|I hate you.|
I begin every winter with the best of intentions: I’ll exercise, use my light lamp, eat healthy, and talk to other humans! Really! This year I’m totally going to do it, an entire life’s worth of evidence to the contrary be damned. Then my Seasonal Affective Disorder actually kicks in and and my brain and body go, “You’re kidding us with all this, right?”
So my original plan was to write about what I say I’m going to do versus what I actually do every year to deal with my SAD. After eight feet of snow in 30 days (not a jokey exaggeration!), Seasonal Affective Disorder starts to seem less like a maladaptive trait and more like a perfectly reasonable lifestyle. The time for healthy choices passed everyone by roughly three feet of snow ago, so let’s just call this a guide to getting to spring in the least painful, least healthy way possible.
Diet: Carbs are your best friend. Your meals should be as dense and white as Rob Gronkowski. Potatoes, bread, and potatoes on bread are all acceptable. All non-carbs should be covered in cheese. The healthiest thing you eat should be pizza (because tomatoes). At least 60% of your daily calories should come from a stockpile of half-off Valentine’s Day candy or bulk-bought Easter candy.
When you run out of candy, switch to alcohol. Cheap alcohol; never waste the good stuff on couch drinking. Chug coffee to wake yourself up. It doesn’t actually work, but if you drink enough you’ll get nauseous and that will keep you awake.
Environment: Whatever you do, Don’t Leave The House. It’s dark, cold, and scary out there. Everything you love in the outside world will still be there in the spring, and if it isn’t, well, then it wasn’t hardcore enough to survive and you don’t need that sort of weakness in your life.
Your only objective is to remain as warm and sedentary as possible. Find the most comfortable couch or chair in your house. Move it to a spot equidistant from the bathroom and a food source. Assemble a circle of necessary books, electronic devices, and remote controls and plant yourself in the middle. Make sure your computer is in there somewhere so you can make ill-advised impulse purchases.
Now take every throw pillow and blanket in your house and construct a cocoon into which you and all of your necessary objects will eventually disappear. (This is also where you will put your SAD-fighting light lamp, which you will never use but will instead stare balefully at every couple of days. That thing is an asshole.)
Do not leave unless there is a large fire. (Small fires can be smothered by your blanket cocoon.) Do not visit friends. Do not let friends visit unless they are willing to climb into your blanket fort and not talk to you.
Behavior: Listen, I know it’s usually an excellent and healthy idea to share your feelings, but I am here to tell you: Do not do this. One of the features of a disorder that leaves you listless and trapped in your house is that every little problem around you becomes a source of annoyance on par with people who lean their entire bodies on subway poles.
Your best bet is to answer every question with, “I have the SAD,” and then stop talking. Otherwise an innocent question from a loved one, like, “Why is the sink full of dishes?” can quickly devolve into you yelling, “And you think I haven’t noticed that you haven’t cut your toenails since September, but I have. I HAVE.”
Health: Sleep. All the sleep. Try to learn to sleep with your eyes partially open so you can do it at work and when people are talking to you. Look up the Guinness World Record for consecutive hours asleep (comas don’t count!) and try to break it. It’s good to have goals, and the longer you’re unconscious, the sooner it will be Spring.
Under no circumstances should you voluntarily exercise. Don’t listen to the commercials trying to sell you gym memberships. It isn’t going to make you feel better; it’s going to make you feel exactly the same, except sweaty. Shoveling and cursing the heavens count as exercise, anyway.
Certain people will tell you that your malaise can be solved by vitamins. This is also bullshit. Vitamins make you feel better because they are the only advice from your doctor that you ever manage to follow, not because they actually have any healing properties. Buy the gummy vitamins and refill the bottle with Haribo gummies when it’s empty. No one will know, and you get more candy.
Entertainment: Binge watch television shows that have already ended. You do not have the emotional reserves to hit the last episode on Netflix and realize it’s a cliffhanger. Ideally, you want a show where something gets fixed, be it a person, home, or business. That way you get a vicarious sense of accomplishment without actually having to do anything.
Movies are all right, but don’t watch anything that looks emotional. Sure, the catharsis of a good cry might seem appealing, but what happens when you can’t stop? I cried for so long after Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that my spouse suggested going to the emergency room to check on my tear ducts. Also, if a pet appears within the first ten minutes of the movie, check Does the Dog Die immediately.
Do not watch anything by Joss Whedon, except maybe The Avengers. But only the Captain America parts.
OK, all right: this is terrible advice. You will be chemically bonded to your couch by spring if you actually follow it. But one of the worst parts of depression is looking at the things you should be doing versus the things you’re actually capable of doing and beating yourself up over the vast gap between them. So if you need to pour M&Ms directly from the bag into your mouth in order to get back to a place where your relationships can survive the winter intact? I say do it and ditch the guilt.