Wanted: Ways to help loosen the black cat’s grip

It’s that time of year again, where summer lovers start feeling blue.

Whether you call it the black dog, like Winston Churchill did, or you call it seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or just plain old depression, there is something about September that seems to always get a hold of me. I cope with it in a variety of ways, but am open to other suggestions.

For me, I think it is important to watch the words I use to describe my situation. I really don’t like to hear people say that they suffer from depression, as that implies a permanent condition. I prefer to be as accurate as possible and say that I get bouts of depression, or that I live with depression at times. I don’t have it all the time, and I know it will pass, like bad weather. I am not Charlie Brown with a raincloud perpetually hanging right over my head. It’s just that sadly, like trying to predict actual weather, I just don’t know when the clouds will move on and the sun will shine on my mood again.

While I’m talking about words related to depression, I’m not sure why Churchill called it a black dog. I get the idea of it following him around, and that it can nip at your heels, but dogs aren’t stealthy enough to personalize my depression. The way depression creeps into my world, it’s more like a cat. It wasn’t there one second and the next minute it’s sitting on your lap expecting you to devote every second to it, until it chooses to leave, again without warning.

Regardless of what animal or imagery represents your struggle, I think it’s also key to try and find patterns with what may trigger an episode.

I know that the changes that September always brings adds to the heap of woe; from no more fun summer vacations to less time with my teens as they go back to school. Also, September used to be a time when we were starting something new ourselves, and when that doesn’t happen anymore, I think there is an internal harrumph. Seeing the leaves changing is also a bit of a trigger, as I am never ready for winter, in fact I typically dread its impending blanket of cold, white, death upon nature. (Yes, it can be very pretty, but it is my least favourite season.)

Biologically, there is definitely a vitamin D component that sets depression off as I am not outdoors in the sun as much. Emotional setbacks can also add to the internal storm. Having new financial obligations, saying goodbye to a relationship, work challenges, parenting issues, and even random decision making, can all add to the struggle. As we all know, climbing a flight of stairs is no problem until you’re carrying enough weight, and all those thoughts and worries can add up to a lot of gravity on our shoulders.

For me to speed the black cat’s departure from my lap, I start taking vitamin D daily, I try to increase my amount of exercise (especially any outdoor activities), and I acknowledge all the brain traffic and synaptic car crashes that I am experiencing. I also try to maintain a minimum of eight hours of sleep, I avoid alcohol, and I try to reach out to positive people who can help fill my cup (with joy, not wine).

If you have another analogy or metaphor that you think that I’d like, or have a coping cocktail that works for your lap cat of depression, drop me a line, or a life preserver. I’m sinking.

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