It’s happening again … I’ve figured it out now.

Days being near tears; a thunder cloud on my horizon.  A deep down sadness, a grief, and an ever-present fear of losing control.

I figured out what was happening to me.

IT has returned, although this year I thought my sky would remain clear until April and Spring arrived.

I have a full season to go before spring. If my seasonal depressive disorder doesn’t respond to fixes, it will be a long time to be mentally and physically at risk.  A long season trying to swim, to stay above water, to keep afloat.

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, troubles me most every fall and winter. You may be surprised to know that, even now, I don’t recognize it until the sun goes down on autumn.  My emotional health was trouble free and my days filled with everyday pleasures when the doom returned, and I finally figured it out.

It’s my old nemesis, Seasonal Affective Disorder, that’s got a grip on me.

SAD. Sad, so what do I do?

Well, it is not that I don’t like winter, quite the contrary—–I do like winter and many of its milestones. But if I do not practice the therapeutic responses I’ve learned, the darkest season gets pretty grim. Thanksgiving, Christmas, first snow and bright clear winter days – pleasurable milestones all – fail me.  I become depressed.

So, what do I do?

The depression may or may not respond to medication changes. I must also employ some practical adjustments.

I remind myself to deliberately pay attention as the season changes. I celebrate the fall turning of leaves. (This year the oak’s leaves were quite handsome.)  I roast hot dogs and marshmallows over an open fire.  And I plan a lovely harvest feast, inviting those near and dear to me.

Gratitude. One activity that helps fight SAD for me, is writing out a list of the things I am grateful for. Yes, construct a deliberate list, written out on paper, and do it as often as needed.

Number one on the list is Jim, my husband with his endless love and support. He is followed closely by our two children who nurture me with more love and support.

The list continues. You might guess what is next. Our grandchildren, a welcoming home, and a good appetite for literature and dining.

The idea is to express this gratitude in acts:  This year I’ve decided to host a Harvest feast.

We are having bison, a wild rice casserole baked in a pumpkin, and skillet blue cornbread with local honey. And I found a refreshing salad in one of my Native American cookbooks. (Yes, I collect cookbooks – and I’m grateful for that passion too! The Strawberry and white corn salad is out of season but I am going to serve it anyway.) Next Saturday we will all gather and rejoice in one another.  Thus, my gratitude is made visible to me.

How will you celebrate the passing of fall into winter?

Offering True Support

Most of us have found ourselves, at one time or another, wanting to provide a friend or relative with a listening ear… or to be a helpful sounding board; in other words, to provide support. What is present when someone is offering true support?

True support is present when the recipient feels listened to and understood. Some emotional needs have been shared and supported together. Just listening well and empathically may help someone clarify options or sort out thoughts. If you’re unsure if the support you offer is satisfactory and your intention is genuine, I suggest asking the recipient gently: Did she feel really listened to? Did he feel a lifting, even temporarily, of a burden? If yes, you have given someone a great gift!

My experience as a support group facilitator and as a trainer of facilitators, both in giving and in receiving support from people with mental illness through an adult lifetime guide me to these recommendations (Under “On Healing” in the menu bar). I hope you find them thoughtful.