Yesterday @jackieLbrewer and I had breakfast at Bo Peep’s, then went for a walk in the glorious bright sun at Mattis Park. Now it looks like it will be days before we see the sun again, but that’s of small consequence given that it looks to be rather nice for Halloween.
No longer afraid of the (cold and) dark
Objectively speaking, autumn is probably the best season. Not cold like winter, stormy like spring, or hot like summer, autumn has great weather—totally aside from the pretty colors and Halloween (arguably the best holiday, albeit in a near tie with Groundhog’s Day).
For pretty much my entire adult life I’ve dreaded the cold dark days of winter, and among the many ways that Seasonal Affect Disorder affected my life in a negative way was that it ruined autumn. I could usually get past the summer solstice okay (although in the back of my head, I knew that the best day of the year had come and gone), and I could keep it together through July and August. But by the beginning of September I knew that winter was coming, and I’d spend the last months of nice weather steeling myself against the dark days to come.
It was the dark that bothered me, more than the cold. It’s easy to armor yourself against the cold—flannel, moleskin, fleece, wool, down—there are many ways to deal with cold. But even a Verilux light therapy lamp (which does help) does not solve the problem of the dark days of winter.
All of which is merely an introduction to saying: Last winter I did not suffer from SAD!
I had meant to write something at the time, but I didn’t want to speak too soon, and then once it was spring, it didn’t seem like the most important thing.
I don’t want to jinx anything, and I’m sure the right combination of stressors on top of the cold and dark could once again put me in a bad place, but something more important has changed than just a good year: I’m no longer afraid of the dark days. Maybe I’ll suffer from SAD again, and maybe I won’t, but at least the mere knowledge that the cold and dark is coming is not ruining my fall! In the back of my head I seem to have turned a corner and developed some confidence that I’ll be okay despite the season.
So what has helped?
First, not having to work a regular job. I’m sorry that I can’t recommend something more generally available, but that was the biggest thing that made a difference. Because I don’t have to be productive on a day-to-day basis, I avoid the depression-spiral that used to result from realizing that I wasn’t getting anything done, which made me anxious about losing my job and being unable to support my family, having the anxiety make me more depressed, and the depression making me even less productive. That used to be a killer. On top of that, because I don’t have to be in the office during any particular hours, I’m able to spend a few of the few non-dark hours of the day outdoors, taking advantage of what daylight there is (and making some outdoorphins).
Second, exercise. I always knew it was important, but I took things up a notch each of the last few years, and each new tick up turned out to provide an enormous improvement in my mood. In my experience, all kinds of exercise are good. Endurance exercise is good. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is good. Skill-based training—ballet, parkour, animal moves, taiji—is good. Resistance exercise (lifting) is perhaps best of all. Letting the dark days of winter compress you down into a lump that seeks (but never finds) cozy because you’re unable to move? That’s the worst.
Third, community. Granted this is not so easy during a pandemic, but even people that you only see on-line are still people you can have a connection with, and having connections is good.
Fourth, something to look forward to. It can be almost anything. Last year I was looking forward to having my family visit. Other years I’ve looked forward to taking a vacation somewhere warm. Even little things help me—ordering some fountain pen ink or cold-weather workout clothes and then looking forward to the package being delivered, and then looking forward to using the newly acquired item.
Fifth, a project that you can make progress on. Ideally something without a deadline—at least, no deadline during the dark days of winter—but a project that you care about. Something that you can spend a few minutes on every day and see some headway that brings you closer to completing it. Creative projects are good, but creativity isn’t as important as just having a thing that you’re working on, and making steady headway.
Not suffering from SAD, even if just for one year, has been wonderful. Having some confidence that things will be okay-enough this winter that I’m not spending all fall dreading it is even more wonderful-er.
Yesterday Jackie and I split a pint of @DESTIHLbrewery’s latest Deadhead, Haze of the Dead, just in time for Halloween.
If you’re wearing a costume, you get Halloween candy. I don’t care how old you are or how lame your costume is. (And that first batch of rather old kids actually had pretty good costumes.)
This post exists purely for the purpose of unlocking the Halloween pin on micro.blog. I apologize for the bandwidth consumed. Oh, and here’s a picture of our Halloween weather:
Downtown Champaign sunset
We were downtown for drinks and dinner at Seven Saints with Barbara and Rosie, and I noticed a rather spectacular sunset (click for larger, more spectacular version).
A merely fair picture of it—it was more spectacular in person—but good enough, I thought, to share.
And, in relation to my recent post on pelvises, among the Halloween decorations inside Seven Saints, I happened to notice another depiction of a skeleton with iliac crests dramatically smaller than an actual skeleton’s. Look at that! Surely no one could expect a lifetime exposure to such misleading representations to do anything other than produce a whole range of body dysmorphic issues.
Misleading pelvis depiction
I mentioned a couple of posts back about being surprised by how high the top of my iliac crest was—nearly as high as my navel.
As chance would have it—not such an unlikely chance, with the date approaching All Hallows Eve—I happened upon a depiction of a skeleton outside a local shop. And look! That poor guy’s iliac crest comes no higher than his coccyx!
I present this image purely in an effort to spread the blame around. My ignorance of pelvic configuration is an ignorance deeply rooted in inaccurate depictions in popular culture.
I told this story to one friend who was baffled that I was so misled by these sorts of images. “Just look at any bikini model,” he said. “You can plainly see how the top of the iliac crest is nearly as high as the navel.” (Which is true—search for bikini model at wikimedia commons and see for yourself.)
The topic under discussion shifted at that point to optimal waist-to-hip ratios, after which it started getting strange. But all that is beside the point: Is it any surprise, in a world where plastic Halloween decorations cheap enough to leave out on a public bench are this inaccurate, that I might be confused about this particular aspect of anatomy? No, I say. It is not.