Ahhh, the long-awaited approach of summer. Road trips with the windows rolled down, tequila on the beach, sand in between your toes…for most, summer is a time of fun and frolic.
And then…there’s the rest of us…
For some folk–like me–summer comes with a side of dread. You’ve probably all heard of seasonal affective disorder (the appropriately acronymed S.A.D.), and you probably mostly associate it with the dreary days of winter when we lose all of our beloved vitamin D, and occasionally the will to live, or at least to un-burrow ourselves from underneath our comforters until the snow stops and the sun comes out. But, for some of us, for me, for some close friends of mine, summer is the season that does us in.
When I first lost my shit in a major way requiring professional help, I had no idea that one could be S.A.D. in the summer. Why? The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, vacations are being planned. What’s not to like?
Well, for some people it’s just a matter of brain chemical cocktails that get stirred up, perhaps by the extra vitamin D, perhaps by body rhythms, who knows. Luckily, there are pills for that. But there are also a few other, external/internal things happening in the summer that affect some of us more than others. Let’s explore the big, fat summertime falacy, shall we?
“Summer is superfunfantastic!!!”
Um. Not necessarily. There is a lot of pressure to have fun in the summer, to do fun things, plan fun vacations, get around to doing all of those things you are too busy to do in the other busier seasons: finish writing that novel, clean out the garage and convert it into an art studio, finally have time to become a super famous rock star…. Everyone around you seems to be having a superfunfantastic!!! time…which…if you, personally, happen to not be having, has the potential to tip your brain chemical scales toward depression.
We generally judge other people to be happier than ourselves, and people lounging on the beach or frolicking in the park with puppy dogs tend to look pretty friggin happy. Add to that the pressure we put on ourselves to accomplish these ambitions to-do lists, and we’ve just served ourself up a nice little depression cocktail, with a twist of guilt (because it’s summer, and you should be happy, so if you’re not, you suck & there is something horridly wrong with you).
Of course, 100 degree sweltering heat & the stinkiness that brings to a crammed, dirty city does not help.
And, oh, body image issues? That svelte goddess bearing her perfectly bronzed, acne-free skin by wearing nothing but a leaving-zilch-to-the-imagination sundress, sumptuous non-oily/frizzy/dry locks of hair fanning out behind her, like in those Garnier commercials? She’s not helping.
So, this year, I’ve decided to give my summer blues a shout out. To acknowledge them, because I know they are coming and I’m going to have to deal with them anyway, so I might as well be prepared. So, notes to self to re-read when my summer blues come a’knockin:
1. You are not a weirdo for feeling sad in the summer. Other people do, too, for perfectly logical reasons. Some of them are your friends. Some of them live within walking distance and are willing to sit with you on a park bench & commiserate.
2. You are, generally, a content person. You have had superfunfantastic!!! times before, and you will again. You=mountain. Depressed thoughts, fear, anger, self doubt, guilt=passing clouds. Sure, sometimes the clouds are going to let down a crapstorm on your head, but you know for a provable, validated fact that the sun always comes out eventually. Besides, friends/family/support network=umbrella, and not that crappy, breaks apart in the mildest of breezes kind.
3. It is okay, and actually healthy, to feel sad/fearful/angry/self-doubting. What is unhealthy is trying not to feel these things. Allow yourself to sit with your feelings and just be in their company, acknowledging them and giving them the space they need to do their thing, so you can get on with your life.
4. Take care of your inner 2 year old. We all have a lot of childhood associations with summer, some positive, some negative, some devastating and debilitating. Pain and hurt you feel as an adult may actually be pain and hurt you have felt as a child/continue to feel intensely as an adult when emotions or events tap into that dark, deep well of painful scars and memories. Somewhere inside you this child will always exist, but co-existing with it is your nurturing self, who knows how to take care of this wounded child. Go buy her a present. She probably wants some ice cream.
So, summer blues, come if you must, but just know that I have prepared a place for you, and that your stay is not unlimited. I welcome you, for you probably have things to teach me. I am not controlled by you, for I know pretty soon I will be kicking you out the door.