« A Memorable Musical Moment | Main | The Price Of Staying Alive - And The Problems Of Dying »

Pins And Needles: Winter Blues

Gloria MacKay copes well with the dark season of the year. "I can survive for weeks in a closet of gray and come out blooming like a Christmas cactus...''

But there are many who are both literally and acronymically sad in winter - victims of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

"These people just cannot function well when they wake up in the dark, commute both ways in the dark, dine in the dark, make love in the dark and fight in the dark. Without light, their bodies want to curl up like bears until a ray of early morning sun jump-starts their brains.''

I can survive for weeks in a closet of gray and come out blooming like a Christmas cactus. I glean a little here and there: umbrellas of light on neighbors' front porches; three-way bulbs cranked on high; shoes that light up when a child walks by. This is enough illumination for a person like me, someone who drives through fog with her sun glasses on and reads by a night light.

Finding our way though the shadows is just one of the things we do this time of the year, like getting flu shots and making do with cole slaw instead of crisp greens from the garden. When the winter solstice comes along we scarcely have time to take note, arriving as it does, just before Christmas. No time for the roaring bonfires folks had in times past. No armloads of greenery carted indoors to assure woodland spirits a safe place to fall. No search for the sun, and no celebration if a few pale rays are found still alive.

We scarcely know what a 'solstice' is. The term, meaning a time when the sun appears to stand still, comes from the Latin word solstitium ó sol for sun and stitium meaning stoppage (a word we should adopt, as in the Interstate southbound is stitiumed from the Hewitt trestle to Northgate). Our winter solstice arrives December 21st, when the sun is the greatest distance from the equator. Directly over the Tropic of Capricorn (which is not a resort). In the southern hemisphere, however, since the seasons are reversed so are the solstices. (No one said solstiti were going to be easy.)

We say December 21st is the shortest day of the year, although what we mean is that this is the least amount of daylight. Daylight is as vital to some folks as vitamins; unfortunately, not everyone is a mushroom like me. They get sick when they donít have enough, physically drained and emotionally flattened. Without light to wind their body clocks and warm their brains, they turn literally (and acronymically) sad: S.A.D., victims of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

These people just cannot function well when they wake up in the dark, commute both ways in the dark, dine in the dark, make love in the dark and fight in the dark. Without light, their bodies want to curl up like bears until a ray of early morning sun jump-starts their brains. These are hibernating animals set loose in a dog-eat-dog world.

Sleep experts claim one person out of every four becomes optimistically challenged when they canít 'see the light' while one out of twenty is become clinically depressed, women and young people being the highest risk. This is a problem for us all because everyone knows when momís not happy, nobodyís happy.

Therapists suggest walking in the winter sunshine and exercising in the winter sunshine and rearranging homes and work places to receive more of that winter sunshine. Donít they know in our corner of the world winter sunshine is an oxymoron?

All thatís left for the seasonally affected, short of moving ó or at least heading south for the winter ó is to sit every day in front of a contraption called a light box, like a tomato in a hot house. BLT (no relation to the sandwich) this is called. Bright Light Therapy, which causes the brain cut back on melatonin, a hormone which is suppressed by daylight and thrives in the dark. A modest amount of melatonin is good; it lowers our body temperature which, in turn, helps us sleep. But more is not better, at least not for our SADs who end up every winter with the blahs or the blues. Those who donít have time to sit in a box of light several hours a week can buy a special visor which gives them light to go.

As for me, I am relieved when the dark at the top of the stairs cascades through the house like a waterfall, spraying gray shadows into sun-bleached corners, spreading a faded finish over sun-drenched drapes and muting my yarns that sat on a shelf all summer long looking garish and too hot to touch.

When darkness comes early and stays late Iím ready, not ecstatic but content. I fuss a bit about allergies and my sinuses drip along with everything else but I am able to grope through a few weeks in the dark with no ill effects. I am grateful. Not everyone comes out of the closet so unscathed.

**

Gloria helps to produce the Web magazine Bonzer!

Do visit
www.bonzer.org.au
Bonzer Plus is new - and interesting!
bonzer.virage.net


Categories

Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.