I love autumn. I love the crisp air. I love long strolls over crunching leaves, the splattering of maple and burnt orange on towering trees. As it chimes midnight on August 31st, I feel a sort of rebirth. I can breathe a sigh of relief. The stifling summer months have finished, and the comfort, security and festivities can now begin. I realise that not everyone will share my opinion. Actually, I expect lots of people to strongly disagree with me. And I completely understand why. As days get shorter and we are met with cold and drawn out evenings, there is a tendency for low moods to creep in. To feel flat, perhaps isolated, and, well, a bit sad.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is often known as ‘winter depression’. The symptoms include, but aren’t limited to, a low constant mood, irritability, troubles with sleeping and a feeling of worthlessness and despair. Whilst not experiencing SAD myself, I have struggled with other mental health disorders, and something which has always frustrated me beyond belief is people’s ability to undermine others’ emotional well-being. The phrase ‘cheer-up’ is thrown around so flippantly, and it can be incredibly harmful. There is a massive difference between feeling a ‘bit down’ and suffering from a mental health disorder.
When struggling with your mental and emotional health, you can feel incredibly out of control. Somehow overwhelmed and underwhelmed by life at the same time. Life seems to just happen to you, rather than you actively living it yourself. To be trying to come to terms with your emotions is challenging enough, so to then receive comments from people which suggests that you are choosing to feel this way can be heartbreaking and completely deflating. The analogy that is often used is that if you suffered a broken bone, one wouldn’t expect you to simply ‘get better’. You would not be told that medication is ‘unnecessary’, or that seeking professional help is ‘attention seeking’. You would need time. You would need help. And above all else, you would need to be treated with kindness. The same must apply to mental health disorders such as Seasonal Affective Disorder.
So, as the darker evenings draw in, it is important to remember that despite what Andy Williams says, it is not the most wonderful time of the year for everyone. It is crucial to be kind, to be patient and to seek help unapologetically if you need it.