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.

Three things I’m shouting into the void

There’s a recent trend among bloggers and the Internet famous to write posts with titles like “Three things I want you to know,” and text which is just a little more involved than a list. And since they look like just about the easiest damn things to write, and it’s been two weeks since my last post, I’m jumping on that bandwagon like it’s the last burrito of the post-apocalypse.

Of course, since nobody actually reads this thing, it’s more like yelling into the void than sharing (allegedly) interesting tidbits about my life, but whatever.

I’m doing Instagram things.

I’ve been on Instagram for a while, but only started really using it about a month ago. A lot of my photography is going up there these days. My goal is one new photo a day, and so far I’ve been making that happen, which is kind of surprising given my track record when it comes to social media. Even more surprising, though, is that people are following me and my photos are starting to show up in the “Top Posts” for some of the tags I’ve tossed them into.

What I’m trying to say is that you should follow me over there. Follow me, like my stuff, comment on it. Pretty much anything you can think of to boost my numbers and inflate my sense of self-worth would be totally sweet.

I’m still trying to figure out what sort of photographer I am.

I realize I’m contradicting myself here, but I’m taking more photos of flowers, trees, and other “nature” type things and I’m kind of enjoying it. Like, a lot. In fact, the photo on this post is probably in my personal “Top Five.”

That’s…a little frustrating, actually. I mean, I’ve been taking photos (and taking photography seriously) for six or seven months now, and while it’d be insane to expect to know everything about the subject, it seems reasonable to assume that I’d at least know what I like at this point.

But no. No, one day I’m out shooting power lines, the next it’s architecture and candid street photos, and then later on I’m up close and personal with marigolds and begonias.

I’m trying to assume that this is all just part of the natural, creative process of anyone just getting into something like this, but I’m leaving open the possibility that I’m just a loon.

I’m still not sleeping, I still hate winter.

Despite one or two nights of exceptions, I’m still not sleeping much at all. So that, you know, sucks. Also, the first day of autumn has come and gone, putting me that much closer to another winter in New Hampshire. I’m going to do my absolute damnedest to get outside despite the cold and the snow, but…

Look, it’s really hard for me not to just start stringing together expletives and slamming my head against the keyboard when I think about winter. It’s seriously, absolutely impossible for me to even pretend to sound positive about it.

I hate winter. I hate everything about it. I think I even hate the people who enjoy it, just on general principle, though probably not, or at least not very much.

Whatever, though. I’m just going to tough it out. Get some decent boots, buy a solid base layer, then go out with my camera whenever I manage to summon the will. Which, if previous years are any indication, won’t be very often, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

Anyway, that’s what I want the two and a half of you reading this thing to know.

Awake, walking

The sleep, it is elusive.

Last night seemed to go better than the several preceding it, but I still feel like hammered excrement this morning, so maybe I just think I slept OK?

Whatever, here’s a photo I took the other day while out on a walk.

I’ve done a lot of walking this summer. Whenever the weather permits, I’m outside, and I usually take at least a few photos while strolling around. Unfortunately, the area I live in is a little…boring.

See, I grew up around woods and flowers and fields, spent my entire life within walking distance of green parks and flowing rivers, and basically take “the beauty of nature” for granted. No, it’s more than that.

I’m kind of sick of nature.

I’d rather shoot concrete jungles, rusting cars, and graffiti. Crowded streets, subways, and sewers. Preferably in a city that’ll never see snow, which will be coming my way all too soon.

There’s was some broader point I was going to try making here about the grass being greener, or finding the beauty in what you have, but honestly? I’m both too tired think, and too tired to fake enthusiasm when I’m this close to another New England winter.

Yeah. Fuck winter.

Getting Crafty

The weather’s been a lot better since my last post. Well, mostly better. It was unbearably hot for a couple of days (with the thermometer on my porch hitting 100 degrees at one point), but I’d rather suffer a day or two of sweltering heat than another month of gray skies and rain.

Still haven’t done much of anything, though. I’ve been too caught up in either personal business (which I’ll write about sooner or later) or some projects which I’ve been meaning to get to.

Projects like learning how to make costumes and props out of craft foam.

See, my daughter has a habit of coming up with elaborate costume ideas for Halloween, and we both have interests which tend toward the geeky–interests which could be more effectively served if we knew how to make our own garb and implements to go with them.

So, I finally broke down and bought what amounts to a foam crafting starter kit. Cutting mat, utility knife, contact cement–the whole haul shown in the photo at right. And oh, ho, ho! I’m so not done shopping yet.

Anyway, if you’re wondering where I’ve been and what I’ll be doing until whenever I next update this thing, now you know the answer.

Slack and Woe

Well, my streak was bound to end sooner or later. Haven’t published a blog post since Thursday, only barely touched the socials, and I’ve done almost no work for, like, a week.

Mostly, I blame the weather.

Here in my corner of the world, we’re basically getting week-long streaks of mid-fifties temperatures, gray skies, and rain, broken up by maybe a day here and there of “partly sunny” sixties.

This isn’t exactly what you’d call “ideal” for a person whose mental state has somehow become incredibly dependent on the weather in recent years, and who’s just set walking and photography as the twin pillars of all his stress relief.

So, my last couple of weeks can basically be summed up by the following conditional…

If the weather forecast looks like crap, I will watch Netflix and maybe get half an hour or an hour of work done on something. Otherwise, I will grab my camera, go outside, and walk until my feet and legs beg me to stop.

What I really need at this point is a good four or five day stretch of solidly good weather so that a) I’m no long bogged down by whatever this environmental depression-esque mood thing is, and b) that I don’t feel like Mr. Sun is so rare I have to throw everything else aside to embrace it like it’s the last time we’ll ever see each other.

Not sure when that’s happening, though, so here, have a Buddha.