The days are getting shorter. Have you noticed? Fall is on its way.
Since I was a little girl, this has been my favorite time of year. The cooler days, the smell of smoke and fallen leaves, the darkness that encroaches first on evenings, then on afternoons, making indoor places feel cozier than usual and the rain--oh, the rain. I love rain.
It feels like a time of mystery and magic and adventure. It always has. I can't put it better than to share with you this poem by Bliss Carman. I start whispering it to myself long before October, and when October ends, I replace it with this one by Dixie Wilson. My Mom used to read them to us, and they always captured for me perfectly the almost indescribable feeling I get at this time of year.
This year, though, there's something that makes this time of year less wonderful, that tries to steal the magic and succeeds in some degree, if only because the very thought of it makes me freeze up in fear.
It's called Seasonal Affective Disorder, and affects some ridiculously large proportion of people in the northwest. It affects me, and has for a long time now, although I didn't realize it for many years.
I can remember the first year it did, though. I was sixteen, and I started feeling sadder than usual and angrier than usual and more nervous than usual in August. In December I remember going to confession at the Benedictine Abbey in Mission, breaking down in tears and telling the priest that I thought everything I did was a mortal sin and would send me to hell. When I left the confessional, the paper I had written my "sins" on was wet through with anxious sweat from my palms. I remember that detail vividly.
In September of 2007, when I was twenty, I got a job at a coffee shop. It was a lovely place to work, a family business, and my job was in the back, making cookies and washing dishes, so I didn't have to interact with anyone but my coworkers, which suited me. I could have happily worked there for years, but as winter approached, I started making stupid mistake after stupid mistake--forgetting the sugar in a batch of cookies or slipping and cutting myself on sharp tin cans. I was costing my employer money, and although she was very nice about it, and suggested "cutting back my responsibilities for a while", at the time I suspected gluten intolerance, which my sister suffers from, and thought all the baking might be somehow affecting me even though I wasn't eating it, so I quit.
In 2009, I went on a 300-mile walking pilgrimage with a friend. I knew by this time that depression was an issue, but was completely unprepared for the mental and emotional breakdown that hit me that fall, setting off eighteen months of pure hell inside my head.
In 2012, medicated and partially recovered, I was at college for the second time, struggling with the required math and chemistry courses. By the time I got home for Christmas break in December I had relapsed too far to face another semester, and dropped out.
Last September I got a job as a waitress in the restaurant down the street, working from noon till five each day--a miraculous fit with my crazy sleep schedule. But as at the coffee shop, the longer fall dragged on the more depression dulled my senses, and my slowness and idiot mistakes got me fired before October was out.
And today, folding laundry in a glorious patch of late-summer sunshine streaming through my windows, I suddenly found I could hardly breathe.
This summer has been, quite literally, the best summer in years. Normally I don't start to really feel well until mid-July. This year, it was May. For three and half glorious months I've been able to go out and do things and meet people, even make friends. I starred in a play. I was offered an online teaching position, and took it. And I know there are things I can do to prolong the summer high, like increasing my daily exercise routine, taking extra B-vitamins, and continuing to involve myself in things that happen outside my flat, with other people, things I love, like theatre.
But I also know that with each diminishing day, the battle for wellness will get harder.
And I'm scared.
I'm scared I'll crash again, I'm scared I won't be able to pay my bills on time or cook meals for myself or get groceries when I need them. I'm scared I won't be able to keep doing the things that keep me well, riding my bike, taking my pills, writing my blog, taking myself out for coffee now and then.
I'm scared of being a burden to my friends and family.
I'm scared of losing control of my own mind again.
I'm scared the suicidal thoughts will come back--even though I know by now that I am tougher than they are.
I'm so scared.
This is a horribly long, self-centered post, I know. Well, I'm kind of long-winded and selfish, but I also want you to know why I'm asking your prayers. Please pray for me, and for all the hundreds of people who approach this time of year with trepidation. I know we can do this, but it's hard.
But we can fall and get up again and fall again and yet not be afraid of falling.