I lay in my bed, my eyes slowly opening as I awake from a deep sleep. I squint. For the first time in months, a sliver of light peaks through the blinds, a hint of spring in the air. After snowfall upon snowfall with frigid winter temperatures I am eager for warmer temperatures to come. I am not one of those people who hates winter either. I enjoy watching the snowflakes falling outside, each one with a unique shape crystalized on the window pane, like looking through a kaleidoscope, mesmerized by the image, until I am in an almost hypnotic state. As the snow forms a clean white blanket softly covering the earth, it has an unusually calming effect on me.

Yet for some reason, this year, unlike any other, I yearn for brighter days. I’ve found myself in a dark depression that the cold seems to only make worse, offering no comfort. Although I don’t think I’ve felt it to this extent before and it seems to become more profound with age, I am no stranger to this experience. I know others who have suffered from this disorder for years. It is a common and often overlooked mental illness, formally known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

SAD usually first strikes when the sun begins to disappear behind those overcast skies fraught with the impending gloomy storms we in Canada have come to expect in the midst of winter. Getting through those storms can be a challenge for those affected by SAD. Many do not leave their homes, feeling trapped and frozen inside by the cold. But the low temperature alone isn’t to blame. The absence of daylight that accompanies lower temperatures is what creates a feeling of sadness in us and leaves us without the motivation to get out of bed and have a productive, balanced day. Instead, we become stagnant, much like animals in the environment that disappear in the winter, either flying to places with a hot climate or staying inside and hibernating, making an appearance when the climate becomes warmer. Nature seems to come alive in the spring!

Like flower petals that open with light and close in its absence, we too need light to flourish. Some people buy an expensive light specially produced for people with this problem. They sit in front of it for periods of time throughout the day during the winter months. Others take the recommended daily amount of vitamin D supplement that one would otherwise naturally get from being outdoors in the warmer seasons claiming that it gives their mood a much needed uplifting boost. This positive effect becomes more obvious when we put our clocks ahead one hour and though we lose an hour of sleep, we say goodbye to the dreaded darkness and wake up to a mood enhancing burst of sunshine to start the day announcing springtime is near. Although we should probably brace ourselves for one last unpredictable snowfall in the next few weeks, nothing can replace our awe of the natural beauty we are inherently drawn to in the magnificence of the coming season’s rising or setting of the sun.

About Rosa Dawson

I'm a 40 year old female from Ontario, Canada. I have first-hand experience with mental health. Officially diagnosed with being in the early stages of schizoaffective disorder in 2004, I struggle with depression and schizophrenia. I've had suicidal thoughts for many years and on a few occasions I have tried to kill myself. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Sociology, I have studied mental illness with the goal of making a positive difference in the lives of others. Looking back, although I would not know it at the time, I probably had issues at a young age. I believe society has yet to take a proactive approach to mental health. With my writing, I wish to reach as many people as possible with this message: You should not suffer in silence. You are not alone.

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