If I were to look at it rationally, I’d expect to be at my most depressed in winter. It’s dark, cold, gloomy. Everyone goes around calling it the “happiest time of the year” and waving a loud brass bell, which only serves to alienate you further for not being at your happiest. It’s a time of family which can really remind you of the ones you’ve lost. And don’t even get me started on New Year’s Eve…
But when is depression ever rational?
As rationally, winter should be my worst time, but it’s not. Despite an appalling lack of vitamin D, I can get through winter for the most part. No, my true season of struggle is summer, time and time again. I go through the most intense depressive episodes in summer, and they manage to also feel so much worse.
Because who is sad in summer...right?
I don’t know if this is a real thing, but it should be. Consider this my petition to make ‘sunshine guilt’ a recognised problem.
Sunshine guilt refers to the feeling that you have to make the most of good weather. As soon as it’s sunny, everyone rushes outside to swim, sit on terraces or just spend the day on their balconies. And if you don’t do this, people are appalled.
It was above 20 degrees and you spent a single hour of the day inside?
Through this group pressure, you develop sunshine guilt. The moment it’s nice weather outside, you feel ashamed for not going outside and making the most of it. But you know what, sometimes I want to be inside. Sometimes I want to watch a series or write. And I don’t care what they say, working outside is awful as you can barely see your laptop screen, and it always overheats.
Sunshine guilt adds an extra layer to my depressed feelings, as now I berate myself more for them. I’m sitting inside feeling so low when I should be outside with everyone I know.
The warm weather also makes you feel like you’re on display. You resort to wearing clothes adapted to the heat, when all I want to do in a depressed episode is hide away in a baggy sweater. I hate feeling on display when I’m feeling my most vulnerable.
The only thing worse than feeling unbearably sad is feeling that way when everyone else is at their best. I am surrounded by people that love summer. They were excited about it for months to come. They speak about festivals, days at the lake, getting a tan, and their eyes glow with happiness. So how am I meant to tell them that summer makes me feel like I’m drowning?
In winter, everyone is quite subdued. There are good moments and that whole happiest time of the year malarky, but for the rest, we’re all on a functioning level. That’s the space I feel best in, as it allows me to regulate my turbulent emotions. I can’t handle the highs of summer as for someone like me, they’re always followed by crashing lows.
I feel jealous of people who appear so carefree and happy. This jealousy is quickly followed by shame, because why can’t I allow them to be happy without making it about myself? And as they always say, you never know what’s going on with someone else. Any chance we’re all secretly hating summer and waiting for it to end?
I think depressive episodes are worsened in summer simply because we take such little care of ourselves. Yeah, summer is a time for working out and eating lots of fresh produce. But it’s also a time of drinking way more alcohol and not increasing our water intake enough. It’s filled with late nights that lead to poor sleep rhythms.
We yo-yo with our self-care in summer in a way we don’t in other seasons, and for people with a fragile emotional well-being, this can be detrimental. There is a pressure to keep up with everything. My friends have never been as busy as they are during summer, where plans have to be made three weeks in advance. If you’re not exhausted and constantly on the move, you’re left feeling like you’re the problem. But people can experience Seasonal Affective Disorder in summer, and people can also hate summer.
So I’m done pretending that I like summer. I am an autumn girl through and through. I like wearing sweaters, drinking tea and hiding away when needed. I want to return to my favourite season so I can wait out this depressed period.
You don’t have to thrive in the sunshine. It’s 2022, and you don’t have to like summer.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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