Each year I know it’s coming, and each year I try fool myself into thinking that I’ve got a handle on things, that I’m stronger now and it won’t affect me. But October rolls round and my moods start fluctuating wildly, like the needle on a seismograph, just before an earthquake is about to hit.
I blunder through hyperactive bursts of energy. I’m out three nights in a row. I’m running around, doing things, going to classes, trying to keep myself out of the encroaching doom of my bedroom. I eat shitloads. I want wine, I want sex. Or I want nothing at all but to be left alone. I crash. I struggle to crawl out of bed in the morning.
None of this is new. I’ve been through episodes of depression my whole adult life, warped by the unceasing bleakness of British winters. It’s a familiar state of affairs, like a weird and unpleasant sofa-surfer who keeps turning up at your house and crashing in your living room, leaving his crusted socks on your landing. Like: ‘Not you again, you filthy fucker…’
(In another life, I used to be the sofa-surfer).
I’ve been to the doctor before with the standard litany of symptoms: lethargy, exhaustion, , feeling flat, irritation, lack of concentration. There’s a name of for all of this: Seasonal Affective Disorder. It makes me feel a bit better in a way, knowing there’s an actual reason that this is happening to me and it’s not just that my brain is fucked in some innate way.
Maybe there’s some consolation to be found, as well, in the fact that even though we’re penned up in cities, as creatures we’re still connected to the changing of the seasons. The cycles of the elements still affect us intimately.
That doesn’t make it any easier though. Not seeing a blue sky for weeks on end does very wonky things to my brain waves. It’s as though my head is in a vice: full of compressed thoughts, unable to escape. The same ruminations keep ricocheting around my skull, circling endlessly. My failures and inadequacies, real or imagined (mostly imagined), are repeated on an endless reel, as though I’m being continually told off by some inner headteacher.
At other times, it feels like I’m underwater, trying to walk across a river bed, pushing against the current. Small things feel harder to do. My room descends into chaos. It’s harder to stay connected. It’s harder to explain myself to people. The urge to retreat and hibernate intensifies.
The bleakness of the UK seems almost comical. It’s a bad idea to watch things like Black Mirror in this state, but I do it anyway. Everything takes on a slightly dystopian tinge. Bad vibes pervade. And trying to get my head round the total mindfuck of our political situation is too much.
It’s also harder to write, what with my self-confidence struggling for air. But it’s at moments at these when writing is all the more important – a conduit for the weirdness of my emotions: get the thoughts out of my head and onto the paper, or at least onto the screen and into the internet ether.
I’ve been here enough times to know what I need to not go insane. It’s just nature sending me a little reminder that I need to remember to take care of myself. Eat well. Try and talk to people. Stay active. Get back to my body. Make music. Write. Meditate. If I do all of those things, it will probably be ok.