A slight rustling in the grass as just a few blades shift, sounding like the wind. Without noise, without fanfare, it slithers into your midst unbeknownst to you. Slowly it winds around you, surrounding you with the cloak of normalcy. Then it starts to squeeze. With growing force, it closes in on your world, it’s grip starts to tighten. It’s presence clouds your mind and darkens your heart. Slowly, like a constant leaking drip, it leaches your passion and motivation. It smothers your love. It fills your perspective with tears and hisses at positive thoughts. Slowly strangling your happiness, the snake of depression takes over your life, squeezing out the ‘real’ you. Quietly, depression strangles your RAWR into silence.
Depression is a complicated and fickle creature. Moving into your consciousness with the stealth of a snake, depression can quickly devour and consume a seemingly healthy, happy person. What makes it harder to catch and eradicate is that depression can come at you from many directions.
Part 1: The physical snake : Lack of sunshine
My first bout with depression was the year my family moved to Fairbanks, Alaska. I was 7 and had spent my entire life in sunny states when the military called us to the great white North. We arrived in the summer during the long days when the sun barely drops below the horizon. With amazing speed, the sun disappeared, plunging us into perpetual darkness. It wasn’t long before my little self felt the effects of no sun. My emotional stability turned into quicksand. I slept more than usual. I also learned the bad habit of emotional eating to feel better. At the time, the technology wasn’t there to support Vitamin D deficiencies and what is now known as SAD. Recognizing the changes in all of us, my mom would diligently fill up spray bottles (yes, mine was magenta) with food colored water, bundle us up and send us outside to art up the yard until it got dark.
(Tip: do not fill spray water bottles with yellow water. You’ll wonder forever which was the kids vs. the dog.)
Life without the sun is no joke. There are people on this earth who can tolerate it better, but only with the right diet and genetics. However, we all need sunshine to hit our eyeballs every day. The sun is a key component to the music of our DNA and controls many metabolic functions, including queing in our serotonin and melatonin. Without those cues to our system, our body won’t function properly. We’ll feel “off”, more tired, more hungry, more irritable. That’s the start. Too long without enough sunshine and we break down.
There are many therapies designed to help combat those effects and employed with great force in the darker regions of the world. Happy lights, tanning beds, vitamin D supplements, gyms and more are available to combat the lack of sunshine. One simple therapy shared by Deborah Burnett is to have a bright, blue kitchen that you spend time in every morning between 9-11am. The key here is the light bulbs should have a higher Kelvin temperature range and so their light is bluer/ whiter. Cool White is often a key to the higher spectrum.
My other favorite anti-dote is one my mom knew instinctively: exercise. Exercise releases serotonin, endorphins and other “feel good” hormones. When done at the right time of day (before 3pm), exercise can reduce the impact of depression. Breaking a sweat helps to release all of your internal “piss and vinegar” as Raul likes to say, not only boosting your body but also your mind.
If you recognize yourself in any of the above, we encourage you to speak with a health professional. There are many resources out there to help you cope with and overcome depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder and Vitamin D deficiencies exist and there are tools out there to help you. Keep trying them until one clicks for you.
RAWR & ❤