It’s not a big secret that winter affects me. It’s not that I don’t like the season as such. I love the cold and I wish we had more snow but it always also casts a shadow over me – like a rain cloud. Call it what you will – depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – but what does it actually entail? What does it mean for me personally? First of all, I feel exhausted and tired all the time. The shorter the days are, the more I struggle to get up in the mornings. I know that sticking to my routine is good for me and apart from being somewhat more irritable than usual (I even started crying at work once) other people will probably not notice a difference. For me, however, it means having to put extra effort into everyday tasks in order to function fully. Sometimes even the smallest things like making a doctor’s appointment or coming home to 35 unanswered WhatsApp-messages can stress me out big time and can look like a real obstacle. Even if the messages are extremely kind and supportive they can overwhelm me since I feel obliged to answer right away even if I don’t have the time. I always feel like I have to little time for all the chores and things I have to do: work, social life, sports, cleaning my flat, drive to my mum at weekends to help her (my mum has MS and I want to be able to support her the way she supported us as kids and I want to repay her for working two jobs to afford horses for us.)
At the same time, winter is the busiest time for me at work. I usually put in extra hours to meet the deadlines and not let my boss down. I really enjoy work and I am lucky enough to work in an incredible team that is extremely supportive. Nevertheless, I feel a bit overwhelmed at times and I just want to get everything right (pleasing the perfectionist in me). As a result I start suffering from migraines and stress gastritis because of course my psyche needs some sort of outlet. I was glad when it got to Christmas and I had at least some time off to recover and to start a friend marathon, squashing way too many plans in way too little time as usual and still letting down some people who also wanted to meet up and my dad who I meant to visit in the UK. However, despite some minor hiccups and things I have to work on, I am not new to this, so I do know some very effective coping mechanisms. Beside my routine and forcing myself to get up, I try to do things that make me happy. I have recently started painting again. And despite my lack of talent, I enjoy it greatly. I’m also getting back into playing the violin and want to teach myself to play the piano since I love music and it can make me feel many emotions, the most important being happiness.
Furthermore, a natural anti-depressant for me has always been being around animals. I love the way I can communicate with them without words. They are so honest and the love of an animal is so powerful. I remember when I was growing up I found comfort in our dogs Tara and Erin and on many occasions I went to the stables when I was upset to bury my teary face in my horse’s mane or just to sit in the straw next to him for hours. The sound of him chewing on his hay was so comforting that it brought pure joy to me. Almost as much joy as hearing his hooves on the forrest ground feeling completely free – feeling that everything could be possible and that we could just escape this world and never come back. My horse Felix’s death in 2014 broke my heart. And suddenly one of my support systems was down. One of the creatures I had loved unconditionally for over 19 years and who had loved me unconditionally was just gone. He would never come galloping to greet me again, never stand on my feet “accidentally” and never be the keeper of all my secrets again.
And still, I got through it. I think of him all the time and will never forget the way he helped me become the person I am today. I miss the fresh air and mucking out stables, the smell of hay and the perfect moments of “solitude”. Luckily, I have a number of great friends who made his loss more bearable. And those friends also help me cope in wintertime. Everyone has fair weather friends but I’m glad that I have some people I can really always rely on. Among them are my very dear friends Anne and Al, my “oldest” friends Anika and Daniel, my sisters, as well as Pinar and Monja and my great “frolleague” Anuschka. I can talk to them about everything that is going on in my life and I can trust them entirely. They also understand that it’s not about them if I don’t have the energy to see them or have to cancel appointments on short notice and I can be honest with them. For me that is of the greatest importance since wintertime increases my inability to say “No”. Feeling more vulnerable and being prone to feeling like a failure makes me want to overcompensate and please everyone, which means I cannot set boundaries and I take on too many social calls and go overboard on Christmas presents.
One example: As I wrote in an earlier post, I absolutely hate fish and try to embrace a vegetarian lifestyle (wish I had the discipline to be vegan) and yet, when I was invited to dinner I didn’t dare to say that I don’t eat fish and I swallowed bits of it whole, attempting to maintain my poker face while trying not to throw up. That just goes to show that during wintertime I am my own worst enemy and I need to find ways to protect myself. At the moment that means trying to avoid people that for me are difficult to deal with despite being very kind. But at times I feel that a lot of people are pulling away little pieces of me in different directions and draining my energy. I feel like Prometheus’s liver and everything around me turns into an eagle tearing away at me and leaving me incomplete. It stresses me out to have plans every evening after work and at the weekends since I require a lot of time to recover. At the same time I really do want to see my friends and often meeting them is also good for me since it can also lift my spirits. In the end, there are too many things I want to do, too many people I want to meet or go on holidays with but too little time.
Time seems to be limited and has become my most precious possession (today I took an entire day for myself and that is why I finally decided to write a post again). I attempt to go to the gym twice a week (have failed miserably the last couple of weeks, but starting again on Tuesday) and swimming once a week and that only leaves two more evenings for other activities. But sports are extremely vital for my wellbeing. Even though it seems extra hard to actually go to the gym, I know that the endorphins will reward me in the end. And right now I desperately want to get fitter for my big upcoming India-Nepal-Tibet-adventure. I often wonder how other people do it and how they can integrate everything into their lives so effortlessly? And why don’t other people need time to recover? Well, I guess comparing myself to others is not the healthiest thing to do. So I just have to focus on my own mental health, on what is good for me and also on what is bad for me. Be that as it may, I am back. And I will make time to blog regularly.
This post sounds extremely dark and depressing but I am happy and I know what I have and I really appreciate it. I just want to explain why sometimes it can be a bit tougher for me to get everything done right. And despite the wintery struggle I am so excited for this year. So many amazing things are going to happen! And I hope to share all of my adventures with you – Fiona – my only reader ;-D