While everyone else is doing thoughtful reflective New Year's posts, meditating on the last year, expressing hope for 2008, I am home trying my best not to flip out. I'll explain in a second.
The resolution that seems the most pertinent at the moment is that in the coming year, I want to do a better job of acknowledging and managing what is almost certainly Seasonal Affective Disorder. I'm even a little anxious to name it, since on the one hand, it's the sort of thing that can debilitate people in real ways, and I don't want to minimize that with my own issues, and on the other hand, it seems to be discussed as one of those diagnoses that pathologizes "normal behavior," and is therefore the territory of greedy drug companies, hypochondriacs, and bad doctors, not unlike the over-prescription of Ritalin to kids.
But I'm going to try to suck it up and call this thing real. When I was a kid, it was a known fact that my grades were going to suffer in the third marking period, the one that extended from January to March. As a young adult, I entered therapy for several short stints, almost always in February and March, and often felt silly going to therapy by mid April, when I was doing, frankly, fine. When SAD started getting press, I thought, "Yeah, I've probably got a mild problem with that," but I tended to just want to call it winter blues or something.
Two unsuccessful stints on the job market led to two particularly bad winters, but I blamed the depression then on the job market failure. But last winter, when ostensibly everything else was going well, I had one of the worst winters I've ever had in terms of mood. I'd wake up wanting to cry for virtually no reason, and had a really hard time getting a handle on general malaise, or occasionally, pretty serious bouts of anxiety.
I'm having one of those anxiety days right now.
There are a few things that help me stave off the worst of it: activity/ exercise, whatever sunlight I can get myself into, social contact, sufficient regular sleep, and keeping my workload under control. For the new year, I want to try to be a little more proactive about all of these things to see what I can do.
So today, I hit the elliptical machine we have downstairs for a bit, tried to get outside for a few minutes here and there, etc. I slept in as much as I could today, and have spent as much of my day as possible staying on my feet: cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry, cleaning the guestroom. The only reason I'm blogging right now is that I'm sitting in front of my therapeutic blue light for 30 minutes.
But there are also obstacles. Being alone for an extended period is one of them, and wonderful as MLA was, I spent a lot of time on my own, and have returned to an empty house--I pick up Willow and the kids this evening.
The other obstacle, and lately this has been a doozy, is snow. N ow our weather here isn't really any worse than the midAtlantic weather I lived in all my life before coming here, but the hilly terrain makes snow a major menace, since it a) usually means the sun is lost behind a low, dense layer of cloud cover, b) it's hard to really get out and be active (since being cold seems to be another problem factor), and c) snow renders my precious sense of control fairly moot. It forces me to change plans, and when I do have to venture out to shovel it or drive in it, the insecure feeling it leaves me with unsettles me pretty badly. It's gotten bad enough that a trip to DC with friends last February, that had us driving in some fairly manageable snow (though DC sucks for dealing with snow), saw me freak out pretty badly one morning when everything, was, without doubt, going to be fine.
So it's starting to snow here, as it will for the next couple of days. And I've got to pick up Willow and the kids at 9:30 tonight, at an airport that 's about 75 minutes away via interstate when the weather's perfect. THIS is why I'm trying not to flip. I suspect I'll be fine as soon as everyone's in the house tomorrow, since the grocery shopping's done, and no one has to work tomorrow. We can call it a snow day, drink warm vanilla milk, tea or hot cocoa, eat well, maybe even take naps. But today, sitting (or even bustling) at home alone, dreading the trip to the airport, and playing out all sorts of terrible scenarios in my head, has me feeling like maybe this isn't the best way to do New Year's day.
So this year: Be proactive about my seasonal affective disorder. Set a regular gym schedule. Enjoy the fact that my new office has windows. Stay on top of the sleep schedule, which means among other things, consuming less alcohol on nights when we do drink. Keep my social calendar as busy as I can. Try to stay on top of grading (this is a biggie, apparently). Use the blue light every day. Drink lots of water, and probably less caffeine. And look forward to April with a big, wide open hope that a sunny day at 60 degrees will make many many things better. It seems to every year.
So the blue light just ended its 30 minutes of goodness, and there's work to be done. Time to wrap up this post and get back on my feet.
Happy New Year, all. Hope yours is starting off better than mine, though I'm confident that mine will not be this anxious for most of the year.