*Content warning: discussion of anxiety, panic, and how Seasonal Affective Disorder can present itself in my life.
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So, lately, I’ve become more and more aware of the end of summer. Today in the town where I live, school is back in session. That means that the grocery store will get really busy at around 3:30 again and soon I’ll have to slow down through some of the best routes around town. Maybe it means that I’ll be able to get coffee with some of my mom friends more often?
It also means the end of summer.
And, look, summer isn’t my favorite season by any means. I’m not the kind of kid who deals well with heat at all—though I’m dealing with it better in the past few years. But soon the sun will start going down at around 4:00 pm and I’m not ready for it.
I have Seasonal Affective Disorder and winters can be so hard on me that even in August, I’m starting to stress out about knowing that the darkness is coming and there’s really not much we can do to stop it.
Last week Ryan came in the house and I was stuck on the couch. I wanted to get up and go outside but my limbs wouldn’t work for me. I was lying there holding a pillow in front of my face to hide that I was crying.
The panic kind of sweeps in out of nowhere like that. One minute it’s a sunny August day and your dog wants you to take her outside and the next minute, you’re pinned to the sofa and all I could verbalize to Ryan was, “It’s. Getting. Bad. It’s. Getting. Bad.” He sits by me and rubs my back until I yank away from him because he’s making me hot but I don’t have the words to explain—so then there’s another thing that gets added on. Sure, we’re already drowning in panic out of the blue let’s take on a bunch of guilt too, why not.
Ryan’s amazing when I’m in a space like that. He gets this really calm voice and tells me true things. He exaggerates his breathing to encourage me to match him. This particular time, it didn’t get so bad. I wasn’t completely swallowed and I felt really good about it. I’ve worked for years on dealing with panic attacks and sometimes it feels like you’re not getting anywhere. But those times when it doesn’t ruin your entire day is such a massive victory and it deserves to be celebrated. Any time you live through a panic attack, though, to be honest, it deserves to be celebrated.
After I calmed down, I explained to him about my worry. That I’ll get depressed when the sun starts to go down and I’m scared of it. I’m scared that this year it’ll get really, really bad because I don’t know if I have enough energy to fight it off this year.
We decided to not waste a summer night. So we went for a drive to Coronado Heights. I took a lot of photographs.
He’s so beautiful.
He had a birthday on Sunday, you know? He’s worth celebrating.
I was reminded, today, of the importance of not only having a list of healthy coping tools handy but also keeping a schedule. I have the best friends who remind me of what I need and remind me to remember what has helped in the past.
What has helped me in the past (items in bold are usually reliable quick fixes, the others are more long-term solutions):
Riding my stationary bike often.
Cooking and eating meals that do good things to my body.
Watching game shows on television.
Taking a shower.
Wearing clothes that feel good on my body.
Cooking meals that we only get to eat when it’s cold outside.
Visiting with friends and checking in.
Another thing that I want to remember is that it’s okay to not be okay and trying to fit a square peg into a round hole only makes things worse.
Please, I would love it if you’d share your list of coping mechanisms or other things you use to get through the hardest seasons for you. I’m going to keep a list in my planner, next to my bed, and in my phone. I never want to be without it. Let’s help hold one another up as the days get shorter.