Autobiography · Mental Health


She reminds me that each day brings us closer to when the days start getting longer again. That in thirty-three days it will be as dark as it’s going to get. I try to remind myself of this when I’m outside smoking a cigarette at 4:30 PM and the sun is already sinking below the horizon. When I’m wrestling with my brain to get me out of bed to go running without light. We’re getting closer to it getting bright again.

Like every year, I take my vitamin D, I try to remember to eat, get enough sleep. And like every year I struggle to take care of my most basic needs while I’m living in the dark. All the things I know I need to do to feel better seem to be just out of reach.

My therapist tells me we’ll work on motivation. My psychiatrist tells me we’ll figure out if my medication is draining me. My sister tells me she’s only always a phone call away. My mom sets up my old apartment in case I need to be somewhere else. Chuck says I can stay “for a night, a week, forever”. Andrew checks in on my wellbeing over and over. Vinnie shares smoke breaks with me. We’re rallying.

There has to be a way to get through this again. I’ve managed it this long, it’s silly to think I won’t be able to this time. But every day my alarm clock goes off and I can’t make myself get out of bed. Today I slept until 9:45 when I had to be at work at 10:00. It’s hard. Everything is so hard. My mom tells me how much fight I have in me and follows it up with, “I just wish you didn’t have to use it all the time.” And I find myself wishing that, too.

I don’t want or need life to be easy. I just need it to be a little gentler with me. But I guess like anything it just comes with practice. It’s just muscle memory.

Photo courtesy of Jason Leem.

Autobiography · Mental Health


"last daylight" © Raul Lieberwirth , 2006. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
last daylight” © Raul Lieberwirth, 2006. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

They talk about vitamin D and circadian rhythms. Talk about seasonal depression. All I know is that this time of year I start to go just a little crazy. I never know if I should be eating lunch or dinner. Can’t tell if I slept in two hours late or woke up right on time.

I get up well before sunrise because I don’t want to miss a moment of day. Want to make sure I’ve worked out, showered, and eaten breakfast long before the light peers in through our windows.

My alarm clock lamp turns on slow, drowning out the dark of night with a soft white glow over the course of thirty minutes. When my cell phone screams at me, I’m already mostly awake.

I stumble to the bathroom and put on my running clothes before I have a chance to think about anything else. Brush my teeth, layer up, and head outside. The cold is shocking at first, but I adjust quickly, giving into the icy crisp of 5 AM.

On my run I pass an empty field. No lamps or houses to strangle out the still night sky. And I stop and stare at the stars I was never able to see when we lived in downtown Seattle. My frozen cheeks fold up into a smile. I lose myself in thousands of brilliance of it, and for a moment I think maybe the endless night isn’t anything to dread after all.

After breakfast, I take handfuls of vitamins and long pulls from a bottle of fish oil. I sit in front of a HappyLight and hope that maybe something will help this year. I drive to a barre class and bask in the presence of strong women. I stretch out. Chest open, chin up. I play graceful. Long and lean and flexible and tripping over my own feet. Just another silly activity to keep me from sitting and slipping into the dark.

At home, I draw all the blinds, windows open wide. Any ounce of sunlight that I can get, I let in. I don’t dare block it out. Instead, I absorb it. Embrace all I can because there’s not much of it.

In the afternoon, when my office fills up with light, I turn my heat up and strip down to my undershirt. Let the sun climb over my arms, my chest, my face. The hair on my arms prickle back to life and I close my eyes, finally relaxing.

When the last bits of light threaten to sink below the horizon, I put on a raincoat and boots, wrap a scarf up around my face, and pull a hat down over my ears. I face all elements to make sure I get the last little bits of natural brightness to shine in my eyes. And all I can think is that in a month it’s going to be even darker than this. But then I remember that in a month, it’s going to be as dark as it will get.


War Anthems

"lantern" © Jenny Downing, 2009. CC BY 2.0.
lantern” © Jenny Downing, 2009. CC BY 2.0.
Preparing for war.

We never were fighters and we don’t want to go,
but there are some things you don’t get a choice in.

Winter will crash over and crush us
no matter how well we’ve prepared.

Spring will sweep us up
in a gust of wind, scattering our last reserves
of hope and energy like ashes. Continue reading →