And When October Goes

I’ve ‘borrowed’ the title for this post from a song sung by Barry Manilow. The music and lyrics are both haunting in their own way. It goes like this:

And when October goes
The snow begins to fly
Above the smoky roofs
I watch the planes go by

The children running home beneath
A twilight sky
Oh, for the fun of them
When I was one of them

And when October goes
The same old dream appears
And you are in my arms
To share the happy years
I turn my head away to hide
The helpless tears
Oh, how I hate to see October go

And when October goes
The same old dream appears
And you are in my arms
To share the happy years
I turn my head away to hide
The helpless tears
Oh, how I hate to see October go

I should be over it now, I know
It doesn’t matter much how old I grow
I hate to see October go

I remember clearly the first time that, in hindsight, I experienced the onset of S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder). It was not a diagnosis that many years ago when I first experienced it. I was in my first semester at college, and my dorm room’s windows faced out to a beautiful tree-lined scape just off of campus. My desk was in front of those windows, and I can still visualize looking out the windows towards that scape. The first sightings of the leaves changing color was a magnificent kaleidoscope of golds and oranges and reds, but all too soon, those colors disappeared and the trees became tall, gangly big sticks with bare limbs that seemed almost garish compared to the splendor that had just been there. It set me into a state of melancholy that I couldn’t seem to shake. In my eyes, the view was so ugly that, with my roommate’s permission, we moved things around so that my back was to the window instead of facing it. That way, I could still benefit from the natural light without being able to see the scenery.

Finally speaking to my physician, nearly 20 years later, I mentioned how I was beginning to feel at our October appointment, and the diagnosis was made. I was given a mild anti-depressant to see if it would help, and it did seem to. I stayed on that medication until the following March. I also followed her suggestion and would make myself go outside, facing the sun, no matter how cold it got, as long as there was bright sunshine. The next fall, the same prescription was offered, but it didn’t seem to have much benefit. The dosage was doubled, and I learned that this particular medication doesn’t always offer relief being taken ‘seasonally’ like we had done. It’s now part of my daily regimen 365 days a year.

A few years ago, I was working in what was a pretty dark space without fluorescent lighting or much in the way of natural light. I ended up taking quick breaks, whenever I could, to go stand out in the sun with my eyes closed and my face upwards.

Now, I’m pretty able to handle what happens when the change of seasons is in full swing and winter sets in far too early. Older now, I’m not as keen on going outside when it’s cold, but I do have west-facing windows in my home which get full afternoon sun, so I might stand at them for some minutes and capture the brightness of the sun. Last winter, although it was mild in terms of snow/ice, it also seemed more gloomy with many less sunny days. Ironically, I now spend my time worrying about how bad this year’s onset of S.A.D. will be. I’ve been blessed to not have had a serious depression for almost two years – the last one I had was just after the holidays and it was intense and long-lasting. As is my habit, I simply shut myself away and pretended, when necessary, that I was okay. It will always be difficult to talk about that darkness with anyone who has not experienced it, who cannot fathom what it feels like. I’ve only begun opening up about it with people I truly trust, and letting them know that there is nothing they can do to help fix it – that I only need them to not be afraid of the darkness and be willing just to sit with me in it. I’ve said it many times, but perhaps never in this blog, that so many people want to stand above the dark hole and shine light down or reach down with a hand to pull me up. Those things don’t help – in fact, they often make it worse, as I see them as a way of indicating that I should just pull myself up. Don’t you think I would if I could??? The only thing you can do to help me is to sit in the dark with me, as a silent reminder, almost, that the demons inside me aren’t as scary (to you) as I think they are (to me). That’s the kind of reassurance I need.

So, it’s October already, and in the shittiest year in which I’ve ever lived, and as each day passes on the calendar, I can’t help but ponder if and when good ole’ S.A.D. will make its appearance. I’m already mentally preparing for it and using my old stand-by of “expect the worst, that way you’re never disappointed”.

If any of my readers suffer from S.A.D. – diagnosed or not – know that I am the best person to reach out to! Really! I’m too busy fighting my own demons to be afraid of yours!

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