It's beautiful here today. The sun is bright and yellow and the sky is perfect blue. It is like a 4 year old art-directed my day, took her yellow crayon and circled round and round pressing hard on the white paper sky and then drew fat yellow rays out at all angles from her ball of a yellow sun. And if that wasn't enough, she topped it all off by pulling out the orange crayon (probably without putting the yellow one back, if I know her) and drew two eyes and a perfectly upturned mouth on my yellow sun. It is a happy sunny day. And as much as I don't want to be a slave to my environment and a victim of my circumstances, this happy sunny day has me feeling happy too. Happy and sunny. With a big orange waxy smiling mouth of my own.
I miss the sun when it goes away. When I was younger, I would have claimed I liked cloudy days. I would have told you grey days were my favorite. And I guess they were. Far be it from me to question the girl I once was but lately it seems I can't do without the sun for too long. Not that I don't enjoy the occasional rainy day here and there but the sun … oh that lovely warm sun … I crave it. More and more I crave the yellow crayon.
Winter was especially difficult for me last year. So much so that in a routine appointment with my doctor I mentioned I didn't think I was doing too well. I wasn't quite sure what the cause of my heaviness and seemingly endless supply of dark days was. Was it post-treatment blahs? The end of the 3 Day season blues? Perhaps I had a food allergy? Or maybe I was sinking into a full-blown depression. It had begun to worry me. Although I couldn't seem to do anything about it, I could at least recognize that it wasn't right. It had become increasingly difficult to get out of bed in the mornings. I had stopped most (okay, all) of my exercising. I could sit and do nothing for hours and still feel exhausted. I had basically abandoned all the colors in my Crayola 64 pack except for two: grey blue and deep dark blue. And despite what Picasso will tell you, those two colors make for some very ugly pictures indeed.
And then, just like that (it seemed), I was better. I was popping up in the mornings. I was scheduling workouts and going for walks in the evenings. I was planning trips and returning phone calls and looking forward to the weekends. And the only thing that I could pinpoint that had changed was …. the season. It was spring. And with the season change, the days had grown longer and the sun was shining brighter and ding dang dittity, I was feeling better.
It's thought that millions of Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD … how brilliant is that?). Wikipedia describes SAD as "a mood disorder which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter." More commonly it is known as the winter blues. I can't say this with any proof but I really think that somehow the treatment I went through for my cancer triggered this disorder big and bad in me. I think I was hoping last year was an anomaly and I'd be fine this winter but no dice. This winter has been just as difficult if not more so. In fact, just a few weeks ago I started an email with this sentence: I'm slipping. I can feel it. I'm nowhere close to going under … in fact, I may only have a toe or two in the drink but I'm going in … steadily albeit slowly. And I can tell you now that I was downplaying the severity of what I was feeling. I have struggled this winter like no other with the terrible symptoms of SAD. The good news is, of course, that we are already past the winter solstice and each day we add like a minute or two of daylight. Basically, I made it through and the worst is behind me for this year.
At the same time I have to say I really need to find a different strategy for my life besides "white knuckling it until the worst is over". For now, I'm just grateful for this beautiful, ripe, sunny day.