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Secret Life of a Nerd Girl: Sitting Next To The SAD Light


a blogumn by Gudrun Cram-Drach

ng12It’s noon and it’s absolutely disgusting out. This morning the precipitation was snow, but now it’s rain. Cold, wet, rain. And it’s dark. I’m sitting next to the SAD light my mother ordered me to use. For those of you who don’t know, SAD is “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” which means you get, well, sad, in the winter, and this light is supposed to provide the cheering effects of the sun that are so desperately missed.

Now, I realize I’ve done this to myself: hurling from sunny SoCal into a long New England winter, losing independence by moving in with my folks, working at home, living in limbo between one life and the next, and the simple fact that it’s March (which means we’ve already had 3 months of winter and now it’s going to rain until June) all combine to a sour case of the blues.

I have been in the worst mood, snapping at people for breathing too loud, and hating my cat for snuggling up to me. Answering emails, making my lunch, and going to yoga have turned to tedium. I feel like everything (and everyone) is out to get me, and it’s just not fair!

The uninitiated might ask, “what’s wrong, why are you grumpy?”

The natural response to this is, of course, snapping “I don’t know! Don’t you think that, if I knew, I would be able to fix it!?”

Then, because it’s been asked, my mind spins in the search for an answer. This makes me feel worse, because I think about how good things are, how I have a job, and a home, and people who love me. How in the grand scope of things, my life is lucky and very privileged and I have no business feeling sorry for myself. Lately these thoughts have been illustrated with freeze frames from Slumdog Millionaire, which really drive the point home.

But, I’ve learned over the years, that we feel the way we feel. With so many factors in the mix, it’s less important for me to discover the exact root of the slump than to accept it and seek a solution. But acceptance is hard too.
I’ve never known what to do when people tell me “be good to yourself.” Ok, so I feel like not working and just watching TV for 2 days, is that being good to myself? It’s what I want! Is it better to indulge in an ice cream sundae that would make me happy right now, or to force myself, kicking and screaming, onto a treadmill to get my endorphins rolling?

Finding a way out of the darkness is always a challenge. Knowing it’s there is the first step. Living with my parents, it’s easy to announce “I’m in a bad mood today, so watch out.” As mental health professionals they know exactly how to handle it: they ignore me. But, once I’ve verbally acknowledged my bad mood to someone else, and I see it affecting my behavior, I usually do want to change it.

So I acknowledge that I did nothing last week. I didn’t exercise, I ate everything in sight, and I watched a lot of TV. I felt so guilty, and finally disgusted with myself, I spent a whole morning writing a weekly schedule that balanced work, leisure, exercise, and writing. I didn’t do anything else that day, but it was a start. A few days later I dragged myself to yoga. I had no balance and I watched the clock the whole time. I’m cooking, which is usually the first creative thing I can handle at this point, and I want to get back to ‘trying to meditate.’ I know this will take courage, because the last thing I want to do is sit quietly with my grumpy self, and I’m sure it will take a few tries to get started. But I know that when I do pull it off, it will be “good.”