I don't hate summer; I just don't really love it. What?! Summer?! Surely I must mean winter, right? Nope. I mean summer. It's not my favourite season. In fact, it's a really difficult time for me.
You have likely heard of seasonal affective disorder, commonly referred to as SAD. Did you know that for about 10% of people impacted by SAD, they experience it in the summer months? Lucky me, I am among that 10%. It's like opposite day for me when the rest of the world seems to be embracing the heat, having fun at the lake or getting together with friends for backyard BBQs. Sure, I enjoy some of that but mostly I am uncomfortable - mentally and physically. And that's a really hard thing to admit, especially when it seems to go against what you think the rest of the world feels. Just look at facebook where everyone is just having The. Best. Time. Oh, the pressure.
For someone who is pretty in tune with her moods and triggers after all these years, I was surprised when a friend pointed something out to me recently: in the five years that she has known me my mood has taken a hit starting each spring. Wow. How did I not see that?! And yes, it's true. Each of the depressive episodes that I have experienced have started in the spring. In fact, as I write this I am struggling once again with the ups and downs of mild to moderate depression.
So what is reverse seasonal affective disorder all about anyway? According to an online article in Psychology Today, "While winter SAD is linked to a lack of sunlight, it is thought that summer SAD is due to the reverse - possibly too much sunlight, which also leads to modulations in melatonin production. Another theory is that people might stay up later in summer, throwing their sensitive circadian rhythms for a loop."
Bingo. My circadian rhythms are way off. I can't get to sleep even when I am really tired. When I do sleep it is fitful. I don't wake up refreshed but exhausted. Sleep is the centre of everything for me. It impacts my mood and attitude, how I eat and what I eat, and if I have the energy to exercise or not. When I don't have enough of it, it takes control and dictates my choices. In short, it goes hand in hand with my old friend, depression.
Oh, and did I mention that my city is having a heat wave with record breaking temperatures? Extreme temperatures can increase the amount of headaches and migraines that a person experiences and it can also impact depression and mood.
All of this adds up to a perfect storm for my mental health. Swell.
If you know me at all, you will know this one thing: I don't give up. Not when it comes to my mental health or anything that I care strongly about. So how am I battling this latest challenge? I am taking each day as it comes. Each day is a new opportunity to try again - to eat well, connect with people, practice mindfulness, go for a walk, and (hopefully!) get a good night's sleep. I refuse to focus on the negative for too long. Even in my down moments I still recognize that the sun is shining - literally and figuratively!
All we have in this life are two things: this moment and the ability to change our attitude. Make your life what YOU want it to be. If that means spending a sweltering summer evening in an air-conditioned movie theatre giggling with a friend at a funny movie then do that (Thanks, D!). Write your own script. Embrace your own opposite day.
For more information about the connection between headaches and temperature click here