Why My Depression Makes Me Have a Love-Hate Relationship With Sunny Days
It is not common to find someone who doesn’t love a bright, beautiful, sunny day. But if you talk to someone struggling with depression, you might actually find a few. It seems to make no sense. Sunny days are usually equated with enjoyment and opportunity. The sun is warm, which feels good. The presence of sun usually means the absence of rain, which means you can enjoy most any activity that you want to participate in outside. Sketches of the sun itself will often include a happy, smiling face in the center of the rays. Let’s face it – sun equals happiness. Or it’s supposed to.
So why might someone struggling with depression hate the sun? I might not know for sure, but I can tell you my theory, or more specifically, why I have a love-hate relationship with the sun and how it affects me.
1. The sun makes me feel different.
It seems like everyone else loves the sun. People are generally pleased when the weather is calling for a warm, sunny day. People start making plans for how they will spend the next beautiful, sunny day. People exclaim and comment often on how nice the day is when the sun is out. But I am not like everyone else. I am different. I would much prefer a cloudy day to a sunny day most of the time. I am sitting in my bright office right now with three large windows and the sun is out, but I would feel better if it was cloudy or overcast. If I told people this, they would think I’m being irrational.
2. The weather doesn’t match my mood.
I woke up feeling like garbage, or in other words, depressed. I can see through the windows that it is a “beautiful,” sunny day. I do not feel beautiful. I do not feel sunny. Planning a sunny adventure for the day and everything that involves — making breakfast, showering, getting dressed, getting the kids ready, packing the diaper bags, getting out the door — feels equivalent to climbing Mt. Everest. I don’t match the sun and the sun doesn’t match me. I want to go back to bed. But I know that is not what I’m supposed to be doing. People don’t usually stay in bed when it’s sunny out. If it was cloudy outside, I wouldn’t feel so guilty.
3. I don’t want to be inside on a sunny day.
There are rooms in my house that I dislike when it is a sunny day because of the way that the sun shines through the windows and lights up the room. I don’t want it so bright. When we were searching for our home, I told my husband that I would know almost immediately if a house was a contender or not based on the feeling that I would get when we walked inside. A lot of that had to do with the sun and the way it shined inside the house. I can come across a photo of a literal palace and not want to live there based on how much sun is shining into the rooms. I have moved many times in my life and have always enjoyed starting fresh in a new home. A lot of that has to do with my depression. In addition to enjoying change, I’ve always been happy to leave behind an old home because my homes are always tainted with my depression. When I walk into certain rooms, I see my depression. I see myself stuck in the bedroom asleep on sunny days. I see myself sitting in the living room alone because I don’t have the energy to go out and socialize. I see myself crying in the bathroom because my depression has become overwhelming. I know that I should be outside enjoying these sunny days, not trapped inside by my depression.
4. I am falling short.
There is one very specific scenario that I daydream about often and it actually includes a sunny day. If anyone has ever asked me what my “dream day” looks like, it is this: I am on a boat (a yacht if I am really dreaming) with my family and friends, drink in hand, music turned up, more fit than I am now, basking in the sun and bobbing with the waves. I am a water-loving Pisces. This daydream is how I would spend any sunny day if I could. But then, reality sets in. I don’t own a boat (hopefully I will someday). We’ve rented boats before, but that can be a process. So can having a toddler and an infant. We have so much work to do around the house and need to take advantage of the nice days to do these things. I have errands to run whether it is a sunny day or not. So, 99.9 percent of the time, I am not living up to my “sunny day boat goals.” That is what I feel like I should be doing. That is what I feel like other people are doing. When I am busy with all of these other things, I feel like I am not taking advantage of the opportunity to do what is most enjoyable to me. Instead, I am going to Target on a beautiful sunny day, which makes me feel depressed.
5. Is this as good as it gets?
Perhaps the most true and telling reason for my dislike of the sun is that it makes me ask, “Is this all there is?” It can be the most beautiful of days ever created and the thief that is depression will still find a way to creep into my thoughts and make me feel like something is missing. Like my enjoyment has a limit. Like I might be happy, but not happy enough. Not as happy as everyone else. Because what could possibly be better than the best of sunny days? Nothing that I can come up with. So why am I still not happy? Why am I still longing for something more?
It is easier for me when the sun is behind the clouds. I don’t have to wrestle with these internal struggles brought about by my depression. A gray sky means I am functioning like everyone else and am as happy as I’m supposed to be. For even just a day, my depression is also hiding behind the clouds.
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Thinkstock photo via danr13