When Depression Is Triggered by the Change in Seasons

Every year, I dread the arrival of fall.

New England is beautiful this time of year. Leaves transform from their usual green into various shades of red, orange and yellow. Halloween is, without a doubt, my favorite of all holidays. Yet, a feeling of worry grows inside of me as the temperature drops and the days grow darker.

Living with depression is interesting and, most times, nonsensical. Depression has no rhyme or reason, and it’ll take over my life at the most unexpected times. Luckily, I’ve grown accustomed to its mysterious ways, and I can usually tell when it’s going to hit hard. Fall and winter are two of its biggest triggers.

I’ve been taking prescription medications for depression since I was only 14 and, in 2012, I even received electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for several months when I hit my lowest low. My depression never really goes away. Even on good days, it’s as if a storm cloud hangs overhead, threatening to rain down on me and ruin any sense of happiness I’ve been lucky to attain. That’s why I revel in the things I know will uplift my mood, even if just temporarily.

When it’s summertime in Massachusetts, it’s hard to isolate myself and sleep all day the way I do when I’m at my worst. Not only is it too hot to do so, but the rays of sun streaming through my window make it nearly impossible to dwell within my room. Something as simple as good weather is enough to give me the extra push I need in order to force myself to put one foot in front of the other and start my morning. On a similar note, something as simple as bad weather is enough to amplify my depression to the point where getting out of bed seems akin to climbing Mount Everest.

As fall approaches and summer becomes the past, I’m filled with anxiety about what’s to come. I know when I wake up in darkness and leave work only to experience more of the same, my mood is going to falter. When the mornings are cold and the warmth of my blankets beckons me to lie in bed, I’m not going to want to get up.

The air outside will be frigid and the snow that’s sure to coat the streets will only further justify my decision to stay indoors. I’ll be perpetually tired due to the lack of sun. Most days, I’ll feel like my day never started at all. Though beautiful leaves will fall from the trees and the neighborhood will be adorned with Halloween décor, I’ll only experience the dreary days, bleak skies and deserted streets, and that’s how depression operates.

The obvious solution would be to move somewhere where the weather is consistently hot and always sunny, but that’s not an easy task. I live and work here in Boston. My family resides in this state, and my wife, an Irish immigrant, enjoys being close to the coast that allows us the quickest travel to and from her family in Donegal. Although relocating may be an option in the future, for now, I must make the most out of what I’ve been given. And what I’ve been given is knowledge.

I can’t control the weather, and I can’t control the circumstances that surround me. I can, however, prepare myself for what I know is coming my way. Combating these particularly bad bouts of depression is a little bit easier when I know to expect them. In the past, I’ve survived the fall season by setting a schedule and sticking to it, disallowing myself to nap during the day, practicing self-care and recognizing (and changing) actions I know are only going to hurt me in the long run.

Telling my loved ones what signs to look out for, which increases the amount of support I receive when I really need it, has also vastly improved my ability to overcome these depressive bouts. When I’m honest with myself about what my symptoms are and, more importantly, where they lead, I feel much more in control of my condition. Fall may feel like an impending disaster to those of us whose depression is easily triggered by the weather, but it doesn’t have to be when we come prepared to fight back.

Image via Thinkstock.

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