The first time I ever heard about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) I honestly thought it was a joke. I mean, really, the acronym for a winter mood disorder was actually SAD? I read a little about it and thought it kind of made sense. Grateful it didn’t affect me, I tucked the information away.
Then, this past winter, suddenly it did affect me. At first I just figured I was in a slump. I was hoping it was just PMS, or the prolonged recovery from an injury, or being introverted, or some other similar issue to justify my feelings without labeling them DEPRESSION. I admit, even after living through four bouts of postpartum anxiety requiring meds, I still feel a stigma associated with mental illness in all its manifestations. I’m afraid that to be depressed is to be C-R-A-Z-Y, even though I know that is not the case. Just for fun I checked the symptoms of SAD again last night. To varying degrees, this past winter I could have identified with every single symptom: oversleeping, irritability, low energy, weight gain, craving carbs, trouble concentrating, and loss of interest in usual activities.
One of my favorite activities is spending time with Jesus in his word. This winter, though, those times were few and far between. During the cold and gloomy winter, my soul felt buried deep under the weight of overcast skies. More than that, the chill had settled in my heart and distanced me from the Son.
After months of frozen winter, I felt as if my soul was in need of a good thawing. The shortage of daylight paired with gray and dreary skies had done nothing be sink me deeper into a dark and lonely pit. By the time March hit, I was read to burst out of my house and out of my own head.
When the first warm rays of sunshine were just beginning to hint at spring last month, my cooped up soul yearned to be outside. I wandered out one afternoon with my husband and for some reason we ended up sitting on the tailgate of his pickup, our legs just dangling. The chill of winter not-quite-over was in the air, but the sun was warm and it was golden and bright. We weren’t talking, just sitting there, soaking up the vitamin D and so much more. I eventually kicked all the way back, lying in the truck bed with my eyes closed. My skin tingled under those warm rays of sunlight. After some wonderful minutes had passed, I absently turned my face to the sun.
In that nearly mindless action, something inside me sparked and spread a happy warmth throughout my body. I was immediately reminded of the way some plants follow the movements of the sun. They need it so desperately, depending on it for life and nourishment. I realized that I was a starving plant, and I was in great need of both the sun and the Son.
Surprisingly to me this realization didn’t send me plummeting low. Instead, I swelled with the renewed hope and peace of a God who longs for me to turn my face toward Him. I’m deeply grateful He was with me during my dark months. But more than that, I’m also thankful that He welcomed me into his warm light the moment I turned back to Him. As I basked in the sun last month, in the bed of that dirty ole truck, I knew it was a holy, life-giving moment with God. And my soul breathed a sigh of relief.
I almost scrapped this article because a fellow Her View From Home author, Abbie Ginther, wrote about her own journey with SAD this same week. I didn’t want to be redundant. The odds of two of us writing about SAD the same week? And then it hit me. The sun is finally shining again and we are feeling better, so of course we would both be emerging from our winter cocoons at the same time. I’m reminded once more that I am not alone in this.