makes living with SAD frustrating is how unsympathetic people can be. “Don’t let the weather control your mood,” I’ve heard people say. Firstly, it’s not just the weather, it’s the lack of light. Secondly, it’s like telling someone with a sprained ankle not to limp; something beyond your control is affecting the way your body or mind works. Although the exact biology of SAD is still being explored, it is thought that the lack of light affects the body’s ability to produce melatonin and serotonin and can disrupt circadian rhythms.
Last year I was dreading the onset of Winter so much that I had to consciously repress any thoughts of it. I experience a regular feeling of hopelessness; of being suffocated and feeling like everything, including myself, is heavy and grey. So last year I tried to think of the nice things that happen in Winter: hot chocolate after a cold day out; snuggly nights in with films; Christmas (or Yule, for me). I also bought myself a small lightbox/sunrise alarm in October. This has definitely helped- incredibly so in the first few weeks. But January-March always seems to be the hardest time, even though midwinter has passed. Perhaps because it often coincides with the inevitable unemployment that stalks EFL teachers in the UK. There’s nothing like looking for jobs that don’t exist to dampen your spirits.
Thankfully, the lightbox has taken the edge off the worst of the symptoms. I am also making sure I exercise regularly (something I’ve always done) and eat less sugar. I have added a link to the British SAD organisation to raise awareness.
I was a midsummer baby. I feel alive when the sun shines, even if it is winter sunlight. That is why I am always happier when I’m living abroad; sunlight makes me feel alive. And it’s not just me.