It’s a beautifully sunny morning in my corner of Upstate New York. In fact, we’ve had rather a lot of sunshine this winter. It’s very unusual for this area; one night during a hypomanic spell I devoted quite a bit of time to determining just how little sunshine we get. 70 days per year. This part of New York parallels the Pacific Northwest for gray weather.
Gray days get me down. I started using a light box this winter and I think it helps, but I’m not sure – too many other things have been changing too quickly to tell. Seasonal affective disorder is a problem in this area, and the Winter Blues are rampant. Today, the sky is brilliant blue and the sun is shining off the light snow that fell yesterday. I desperately want to go outside and bask in the light, despite the cold temperatures. I rarely get to go play in the sunshine. I watch it color my windows and grit my teeth and keep working.
I’m suspicious of the sunshine. It’s not normal for here. If I were the paranoid type, I’d think the sun came out just so that it could whisk itself away to further disappoint me. It feels as if the sun controls my moods, although they don’t correlate perfectly. The cheerful light will disappear at any moment, to be replaced by a week of weeping overcast skies. I know the pressing darkness will come back. I know this general feeling of well-being will evaporate at some point. The mental clarity will be clouded over. The odd sense of light-heartedness will be overtaken by dull, heavy, dreary days. It always goes that way.
I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Every time my mood moves a little bit in one direction or another, I’m terrified that it’s going to go to an extreme. I’m suspicious of feeling good, even more than I worry about feeling bad. I do want to feel good, of course, but it doesn’t last. It can’t. An up mood is inevitably followed by a down one. Flying high becomes just as bad as falling down because I know what’s coming. The sun will disappear again and I don’t know how long it will be gone. The days will pass in muffled gray misery, hiding indoors, wet and muddy and unpleasant, just like my mind.
Today it is sunny and I want to play. I have to work instead. I don’t get to take a day off just to celebrate the sunshine, even though I know it can’t last. I like the crisp wintery blue sky with its piercing white sunshine, but I daydream about more sunny days, warmer ones, when I can take to the trails where the light filters through the trees. Sunlight-dappled leaves moving gently in soft breezes, insects buzzing in a semi-hypnotic rhythm, green everywhere, and blue skies above. Sunshine that warms the skin, rather than a harsh brightness coupled with biting winds.
Today we will stay indoors, nurse our colds, and I will continue to work. I’m working for those warmer sunny days when I really will abandon my desk for the light.