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The 'Summertime Sadness' We Need to Talk About

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The first day of summer has passed and we are now moving into the hot summer months. There are a lot of people who are beyond excited about long days by the pool and cool nights with friends by a bonfire. Many people are happy for the sun to stay high in the sky for the next few months. For those of us with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the summer months don’t mean fun pool parties or late summer nights. We experience summer depression, which has us feeling cold and lonely during one of the most loved seasons of the year.

SAD is a mood disorder with symptoms ranging from depression, anxiety to mood changes during the same time each year. For some of us, that time of year is summer. We experience typical depressive symptoms, and though they are typical, they are incredibly unpleasant and can be excruciating. We experience deep feelings of loneliness, intense anxiety, severe loss of interest in things we enjoy and fatigue that keeps us in bed, sometimes for days. We experience disappointment in ourselves when we are glued to our beds but could be enjoying the activities of summer. We can’t enjoy summer like others can because our feelings of worthlessness and sadness are overwhelming.

Our symptoms prevent us from seeing summer as a fun, warm time of year and cause us to see summer as just another thing our depression steals from us. Our symptoms make us hate the sun, detest the warmth and loathe the way other people have fun when we can’t. Our summer depression holds us back, even though we try to fight it. The daily battle is hard, and it’s rare to have a win. It’s rare to emerge from our rooms and step out into the sun and smile. It’s rare to climb out of our comfortable clothes and into a bathing suit because our depression makes our self-esteem extremely low. It’s rare to have good days, but it is not impossible. We hold onto this.

Summer depression takes a toll on our relationships. The constant cancellation of plans is hard for our friends and family to understand. So we stop making plans altogether. We isolate ourselves from those closest to us because we can’t enjoy life like they can. It’s easier to be alone than to explain our summer depression.

A lot of people hear about SAD and think it only happens in the wintertime because that’s the most common form of SAD. There are some of us who experience SAD in reverse and have a hard time during the summer. It’s difficult to understand, but understanding is not impossible, as long as the people inquiring ask the right questions and do the appropriate research. Summer depression is real, and it affects every aspect of our lives in profoundly sad and lonely ways. It is difficult to fight.

There may be less of us who experience SAD in the summertime than those who do in the winter, but even a few is too much. Summer depression is unfair, and it causes us to miss out on a lot of fun time with our friends and family. It’s difficult to fight, especially since it is difficult to understand, which makes it even harder for those closest to us to offer support. So we sit inside, away from the sun, the pools and the cookouts, feeling down on ourselves and feeling alone. We do have good days here and there when we can get out of the house and enjoy the warm weather. However, we’re so exhausted from fighting for those good days, we are mentally absent even when we’re with our loved ones.

Summer depression is real, and it is something that affects more people than anyone might imagine. It takes the fun out of summer, sort of like being a kid who is grounded for the entire summer season. It takes the warmth out of the sun and the allure away from summer activities. It is real, and it needs to be talked about and understood.

For those of us with SAD, we feel bad enough without other people making ignorant comments because they don’t understand what we’re going through. Summer depression holds us back, makes us miss out and confuses those around us. If only it were talked about as often as winter depression, then it would be easier for those of us who suffer to find the support we need during the summer months. Summer depression is a thing. It is real, and it needs to be talked about.

Originally published: June 29, 2016
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