Right now we are in the midst of Autumn. I love this season. The quality of the light is beautiful - soft and golden. I missed the changing of the seasons when I lived in the Tropics and on the Equator. The change from Winter to Spring, on into Summer, then Autumn and back to Winter.
I love the lengthening and then the shortening of the days that accompany the changing of the seasons. The clocks go back this weekend; the mornings will get a bit lighter however the evenings will draw in. I like the lighter mornings and in a perverse way I appreciate the darker evenings. I like being warm by the fire and wearing jumpers and thick coats. However I am not a lover of the greyness that comes in the winter. If the sun is shining and the sky is blue it doesn't matter what the temperature is. For me at least. It is days of endless grey skies that wear me down.
I have been thinking about the impact of grey skies today. Perhaps because when I woke up it was really glimpy. Not quite raining but not quite not raining either, if you know what I mean. It was non-weather. In-between weather. Can't-make-up-it's-mind weather. And then I got to thinking,
"Why am I worried," I thought to myself, "I can't go out anywhere or do anything that is affected by the weather so why does it matter?"
I got cross about this. My frustration at being immobile blind-sided me again. Just when I thought I was getting on top of it. It surprised how p'd off I got looking out the window. My foot made its presence felt. I made a cuppa, returned to the sofa and in my head had a bit of a rant. This 6 week event truly is giving me a whole 'nother insight into the frustrations felt by those in this position permanently. Maybe I only feel this way because mobility is so important to me? Are these frustrations felt by others? Yes, I think so ... In my time I have worked with many clients who were most certainly frustrated by both mental and physical conditions that limited their ability to live what they defined as a normal life. 'Normal' is different for us all and if our personal 'normal' is limited then the frustration that can surface is very real. My normal and yours are not the same, of course. In my experience this is where misconceptions and misinterpretations can appear. I have experienced this through feedback I have received just in the few days I have been writing this blog.
This morning's grey skies also got me thinking about SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder. A type of depression with a seasonal pattern ( https://bit.ly/2mdzLdK ). For some people the symptoms can be severe and have a significant impact on their day-to-day activities. SAD is not only experienced in the winter; this is when it most commonly manifests however people to suffer with it in the summer months too. We now know it is not uncommon and yet it often goes unrecognised, undiagnosed and as a result people struggle on through the dark winter months shy or afraid to admit they are finding things tough and need support.
A 2014 article in The Independent states research commissioned by The Weather Channel and YouGov in the UK that shows that,
'29% of adults experience symptoms of SAD at this time of year, ranging from low energy levels, to low self-esteem and anxiety. For 8% of people the symptoms are very acute while the remaining 21% suffer from a milder for of subsyndromal SAD. Over half (57%) say their overall mood is worse in the winter season compared to the summer season, highlighting the strong links between weather and wellbeing. Meanwhile, 40% of people suffer from fatigue during the winter months.'
These physical symptoms are limiting; physically less-abling, the result of a mental health condition caused by the weather, a condition that up until this study was thought to be quite rare - at an incidence rate of 3-4% of the population, not 8%. Add in the milder form that affects 21% and SAD becomes far from rare.
There is a statement at the end of the article by the then MD of the Weather Channel, Ross Webster:
"Businesses all over the world use the weather forecast to optimise sales but not enough people consider the impact of winter weather on our moods. The results of this survey demonstrate just how much impact it has on the population."
Why am I sharing this?
Perhaps because I stuggle with depression and yet up until recently I have resisted admitting that to myself lest alone others. I am really adept at putting on a brave face when inside I am crumbling.
Perhaps it because I have friends who suffer from SAD and they say arrival of the darker days is not a happy time for them.
Perhaps it is because at this time of year, if this survey is to be believed, statistically 1/3 of the people we each know will be affected by SAD ... and yet they may never say anything. For me this is reason enough to be more aware of its symptoms and to reach out and offer support if needed. My offer may not be wanted, in which case I will go away. However I know how hard it is to reach out. I'd rather be there and told to go away, than not.
A foot in a plaster cast has made me immobile, for just 6 weeks. In truth, there have been many times, from my childhood to now, when depression has immobilised me in some respects. And perhaps this is the main reason today's words have ended up being about SAD ... because it is hard to know how to reach out sometimes, it is hard to know if we should, isn't it?