Winter and mental illness

I have a mental illness.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t really like to talk about it. Not because I’m ashamed, or afraid of what people might think of me. I’ve long since stopped caring about that. I don’t discuss or dwell on my mental illness because it brings me down.

It sucks, there’s little I can do about it, and running through all the ways it affects my life is an exercise in self-abuse.

But this winter…worries me.

I’ve never really noticed a seasonal component to my mental illness. Some people struggle once the weather turns cold, but I don’t. Or, at least, I didn’t.

I’m worried things will be different this year.

Since I took up photography, I’ve been getting outside more and more. I’ve been taking long walks with my camera, stalking flowers and trees, and loving every minute that the sun beats down on me. I’m loving it so much that it’s hard for me to describe just how awesome being outdoors has felt, without sounding like some kind of deranged hippie.

And that’s great, of course, but it’s the flip side that bothers me. When the weather’s been rainy and nasty, my mood’s gone alarmingly downhill.

Every day of gray skies and drizzle this year has found me on the couch, tired, and miserable. Without the sun above, I feel like I’m six feet below. It’s an awful, relentless feeling that I can still work around for a day or two, but a whole season?

I already hated winter, but for purely practical reasons. It’s cold, wet, and “shoveling snow” ranks right up there with “lumbar puncture” on the list of things I never want to experience again. This winter, though? It feels like it’s going to be double-plus ungood.

So, I’m writing a list of things I can do to keep my mental illness at bay this winter, or at least dial back the dread. It’s not a given that things are going to be shitty once the snow’s on the ground, but having a set of activities to help keep my brain happy if they do sounds like a reasonable precaution.

Things I’ve put on it? Watching movies I’ve been meaning to see. Reading books I’ve wanted to read. And yes, getting outside, despite the ice and cold, is also on there. Meditation and a deeper commitment to what you might call my “spiritual” practice appears as well.

I’m still working on the list, still trying to fill it out, but just getting it started has made me feel better about how I’ll handle my mental illness this winter.

So, if you’re struggling too, why not make your own? If you do, leave a comment with what you’ve chosen to put on it.

We could all use some new ideas.