Just a Poem

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Maybe

Winter.
SAD.
Cold, wet, dark.
Siren song of depression
lulling me to sleep,
enticing me deeper into blackness.

I need to prop my eyes open
like Odysseus.

But maybe I don’t want to see
the endless ocean,
relying on nothing but hope
to get me home.
Maybe I want to close my eyes.

Let the dark overtake me.

-Tacy Stine

The Change of the Seasons

I have long been absent. I’ve been working two jobs since August, on top of being a single mom, and I just haven’t had any time or motivation to write. But I have a little of both right now, and not too long ago a friend told me she missed my posts. It meant the world to me to hear that.

A week or two ago I was looking back through old journals and found this entry from almost six years ago. I know I have written other similar entries because it is still what I feel. Every year.

The change of the seasons is intertwined with my soul. What happens in Nature also happens within me. The gray sky, the morning fog, the jeweled moon at night above the mountains, and the cold air kissing my skin haul in memory, attach it to my mind. It drags behind me through the change and beyond. A wondrous, mysterious time, but also a dark time.

For some reason the past is tied to the change in seasons—at least summer to autumn and autumn to winter. As the seasons change my mind is filled with memories of the past, some good, some bad and some good that feel bad now because of changes that have happened. The memories achingly gnaw at me, often confuse me, sometimes consume me. Perhaps part of it is the seasonal affective disorder that is already beginning. Or maybe I’m just . . . weird. Maybe I’m that last red maple leaf, stubbornly clinging to the tree and what was, yet unable to hold on as winter rips me free, waiting on the frozen ground for what spring and summer inevitably have in store.

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Does the Air We Breathe Affect Our Mental Health?

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I thought I’d give a little update on myself. I’ve been doing extremely well the last couple of months. I believe part of the reason is because winter ended, and so did my seasonal affective disorder. It truly is amazing how much I improve once the cold, snow and gray days are gone. It’s amazing what a difference warmth, sunlight and longer days make.

I was thinking more about how well I’ve been doing, wondering if anything else might have to do with it. I believe some of it is just my own growth through experience and knowledge I’ve gained. But I also have been wondering if any of it has to do with the fact that I’ve gotten rid of all the chemicals in my home. A few months ago I signed up to be an independent sales consultant for Norwex. They make, among other things, microfiber cleaning cloths to replace the traditional cleaners in your home. Their global mission is to reduce chemicals in the home. So, the day I got all my Norwex stuff, I threw out all of my bathroom and kitchen cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, fabric softener and drier sheets, soap and facial cleanser. I no longer use harmful chemicals in my home, and I honestly wonder if the fact that I’m no longer breathing in or absorbing all of that crap has played a part in my improved mental health.

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According to a study by the University of Washington air pollution impacts mental health and has been associated with behavior changes. If it’s true of the air outside, why wouldn’t it be true of the air inside? Food for thought, for sure.

 

Beating My SAD

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I live in a desert. It’s a high desert, there are mountains, we do get snow, but it’s still an arid region. Because of this, winter snow and snowpack are very important. I know how important it is to our water situation come summer, yet I can’t help but be grateful for the mild winter we have had. I can only think of two major snowstorms this winter. There was a brief period of time where it got pretty cold, but for the most part it hasn’t been a bad winter at all. This is great new for my seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which hasn’t been nearly as bad as previous winters. It hasn’t abandoned me completely, unfortunately, but just like this winter, it has been mild. I think part of it has been my consistent light/heat therapy, but the warmer temps and overall nice weather have definitely played in as well. Rather than being holed up in my house, escaping the cold, but getting antsy and claustrophobic, I have been able to get outside, enjoy the sun, the warmth, birds, water, the sky, nature. It’s had an amazing effect! Yesterday morning I planned on hiking around this trail near my house, but got caught up taking pictures of all these great blue herons and white-crowned sparrows—which was just as much fun as hiking!

I know the warmer-than-usual, lack-of-snowfall winter has many people concerned, but I am going to remain grateful for how it has helped my health this season!

Live For These Moments

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This is Happiness!

Not the best picture of me since I didn’t bother to put on makeup this morning, but that’s not what it’s about. Normally, I hate gray, clouded days in the winter – because most days are gray and clouded and gloomy. But today it was somehow enticing, inspiring, so I went out for a walk. It was down-right balmy in the mid-forties for this time of year in Utah! The clouds, the lighting, the snow on the mountains and listening to Renegades by X Ambassadors and Second Chance by Shinedown (yes, I may have sung out loud some of the time because I’m that sort of a person) were exactly what I needed. Nature and music are two constants in my life, things I know I can always count on to lift my spirt and renew my soul. For someone with mental illness and terrible Seasonal Affective Disorder right in the middle of winter, life is all about living for these moments to help take you through to the next.

 

Heat and Light Therapy

I’m experimenting with a new treatment for my seasonal affective disorder—heat and light therapy. This place has a sauna, a hydration bed, red light therapy, a hydro-massage bed and more. I try to do at least one, hopefully two, and possibly three of these services three days a week. I’ve only been going for a few weeks now, but I’m already noticing a difference.

Normally, at this point in the winter I stay inside, away from the coldness, as much as possible. It also gets pretty hazy where I live. We get an inversion that traps the cold air, with all of its awful pollutants, under a layer of warmer, clearer air. It’s incredibly depressing. Yet, last Saturday I motivated myself to brave the cold and walk along a trail at Farmington Bay, near my home. Yes, it was cold. My ears froze, my nose ran, but it was so incredibly beautiful! Peaceful. Still. Needed.

I took a bunch of pictures, I was outside, moving around, feeling happy. I even saw a bald eagle! As I walked back along the trail to my car the sun reached this perfect angle. All of the tall, yellow grasses glimmered golden in the light; the reflection in the frozen water, clear and mesmerizing. I actually felt good, happy, confident. It’s not the sort of thing I normally do in the winter, and I’m not suddenly gleefully happy all of the time, but I do think the heat and light therapy is helping to keep me more optimistic and motivated than I usually am. I’ll have to do an update in a couple of months. February is usually when I’m at my worst in the winter. Hopefully the new treatment will continue to help. It feels so good, like a weight lifted off my shoulders, to finally find something that is helping after so many failed attempts with medication and lack of funds for other therapies. But that’s why you keep trying—until you find something that works or at least helps.

Days Like This

SAD is an aptly named acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder. The cold days, the dark nights that now start even earlier since Daylight Savings Time ended are extremely depressing for me. And yet, I do enjoy the initial cool, cloudy days that come before the true harshness of winter begins.

I used to write a lot of poetry when I was in high school and college. That was a long time ago. But I’ve actually been inspired to write three poems in the last couple of months, which is a record for me lately! It feels nice. Here’s one I wrote a few days ago.

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Days Like This
by Tacy Stine

Days like this,
cloudy and cool,
after the aching heat of summer,
pour depth into my soul.

Days like this
make me yearn
for the peace of solitude
only nature can offer.

How I long to spend hours
among trees, rocks, water
and blue-gray clouds
with the cool air nipping at my skin.

Days like this
etch their way into my memory.
Days like this
are never to be forgotten.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

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I love this time of year. If there were a land where it was autumn all the time I would live there! It’s my favorite season, and one that doesn’t last very long where I live. In Utah we joke about having only two seasons—summer and winter. In reality, we do have spring and fall as well, they just usually last two to three weeks is all. And the rest of the year it’s either hot and dry or cold and dry—like bitterly cold and really dry.

Even though I’m loving the weather and the colorful leaves on the mountains, it’s like my body can feel the change that’s around the corner, anticipating the cold, the gray, the snow . . . the darkness. I’ve been really depressed this morning. I could attribute that to the chaos in my house right now—after having gotten back from a trip last week—having to play catch up and a million other things on my mind. But I think most of it is the seasonal affective disorder kicking in early. I shouldn’t be this sad. There’s no reason. And yet, I’m trying so hard right now, have been all morning, to keep the tears back and just do what needs to be done rather than getting back in bed and crying like a baby until it’s time to pick my son up from school.

So I’m wondering, does anyone else out there have seasonal affective disorder? If you do, is there anything you do to help combat it? And if so, please share. We—I—could use some suggestions.