Saturday, 21 November 2015

Seasonal Affective Disorder Renamed

I once took part in a study at Sunnybrook Hospital of Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is a condition where the darkening of winter sends you spiraling to the point where you want to pull the covers over your head and howl, or to dive into a tub of Pralines & Cream never to emerge until spring. I lose interest in my hobbies, get grouchy, make irrational and impulsive decisions, and, along about February, I get semi-suicidal. We're not sure what causes this, but it helps to take Vitamin D, sit under grow lights, get involved in new activities, and---in my case---come home every day and hug a smiley baby.

I think there's something to be said for renaming the condition, though, to Seasonal Infective Disorder. This is the phenomenon whereby people's attitudes and perceptions of weather are affected by the people around them. Talk on the subway revolves around the cold, the wet, navigating the impossible ice. Everyone starts wearing black and hiding deep inside their hoods and not making eye contact. It's a defensive thing and quite natural when you live in Canada, where the temperature can plummet to -35 and stay there for weeks on end. My sons used to live in northern Manitoba, where it once got down to -69. I think it's easy to pick up the negativity and gloominess of the people around you and get sucked into talking about nothing but the weather. (Even in the warmth of summer, if someone complains about the rain or heat, we reply, "At least you don't have to shovel it!" thus spreading the gloom of winter even into our brighter days.)

However, I've also seen the up side of this contagious trend. I have a coworker, for example, who wears an electric orange winter coat that really stands out against everyone else's black. I can't help but smile when I see her glowing toward me down the street. It lightens my mood and reminds me there are more colours on earth than gray, and one day they will return. I have another coworker who is from Finland, and she loves snow and skiing. When everyone else groans, "It's snowing again!", she presses her face to the office window and chortles with glee, "It's snowing again!" Her optimism is catching, and I try to look at winter the way she does: a playground waiting for your footprints. Maybe I don't have to hole up for the winter like a hibernating raccoon. Maybe I can enjoy it. Novel concept.

I am going to try hard this winter to stay positive and not complain about the weather. This too shall pass. And I'll be glad I have a smiley baby in my life to hug and comfort me at the end of the day.

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