“The days are getting longer! Spring is on the way! Don’t be such a sourpuss! Cheer up, by golly!”
This sourpuss has two words for you: get lost.
And a few more: go play on some black ice. In traffic.
Welcome to the ugly truth of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
A disclaimer: I do not have Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is real and difficult and not to be trifled with. It’s a genuine condition — a form of depression that occurs at the same time every year — and when untreated, it can have devastating consequences for some people.
I am not one of those people.
I’m merely a glib whiner who made the wrong decision about what part of the planet in which to live and is looking for a scapegoat.
As every kid trying to get out of gym class knows, if you fake an affliction long enough or with enough conviction, then you start to buy your own sales pitch, and because you feel so guilty you suffer almost as much as you would have with an actual diagnosis. Life is funny that way, what with that puritanical fire and brimstone inflicted on immoral souls.
My bogus SAD turns me more ornery than I am otherwise. Which is plenty ornery, given the lack of hush puppies and putt-putt golf in this godforsaken outpost we call home.
I do not want to hear your encouraging words about warmth and light on the horizon.
When it is in fact warm and light I’ll be marginally pleasant again, but not one second sooner. And by the way, I get to define warm and light. Under 72 degrees doesn’t cut it. And as for light, we’re talking not-dark-enough-for-fireworks-at-9 p.m. In the meantime, I’ll be huddling by the radiator, thanks, daydreaming about sweat.
Now, sheer willpower alone didn’t win me the gold in this bad attitude Olympics. I had help. My thermostat was set in milder climes. I was born in Texas, grew up in Virginia, and went to college in North Carolina. It was easier, in those places, to be jovial for more of the year. And yet it never occurred to me to attribute my carefree pirouettes to the joys of sunshine, heat and humidity. Would that I had better understood my tropical nature.
What I did understand was this: I could go anywhere and do anything. I graduated back in the halcyon days when most of us newly minted grownups with liberal arts degrees just picked up and moved to pretty much any place and found decent jobs and cheap apartments.
Urgent aside to today’s 21-year-olds: Spare me your venom! I speak only the historical truth! I wish it were the same for you now! Really! Hurting me will not fix the economy!
Without considering the implications, I landed in Boston, because of… trolleys. I like trolleys.
Curses on my youthful token-enchanted self.
My thermostat was set in milder climes … And yet it never occurred to me to attribute my carefree pirouettes to the joys of sunshine, heat and humidity. Would that I had better understood my tropical nature.
At the time, of course, I assumed my stay would be brief. After sampling the boffo accents and the mysteries of Allston, I could relocate someplace more sensible. Myrtle Beach, maybe. Or, hey, what about Quito? On the equator?
But somehow, I got stuck, dadblastit. It’s illogical for me to be here, and here I am. Sure, you could blame my failure to flee on my constitutional inertia, my lack of pioneering spirit, the absence of anything in me resembling gumption. I, naturally, prefer to blame the innocent.
The longer I stayed in Boston I became surrounded by more doting relatives, was endowed with additional great friends, and got hired by the occasional desperate employers. Damn, damn, and damn. And then came the worst culprits of all — the stickiest ingredient in the geographic superglue: children. Curmudgeonliness seems to skip a generation; my kids worship their hometown roots. They love it through and through… dirty snow on our dead end street and all. Damn them, too.
So I never left, and who knows when I will? I wear wool socks from October through May, even though they make me itch. Itchy and irritable, I find new indignities at every turn. For too much of the year, just as I muster up the energy to face the day, sunset brings out the worst in me — which is, clearly, saying something. “Dark? Are you serious? It’s not even time for the great-aunts in West Palm to scoot in for the Early Bird Special, and it’s NIGHTTIME? Just whose idea of a @#$% joke is this, anyway?”
I know what you’re muttering under your breath. Probably the same thing everybody else has shouted to me on this topic for decades: SHUT UP.
Well, I didn’t listen to them either, did I?
And oh, yes, there is one other thing people tend to bellow in my direction: If you’re going to live here — and we sort of wish you wouldn’t, since your only hobby is complaining, but still, if you are — then you’re going to need to embrace the weather! Get out in it! Do neat things! Skate! Ski! Wear jaunty hats with pompoms!
What sense could that possibly make? I tell you I don’t like being outside in the cold, and you suggest I go out in the cold, for long periods, on purpose, among addled individuals who find this divine, and that I pay for the privilege of experiencing fresh new forms of icy, snowy, joint-destroying misery.
Yeah, I’ll take that under advisement, bub. And here’s what you can do with those pompoms.
- McSweeney’s: Haiku Inspired By My Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Cognoscenti: Cold Comfort: A Non-Native’s Guide To New England Winters
- NPR: Cure Winter Blues With Light Therapy
- CommonHealth: Seasonal Summer Depression: Do You Get It? How Do You Fight It?
- On Point: Winter Blues, Spring Highs & Our Emotional Calendars