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It is again that time of year. The days are chilly but they glow a hazy amber, illuminated by the relinquishing sun. Everything seems mellow and the hectic summer nights spent dancing with friends have drawn to a close. The local park is no longer a bubbling social hub filled with day drinking teens, dogs and the smell of BBQ smoke. Instead, a peaceful tranquillity along with a fine film of dew envelopes the familiar winding paths. The luscious billows of green grass are frosted with ice and crunch below our feet. The trees still sway and dance as they did in the summertime, but now the once verdant foliage rains down on to the pathways in shades of russet and auburn, some branches completely bare.

Typically, with the changing of the seasons, I would be struck with dread - low mood, irritability and anxiety. I am not sure exactly why this time of year was once guaranteed to shift my mental state; my best guess is the condemning combination of the return to education, along with the sharp decline in temperature and sunlight hours. But year after year, as autumn approached, I would wait helplessly in anticipation watching my fickle wellbeing hang in the balance as the blissful bubble that is summer would burst and I was forced to confront my new reality. Although these feelings can, and often do linger months into winter, my usual response to the onset of this heavy feeling in my chest is to write off the months of October and November all together; pre-emptively condemning the months to be a time period too sensitive and transitional for me to function, in anticipation of the depressive episode that will inevitably come. I become cautious with the social plans I make as a measure of self-preservation, knowing that I am at my most tetchy and fragile at this time. I wilfully neglect any assigned work I deem to be unimportant, knowing better than to waste what little motivation I can muster at times like these. In my time studying physics, I learned that when an object is melting, its temperature is constantly increasing, except for the specific moment when the object comes undone and morphs from one state into another, as all of the object’s energy is channelled into the process of change and adaptation. This process is an accurate analogy to describe my mental state during the transitional months between summer and winter.  I am unable to rouse myself from the pits of my low moods through my usual methods – instead, all my energy is channelled into coping with the presumably mundane and fundamental challenges of everyday life amidst my bleak outlook; and the more dispensable tasks are pushed to the bottom of my list of priorities. So as a result of all this, as one of my friends has so delicately put it, October and November are my ‘aggy months’. 

This year, like every year, October and November have been and gone, and with them came the low moods, demotivation and irritability, but unlike the past, the onset of this year’s seasonal depression left me with a subtle gratitude and appreciation for the winter time. Amongst the disarray of trying to navigate my daily life while feeling utterly miserable, I’ve found myself experiencing incredible moments of gratitude for all that I have in my moments alone. I’ve come to cherish the manner in which domesticity is prioritised during autumn, as so often during the summertime, I felt an immense pressure to be constantly enjoying myself. The rhetoric of a fun-filled teenage summer had been propagated so extensively that I began to feel guilty for daring to feel ‘negative’ feelings such as boredom during what was supposed to be the best summer of my life.

Winter, on the other hand, seems to not only welcome, but encourage my new-found yearning to stay indoors, wrapped up in my quilt binge-watching cheesy soap operas. Winter both facilitates and consoles me at my lowest. The long, cold nights offer a fitting backdrop to the scenes of my melancholy and I can’t help but seek solace in the fact that under the guise of enjoying home comforts, I no longer have to deal with the culpability of not wanting to face the world. This oxymoronic function that autumn time has begun to serve in my life has completely shifted the way in which I perceive the transitional seasons, on one hand I desire nothing more than to sink further in to the despondency I feel. Yet, at the same time, the knowledge that wallowing on the sofa is normalised at this time of year is enough to spur me on and encourage me to face the challenges the days throw at me. Living in England, our winter is long, and knowing myself, I know that there will likely come many occasions where the insidious gnawing in my chest urging me to give up whatever task I am completing and retire to bed will become impossible to ignore. Nevertheless, I will remain persistent in my search for comfort amidst winter’s tyrannical reign; I know that nothing is permanent and with the changing of the seasons I will be restored.