“Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life” – Rumi
It was 2010, the year I had to spent my first winter in Cambridge. I had spent winters in other countries before, but only for a short period of time, and never exceeding three months. It was somewhat a shock to the system to find out what it really means to live through an entire winter. See, where I come from, every day the sun rises at nearly the same time and also sets at the same time. Every day, there are only two possibilities of how the weather might turn out – rain or no rain. Even if it rains, the temperature will not go down below 26 degrees. And the sun will always come out, every day, regardless.
So, coming across seasonal changes, observing how days can stretch endlessly in summer and how compressed they can feel in winter, was a big change for my perceptual world. I have nothing against long summer days, although I found it very hard to go to sleep when it was still light outside – it seems that in the presence of sunlight my body still wanted to be active. It was the same in winter – as soon as it would start getting dark, my body would immediately feel incredibly lethargic. I found it very difficult to find motivation and energy, and hey, it is coming from someone whose battery had never previously run out. At times, when it was particularly overcast, I found even getting out of bed hard work. I was easily irritated, mostly with myself. And more often than not, I felt no desire to do anything. I felt drained, a feeling which I had never experienced before.
That winter, I went to see my GP. Being asthmatic, I had to see a specialist and in addition have my regular flu jabs. Then I talked to the nurse about my lack of energy and difficulties getting up. She then told me about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) – and suddenly things started making sense. The lack of light especially affects people with darker skin like mine, as well as those used to living with a lot of sun. I realised there was so much more I had to learn.
That winter, I learned to count my stars to overcome the tiredness on those days when I couldn’t get out of bed. Find one reason to get out of the house, even to just go for a walk, but more often the journey took me to a yoga class. The first step is always the hardest, but I always came back feeling better, no matter how cold or dark it was outside. Every time I went out, I knew I was getting better as it would take me less and less time to follow through with my intention.
Now, during a transitional time like this, I know the demon I am facing. I know it will be hard for me to get out of bed on a particularly grey day, and I know the first step is always the most difficult. When such a moment comes, I will stop finding 1001 reasons to complain about, and instead focus on a single task for the day, then get up and start doing it while counting my stars; feeling the subtle movements in my toes, fingers, eyes, nostrils or finding some silly thing just to take my mind off complaining. Before I know it, usually, the day has gone by without me even coming close to the feeling I first experienced in 2010.
I have made a habit of writing down tasks I need to accomplish on a daily basis, thus cementing my intention in the morning. Today’s intention is to share these thoughts with you. My battle with SAD, I am still fighting…