Odd Years in Autumn
I have a cycle. Every two years - odd years, to be exact - I hit a hard seasonal depression. It usually kicks off just around Labor Day. Summer into fall can be difficult for anyone. I'm sure any teacher can tell you that.
But, seriously, what the fuck? Why does this happen to me? I LOVE the fall. I love football. I love walking on crunchy leaves. I love Halloween. I love horror movies. I love BEER. BEER IS SO GOOD IN THE FALL. I love hoodies. I love wearing flannel shirts. I mean, FUCK, flannel shirt season is the dad bod version of a hot girl summer. The World Series, which happens at the end of October, is my favorite sporting event. (The only odd year of my life that was manageable was in 2015, when the Mets won the pennant, so maybe the cure for my depression lies in the hands of the most gut-wrenching franchise on the planet. Go figure.)
So, why does this happen to me? Backtracking to every odd year since 2011, I can pinpoint a landmark, or milestone, that could have potentially been a trigger - whether it's a breakup, crushing career setback, the end of a certain era. But when I think deeply on it, I was headed steadfast towards something bad anyway. I could feel the hopelessness setting in, the wallowing, the feelings of worthlessness and despair. The "catalyst" incidents were just the reassurances that my feelings were justified.
And, for whatever reason, the REALLY BAD stuff has happened in the EVEN years and I was FINE. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit. I was forced to leave my apartment for six months, on top of dealing with the end of a relationship. I took it all in stride. 2020… 20-fucking-20, with Covid, the election, the state of the world, all of it… I was fine.
Now, here I am, headed toward the dreaded time in my cycle. And it's here. I could tell. I know the feelings leading up - staying up all night, sleeping all day, weight gain, self-loathing thoughts - they're all marching toward my castle like those stupid blue skeleton ghost creatures that Game of Thrones spent 7 years building up. Seriously, fuck that show.
Oh, sorry, did I lose you? I'll say it again - fuck that show.
I'm far better equipped to deal with this episode of Odd Years in Autumn. I'm medicated, living with an understanding, supportive partner. I have a great therapist. I have an artistic community. I have built a moat around my castle.
Does the mean it still won't happen? I doubt it. In fact, I know it's going to happen because it's already here. I am sitting here, writing this piece, depressed. And I don't understand it. I've slept till 1:30pm the last three days. Why does this happen to me every two years, on the nose (unless the Mets go to the World Series)?
Maybe I should google it. brb.
Okay, I googled it. It was a little difficult to focus, because my depression causes me to be a complete scatterbrain. But I soldiered through. Here are some nuggets I've found:
"Major Depressive Disorder with a Seasonal Pattern (formerly known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD) is characterized by recurrent episodes of depression in late fall and winter, alternating with periods of normal mood the rest of the year."
Couldn't come up with a better acronym than "SAD"? Jesus. But yes, I know I'm not alone in seasonal depression. All of this makes sense. But why is it only happening every two years? I guess I should be grateful that it doesn't hit me every year?
OK, let me do some more Googling…
Thirty minutes, five handfuls of peanuts, one spoonful of ice cream, and a procrastination shower later…
Alright, just found something called "Dysthymia" that feels very familiar:
"While someone with major depressive disorder will typically “cycle” through episodes of feeling severely depressed and then be symptom-free for periods of time, dysthymia presents with persistent symptoms for years.
An episode of depression usually represents a break from someone’s normal life and outlook, while dysthymia is often embedded into a person’s life and outlook because they experience symptoms for such prolonged periods of time. In fact, an adult must experience depression for at least a two-year period to receive a diagnosis (one year for children and teenagers).
There is no clear cause for this type of depression. Mental health professionals think it’s a result of chemical imbalances in the brain. Many factors are thought to contribute to depression. These include environmental, psychological, biological, and genetic factors. Chronic stress and trauma have also been linked to this condition. Dysthymia seems to run in families, but no genes have yet been linked to it."
… there is no clear cause for this type of depression. That's… bleak. Reading this sentence feels to me like, "yeah, fucko, these are the cards you were dealt. Either play the hand or get the fuck out."
And I know, I know, if I exercise more, drink less alcohol, avoid certain patterns and behaviors, these things can be avoided, or more manageable. Right?
But try telling someone in the throws of a depressive episode those things. Seriously. You know how hard it can be just to get out of bed to take a dump in the early-afternoon? Fellow... depresees (?) - how often, when you're depressed, do you not remotely have the inspiration to do these things, then when you don't do them, feel guilty for not doing them, then in turn feel like you let yourself down, and end up feeling more depressed than when you started the day? It's really hard to wake up and convince the voice in your head, who is telling you that you're worthless, "hey, it would be a great idea if we went and swung around the old kettle bell!"
I'm not sure where to end this. I think all I can say is, I'm doing the best I can with the resources and support systems I've built around me. I'm going to be okay. But, you know, sometimes you gotta not be okay in order to get okay. And that's okay. (Okay, I'll stop.)
Or maybe the Mets will win the World Series? (Okay, now I'll REALLY stop.)
If you are struggling with your mental health, there is no shame in seeking help:
SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information