There’s a drought where I live. Drought is a terrible thing for wild animals, farmers, and lawns. But for me, endless sunny days are a dream come true. My name is – well, never mind – and I have Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Don’t let anybody tell you there’s no winter in coastal California, because there is. I admit, it’s a kinder, gentler winter, but in an average year, 4 inches of rain a month for 4 consecutive months results in significant solar inhibition. That’s when I hunker down in front of the light box, cancel my expectations, and hope life doesn’t throw me any curves for the duration.
I used to live in a place with 300 cloudy days a year. That’s a weather statistic, not a metaphor. Even with a stumbly brain, I could see the effect was cumulative. The second cloudy month was worse than the first, the third was worse than the second, and so on. For 10 months a year.
It wasn’t until I moved to a place with 300 sunny days a year that I confirmed the opposite is true, and lately, even more so. For the first time ever, I’m experiencing 12 months in a row of relatively even keel.
An ultra-sunny winter doesn’t solve everything – I’m still grossly underemployed and teetering on the brink of financial ruin. But I’m not panicked about it. You may be thinking that panic can be a much-needed kick in the pants sometimes, and I agree. But it’s not so great for picking up on opportunities and making sensible decisions. Not to mention that the stink of fear is the parfum de doom at a job interview.
I can read a history of depression in a stranger’s face from across a crowded room. I know that look. I used to see it in the mirror every day. Even after years of feeling better, it lingers on. I guess longtime facial habits are hard to break.
What I recognize as the mask of depression has been dubbed by the psychologically unsightful as “resting angry face,” a description which is sometimes applied to whole countries. Tourists headed to Korea, for example, are warned not to expect smiles.
(Lots of cloudiness there. Just sayin’.)
Researchers have also noted RAF, but have failed miserably to connect the dots between RAF and depression. Instead, they have concluded that smiliness is the key. Nonsmilers are perceived as less likable, the theory goes, and are therefore less successful at all kinds of things. This assumes that the way you are perceived by others is a major determinant of your internal life. Well, maybe for extroverts.
I took a look at the website for that study. It’s a prime example of confusing correlation with cause. Nonsmilers aren’t less successful because they aren’t smiling. They are unsmiling and unsuccessful because they’re depressed.
I have huge issues with the term “successful,” BTW, but that’s another post. Not a fan of “leadership,” either, while I’m harping. If I don’t eventually write about these, feel free to remind me, ‘cuz I have Things to Say.
MISSION IN ACTION
I know I talk about depression a lot. When I first made the move to a sunnier place (now it’s a metaphor), I wanted to save all the other undiagnosed depressives out there from the wasted years of unnecessary pain I’d endured.
However, it was more difficult to build a website back then, and I’d been eating, drinking and sleeping all things depression (research, treatments, support groups, devices) for several years. I wanted my life to be about something else for a change. And for a decade, it was.
It’s all come full circle, though. One of the first things I learned about HSPs, after recognizing that I was one, is that we have a higher risk for depression when faced with challenging childhoods. Introverts are also supposedly at higher risk for depression than extroverts, though I’m skeptical about this, since it comes out of a psychological theory in which “low extroverts” (introverts don’t even exist by name in this offensive system) are by definition high in “neuroticism.”
So depression is right on topic, and it turns out those grim years were good for something after all. Sunny day thoughts, all shimmery with silver lining. I hope some are shining on you.