Most of the traumatic events in my life took place in the early spring. The transition from snowy roads to warm, sunny days was never an easy time for me. While all my friends got hyped up for hiking, camping, and long walks on the beach, I isolated myself in my bedroom for days or even weeks at a time. Every year, like clockwork, my mental health takes a nosedive during the cusp of March into April.
Having seasonal depression is difficult. For most people, mental health issues are triggered by the short, dark days of winter and the holiday season. With low sun exposure, tense family gatherings, and the financial burden of gift-giving, it’s no wonder some people struggle with their emotions during this time. However, for me, it’s a bit different. I tend to thrive in late autumn and usually have a lot of positive energy around the holidays, but all that changes when winter thaws.
I struggle with the idea of calling my yearly battle with the springtime “seasonal depression,” mostly because I have major depression year-round. Instead of experiencing depression only during this season, I find that my mental health is especially bad during this time. I struggle with suicidal ideation more often, I isolate myself, spiral into loneliness, and I find myself trying to escape obsessive thoughts and even psychosis in the early days of spring. While the rest of the world starts waking up with more energy and optimism, I’m sometimes just trying to find the strength to make it through another day.
How I Cope With Seasonal Depression
I’ve found that the best way to deal with seasonal mental health issues is to prepare for them ahead of time. The only upside to having these problems arise around the same time every year is the ability to plan ahead.
There are several coping strategies I try to implement when it comes to dealing with my spring seasonal depression. The biggest aspect of coping with these feelings is distracting myself from obsessive negative thoughts, which is difficult to do in the moment so I try to keep a list of options handy. Here’s a few of the things I do to help pull myself out of that seasonal funk:
- Go for a drive. Driving around helps me a ton when I’m in a bad head-space. So long as I’m sober and calm enough to do it safely, a nice long drive to nowhere in particular is a great way to clear my head. I usually do this very late at night when I can’t sleep. The roads are mostly clear late at night and I can blast a feel-good playlist to get myself in a better mood.
- Find an excuse to go out. I avoid leaving the house when I’m depressed, but it really is the best thing for me. It’s difficult to find the motivation to get out so I try to find reasons to push me out the door. I’ll focus on something I want or need like a pint of ice cream or my medication refill and use that as an excuse to get dressed and leave the house, even if it’s for a brief time. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something and usually leads me to make better choices once I get moving. If you’re really desperate for a reason to get out more, try buying only the groceries you need for each day at a time. It will get you out of the house each day and hopefully gets you excited to plan your meals.
- Make a habit that takes advantage of the season. Spring is rough for me because it’s so beautiful out and I’m always too depressed to let myself enjoy it. To combat this, I try to make a habit to force myself to soak up the nice weather. For this, I’ll try to meet a friend for an outdoor lunch, read a book at the park, or bring my laptop to a café with a patio to write. By making a commitment to go do something out in the sun at least a few days a week, I get the Vitamin D I probably desperately need but I also associate these good feelings with the springtime. I usually have to write these things in my planner and force myself out the door, but it’s worth it.
- Get dressed up for no reason. A former partner of mine would get dressed every day, even if he had nowhere to go. It always confused me because I love staying in my PJs all day. However, I realized that putting on fresh clothes made him feel motivated to be productive, even if he didn’t leave the house. I saw how well it worked for his mood so I started trying it myself. I find it useful to wear something I feel pretty in. Usually this means wearing a nice sundress and doing my makeup, which automatically makes me feel cute and happier. On top of that, I’m now ready to go out if I feel motivated to. Not only does doing my hair and makeup help distract me from negative thoughts, it also makes me feel like leaving the house to go see someone, which is a great way to combat my isolation. I’ll often get dressed first and make plans second.
- Keep a “smile folder.” I got the idea of a smile folder from a former partner. When she found herself struggling with depression, she would open up a folder on her computer that she would add things to over time that made her smile. Funny videos, photos of loved ones, pets, stories of good memories, and little notes that kept her going. She shared this with me a decade ago and I’ve had my own ever since. I even converted mine into a Tumblr account, where I could reblog all my happy posts to one place. It’s been a life-saver, and I highly recommend that everyone start compiling their own smile folder, whether that be an actual folder on your computer, a blog of sorts, or Pinterest board. It’s great to look at when all else fails and you just need to find a reason to smile.
Of course, a really great resource to have on board is a therapist or mental health professional. If you’re able to, having a therapist is really beneficial to help talk through these tough emotions. Even if you only need to see them during the season that is hardest for you, therapists can be a fantastic guide to teach you relaxation techniques, coping skills, and help get to the root of your problems.
It’s important to remember that medication is a personal choice and that seeing a therapist does not mean you will be put on medication. If your mental health issues are severe enough, your therapist may recommend a psychiatrist to help with any chemical imbalances, but this is not a requirement for therapy in general and you may choose to not take medication if that is what you want to do. Many people avoid therapy for years because they’re afraid of being put on medications against their will, but you really do have a choice in the matter so long as you’re not an immediate risk to yourself or others.
If you’re experiencing seasonal depression or any other mental health issues, please reach out. A list of kink-friendly therapists can be found here or through the KAP directory. If you don’t have access to a therapist, try reaching out to friends and family. While they aren’t a replacement for medical professionals, they can help talk through your problems and give you some of the support you need.
Don’t be afraid to speak out if you’re struggling, especially if you’re struggling with suicidal ideation. Mental health problems often come and go, so hang in there and take care of yourself as best you can until you’re back on solid ground.