Chatting with Chapman: How to avoid spending all winter crying in a sweater

Chapman W.

Photo from wikimedia commons
(Photo from Wikimedia commons)

The weather is starting to really bring me down.

Don’t get me wrong, autumn is my favorite season. I love the change in the leaves and wearing sweaters more than I probably should. However, for me and three million other people, it’s also the time of year where I start to get depressed.

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WebMD defines Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as “a type of depression that occurs during the same season each year.” It’s a simple description, but it’s one of those feelings that’s really hard to describe to people who don’t have it.

Last week, Wednesday happened to be really foggy. What this meant for the average person was sweater weather, pumpkin spice lattes and Instagram posts. What this meant for me was that I spent most of the day upset for no reason other than my brain deciding to be upset.

Dealing with disorders that affect your mood, at least in my own experience, can be really frustrating because you know you’re upset but you don’t know why. A lot of times, I’ll know that I have no reason to feel unhappy, but I won’t be able to raise my mood to much more than an “eh” level. And it only gets worse as the season continues.

Frustratingly, winter break is usually the peak of my depression. I hate it, but even when I’m happily spending Christmas with my parents, I can still feel an underlying sadness. It’s easy enough when I can distract myself, but when I spend time alone I find myself slipping into a pretty rough place.

The hot chocoloate (left), macchiato (right), and pumpkin spice latte with whip creame (back) from Mug's Coffee Shop.
The hot chocoloate (left), macchiato (right), and pumpkin spice latte with whip creame (back) from Mug’s Coffee Shop. (Photo courtesy of the Collegian Archive)

My SAD didn’t get too bad until my first year of college. Something about being in a new place, without the support network I was used to, left me having a midterm season full of more than the usual amount of crying. This depression continued through winter break and into the first half of my spring semester. It wasn’t until the days got warmer that I was able to pull myself out of my funk and come to terms with the emotional rollercoaster that had been my life for the past few months.

Because this disorder is pretty new to me, I’m still trying to figure out how to deal with it. A lot of the self-care practices that I’ve learned from other parts of my life have been applicable to dealing with SAD. I know now how to recognize intrusive thoughts that are being caused by my disorder, and I can usually manage a smile through the apathy I’m feeling. And if I go into winter recognizing that my brain is going to probably try and make me feel terrible, I can usually get myself into a place to rough my way through the season.

I think it’s funny that the disorder is called SAD, because depression isn’t always sadness. A lot of time it’s apathy, and sometimes it’s just other negative emotions running through my head for no good reason. Unlike those with chronic depression, I can at least spend the summers without seeing my disorder most days. For that reason, I have a lot of respect for people who deal with this experience every day of their lives.

For me and the other three million people who are starting to deal with the negative feelings associated with SAD, it’s time to buckle in for the ride. I’ll probably just drink a lot of hot chocolate and wear a lot of sweaters this year. As I always say, if I’m going to be sad, I might as well be sad in a sweater.

Collegian Social Managing Editor Chapman W. Croskell can be reached at blogs@collegian.com and on Twitter @Nescwick.