When I was many years younger, I used to be hit hard by what later came to be known as SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder. As Autumn proceeded from its kaleidoscopic colors into rusts and browns, and finally into Winter’s endless grays, my own spirits would slump accordingly. As the days grew darker, my moods followed along, bringing bouts of tears, withdrawal, and lethargy. By the time I crawled into late February, I would often be struggling with outright despair.
But, thankfully, that changed. Perhaps, it was in part that I fell in love with a man who truly revels in the cold time of year. And maybe as I got older, my hormonal changes helped. But the truth is that, long before I was perimenopausal, my Autumns and Winters were beginning to pass without loss of emotional equilibrium.
Was it just coincidence that this shift was in synch with the deepening of my Pagan spiritual practice? As I attuned myself to the seasons of the Earth, and embraced the cycles of life and death, growth and surrender, rather than dreading the darkening of the year, I learned to love it.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not attributing SAD and the suffering its victims undergo as being an easy fix – just “convert” to Witchcraft! (Ha! As if there could be such a thing!) I am well aware that for many people, it is a very painful and serious problem.
But I wonder if there could be any correlation between SAD and our culture’s insistence that we ignore the natural waxing and waning of the light. Could winter depression be exacerbated by our refusal to allow ourselves, in the ways we might individually need to, to harmonize with the rhythms of the seasons?
Our civilization demands that we perform at highly productive levels year-round. Somehow this reminds me of the factory farm practice in which the lights in laying sheds are controlled to maximize egg production. This practice is considered by some to be animal cruelty. But isn’t it just as unnatural and possibly harmful for us? Is it wise to demand of ourselves that we must function at unwavering levels, no matter if our bodies and spirits say otherwise?
At least for myself, the more I have reduced my demands on myself in Winter, allowing myself some fallow time for rest, the less distraught I have been. The more I have understood and absorbed the gifts of the dark time of the year, the less I have felt the “wintertime blues.” I am blessed that I no longer want to bask in front of a light box, in order to stay amped-up at Summertime levels.
Instead, I seek the beauty of the short days, I am grateful for the cold winds, and I embrace the silence. Nature Herself teaches us how to live in rhythm, and by following Her guidance, we might, in fact, be much less sad.