Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Summer is My Winter. Seasons that Affect My Sensory Overload and Depression

The colours, new life, and warmth are all reasons to adore Summer. It's especially ideal to walk out the front door without needing layers and boots for minus 25 degrees Celsius, or preparing myself for snow drifts and epic ice. Green is a beautiful reprieve from white and the smell of my wild roses near my front door evoke a sense of home, peace and well being. I love to blast my country music or classic rock on back roads and find nooks to drive and make out in with my husband. Yea, I am a true country gal in some regards. Within all of this beauty, some may be surprised to find out that summer is, without a doubt, the toughest season for me. I look upon summer similar to how most regard winter.

Winter suits my introverted soul even though there are aspects of the season I struggle with. I feel less guilt in general being snowed inside to pursue all that I naturally am inclined to do. Baking, reading by the fireside, researching, online communication, cleaning my home, renovating my home, engaging in a creative project, watching shows, visiting inside with friends, being conveniently snowed in from friends, warm blankets, warm food, warm hearth, isolation...these all are suited to cold weather and thus, there are less social sanctions for enjoying them in minus whatever degree weather.

I am the same person in the summer yet I feel a bit more guilt doing the things I enjoy regularly. I feel a bit of pressure to be doing more. I get edgy. If it's warm out, I feel the expectation that I should be outside with my kids DOING something. I enjoy a bit of gardening and activity, but I don't enjoy being pressured to do anything. In fact, if someone tells me blatantly what to do, it's often a guarantee that I won't do it unless I originally wanted to. But the weather has a hold on me like no person can. I actually feel the expectation FROM the weather more than society. Which is absurd I know, but it's there none the less. I realize seasons bring change and different aspects of living. I try to embrace those. But just like anyone who has one season that may be a little tougher, my reasons are legitimate even within adaptation.

Summer is often the time I schedule more appointments. When others are taking holidays I am trying to get the dentists, doctors, OT specialists, psychotherapy and any other type of appointment my children, husband or I need booked. Because I find it easier to drive or ideally walk, in summer conditions. It's also easier on a sensory level, to walk out into greenery and sunshine after a traumatic appointment and feel hope, then to go home in freezing conditions, after pre warming the vehicle and sit at home isolated. The welcoming green and warmth, is an aspect of summer I LOVE. My anxiety in this regard goes down. I feel that if I lived in a place where winter was obsolete or extreme weather conditions were not as apparent, aspects of sensory overload anxiety would be more manageable. But I still would not be able to move anywhere that did not have a good, long winter.

While summer brings some positives that I try to stay focused on, like long walks with the kids and more spontaneous activities due to good conditions, it is the winter of my soul. I tend to hibernate inward in the summer. I am less inclined to social activities in general. I feel barren and slightly ill at ease. Autumn is the season when I thrive the most and the end of summer delightfully leads into this. The end of August soothes my heart, after the many months of restless edginess which tends to begin sometime in Spring. Autumn is the perfect mix of staying in and going out. It is filled with milder temperatures and beauty but also cold days encouraging all that is inside. I am starting to find that Spring also has this affect but slightly less beautiful.

I tend to foster more of a Stoic attitude towards life. I have a few Epicurean inclinations....emphasis on FEW, but in general, from budget to emotional life- I am inclined to see life in the terms of Stoicism. With the exception of how I make a home.  I am not indifferent to bliss or pain, and feel things deeply at times. I can also go to my opposing Epicurean pleasure state, my house is an example of this and definitely the opposite of what most Stoics would consider appropriate.

I love the ease of travel and shopping in the summer. I dislike though, how I am most tempted by purchases and our consumerism culture in the summer, which goes against most of my stoic budget choices the rest of the year. This fact probably contributes to my dis ease with summer. I have to actually fight against tendencies I do not normally have as much. While I love my stuff and will always be surrounded by the comforts of home, I will not just purchase something for the sake of spending. In that, I would never actually describe myself AS a Stoic, however, one of my core philosophies is that in order to have a good and meaningful life one needs to overcome their insatiability... or the constant pursuit of new pleasures. I partake in negative visualization. I was told, growing up, that this was pessimism or that I was being angsty about the future, but most of the time it was creating the opposite affect in me. Visualizing negative outcomes or verbalizing them, suddenly would make me very grateful for the moment, less anxious, and more in tune with what I have. Maybe this doesn't work for some people but negative visualization has often worked for me. I know when I kiss my kids good night that it could be my last kiss to them, so I savour it more. That said, I do not wallow in that thought. If I were to indulge too deeply in that thought, I would turn it into anxiety. But most times I do not.

This attitude also affects my seasons. I know that nature is nature. Summer is necessary. I accept the untold beauties that come along with it as well as the pain. I love all seasons in general and would not do well in a climate that has two instead of four. Yet, it still helps for me to realize why I can sometimes struggle more with depression during certain seasons of the year. When I am aware of the trigger then I can regard my overload and depression with a certain regard of yin and yang. I know that my depression has taught me many rewarding lessons on what makes a valuable life. It has also been debilitating. I take both factors seriously.

The sun plays a major factor in my health. Ironically, I see more sun in the winter where I live then in the summer. Often in the summer our weather can't make up it's mind...ok, that's pretty much a standard expectation for where we are in Canada in ALL seasons, but in the summer it is especially true. The weather is literally a topic for conversation because of it's diversity. We are shaped by this epic force that creates Chinooks and dramatic changes. The wind picks up and whips in cold at the tail end of a hot spell. Often clouds block the sun for days and I can't handle the whims as much as I can in the Autumn/ Winter/ Early Spring. Because in the later seasons, one factor is often consistent- the expectation that it will be cold. At least one factor stays the same. It's VERY rare to fluctuate between wearing shorts and tank or a coat and warm coverings during the rest of the year but it happens in the Summer. These quick adjustments are tough on someone who often can not decide what is temperature appropriate on the best of days.

I like the idea of summer. I have a whole board on pinterest dedicated to Home Charm which is mostly summertime countryside. I also have one pin board dedicated to outdoor picnics. Summer is a colourful palate of visual appreciation. But I can enjoy that as pictures without actually having to be in it every day. I do love a walk in the Forrest on a sun dappled day. I appreciate the beauty when the sun is out, but I would rather have a cloudy day with snow, than a cloudy day, tempting green, but not conducive to my typically cold self in the summer. Or worse an extremely windy day with hot sun that tempts me to enjoy the warmth but creates such sensory overload and sore ears that it's impossible to do anything of value peaceably. I prefer those winds in the winter because they really don't affect me unless I have to be outside. Wind is also a lovely aspect of nature. I love how it moves the pollen from flower to flower or whips the air into a frenzy. Witnessing/appreciating and being outside are two different things. I think both are legitimate and both suit differing personalities.

My husband calls me the White Witch of Summer. He says this is when I am seasonally at my crankiest. When the sun is out I am most often on my deck warming up my *always* cold body. It's another part of summer I am in puppy love with...the extra vitamin D is a boost too, but summer holds the most triggers sensory wise for me. And when a person with sensory overload is triggered, crankiness does ensue. In our defence, we are dealing with a lot. As I wrote about here (click) Often those with sensory overload can feel the overwhelming amounts of visual, auditory, tactile, and olfactory information that is coming from everyone in the room. Remember the last time you had a really bad flu? Picture yourself in your darkened room and suddenly someone turns on the light, another person comes in smelling like whatever you just threw up, someone else blasts some music that is high pitched, you hear talk of people who just died from the same flu you are fighting and you suddenly feel paranoid, your headache flares and someone decides that you will feel better if you are forced to walk around, finally someone comes and sits in your space and tries to talk to you while you are dealing with all of this. It sounds dramatic but that is often a typical moment for those of us who experience sensory overload in a large unfamiliar gathering with many factors involved." Anyone would be a tad bit touchy feeling all of that, eh? Well, summer holds the most environmental sensory overload for me UNLESS I HAVE to be outside, and then it would probably switch to winter. Really, I must consider context.

I oddly gain weight in late spring and early summer. Those winter pounds everyone else packs on? Rarely happens to me...maybe I gather an extra two pounds or so midwinter, but every single summer I gain about ten that I have to lose over the Autumn. Why? Because I typically struggle with a bit of seasonal depression (odd for most doctors to get as it is not the typical season most people suffer in) and I lose sleep. I become a complete insomniac. I am deeply affected by nature. Nature contributes to my moods and whims. I can feel the anger in a devastated wetland mowed down for people's visual appeal. I can sense storms or weather changes coming hours away in my bones before they are often reported in the local network. Wind makes me both restless and freshens my senses. Water is always appealing in weather if I can be inside to enjoy it and the sun is my strength. The sun warms up my blood and gives light to my darkness. Speaking of darkness, I generally do better with average light during the day. A balance between dark and light. I love the dark night sky but I also love light hours that prolong the day. The toughest time in winter for me is just before Solstice because of the imbalance of dark. Yet, I also struggle near the Summer Solstice with too much light. I keep longer hours and have higher expectations to do so, which I dislike.

The earth brings me the most comfort when it is decaying. I feel it ripen in excitement and gradually accept it's fate with dignity and beauty. I love that grace. I love Autumn. Weather, as it did to our ancestors of old, affects every aspect of my being, even though I enjoy the benefits of shelter and modern convenience. The effects are perhaps dulled a bit more, but still present. The seasons pull at my soul in both rhythm and chaos, balance and tipping points, gentleness and harshness.
Most storms skip our area in the summer. We are constantly having forecasts of storm watches or tornado watches but they never really happen. It's rare for the full eye of the storm to catch us. Most summers are quite dry. I look into the darkened sky and I am annoyed when it does not burst forth with rain. If it's going to be cloudy I want the precipitation. I don't want teasing clouds for days on end blocking out my sun. Rain or snow would be better.

I love the wild roses and peonies blooming in summer. I adore the sunrises and sunsets.  Thoughts of cold ice tea and home churned ice cream. I love hearing fires crackle in neighbouring yards or hear birds twittering in the trees.The vibrant colours, ever green landscapes and diverse skies feed my inspirational artist eyes. I do love summer for many reasons, but it's still my soul winter. I don't hate it. It's not my least favourite season but it's the one I struggle with the most. I love all seasons for what they are and each one has some downsides amongst the positive. The whole year visually is a delight to anyone who enjoys nature and being alive. Of course I regard summer with that same respect and some of my best moments have been created during the summer, but that does not lessen the effect on my mind.

In summary, summer, to me, is a tease or the flamboyant friend who is awesome for short stints and epic for a few fun times, but is not the friend for soul work, regular intervals or deep diving. Maybe for most, that is the friend of choice, for a fun time...but for a soul like mine- it simply doesn't suit. In that regard, summer is my winter. It gives me sparse return on my investments in some cases, and exponential ones in other big areas. It is what it is. Beauty and brutal to my body and mind. But, at the end of the day, I still find that I regard each moment with gratitude. Each season, though affecting in different ways, brings out a different aspect of being. I love that. Our life, no matter the season, is a mixture of holiday simple life, and necessary work to live. But we enjoy almost all of it. We don't save our energy or time for "Holidays" but create a life that we don't need a vacation from. While we enjoy short spurts into the unknown, any season brings it's own beauty to our table. I suppose this is contextual too due to our living choices, educational choices, philosophies of life, and work choices, but each season brings both respite, creativity, joy, pain, burdens and struggles. We try to live in gratitude for the former while respecting the latter.

Which season is your best suited?  Does one have more sensory triggers than others?
Part 2 with more practical solutions about this topic here:
Because Beach Boys are one of the many sounds of summer:

And many country songs remind me of summer- thinking about it I probably have more epic songs for summer than christmas songs...which is saying a lot for this Christmas Gal...


S said...

It is always summer in the city in which I am currently living. You will be surprised to know that there is no winter, ever, even in December-January !!!. Here, in winters, there is no need to wear a cotton jacket even.And there is no question of wearing woolens !
But I was born in a small town with a very cold and sometimes,mild climate. So, for me, the transition from a cold to hot climate has not been easy. Anyways, if you ask me about moods and weather, I will have to say that I need sunlight and heat/warmth, if not direct then indirect. I have severe sinusitis and mild cough/cold problem since birth. So health wise, a warm climate suits me. But half of the summer days here ( in my current city ) are very cloudy and rainy, we don't get to see the sun. So, again the same health issue of sinusitis.
Strangely enough,I love rainy and cloudy weather even if it is bad for my health. It does amazing things for my soul. It rejuvenates me. Can you believe that something that is bad for the body may be good for the mind/soul ?
So, of late, I have found a solution. In order to keep my body healthy in rainy &cloudy summers /cold winters, I walk inside the house in a fast pace for 40 minutes, twice a day. It warms up my body. It gives me certain kind of rush. It lifts up my mood.
I have also noticed that I feel depressed more when I am under any allopathic/chemical medicine be it thyroid medicine or general medicine for cough/cold/fever. Also, I don't know why, but I tend to heal more if I consume natural medicines (through food, because food is medicine too...) or heal in the natural way by exercising/walking/ healthy diet. Even if I take chemical/allopathy, it has to be very mild dose or nothing at all.
Mood and depression is a very complicated subject...My depression/mood is more related to people than seasons...I feel more depressed when I find myself in the midst of social niceties/social chit chat because lot of vibes comes from a social gathering...mostly negative vibes and only a few positive.... I feel happiest when I am alone or when I am with someone who gives positive vibes and who has a very calming energy around him/her.
I have a way of catching vibes...that is my problem...I can catch both positive and negative vibes within seconds...and absorb it within my system....although positive and negative are subjective/moral terms, yet I can tell you that by negative I mean a person who is not sorted out in life. Who has a lot of problems going on and has lot of unresolved emotions. Who are not happy with their lives and thus cannot spread happiness. Around these kind of people, I feel energy-less.

Kmarie A. said...

S: That would be so weird for me to never wear a coat or need to! Wow. I think I would actually have a tough time with that...but the ease of which to go out the door is so much better!
I am sorry to hear about the sinusitis and cough....that is tough. A warm climate would help with that...I am glad you mostly get to see the sun.
I understand about the mood in rains. I feel that way too with snow. Sometimes rain if its a good drizzle and not just overcast. I feel my mind rest.
Exercising inside is my forte:) ha ha.Great idea.
Yes I also get depressed and tend to worse with allopathic solutions though some are necessary but I have been helped the most by naturopathy. Seriously I went into it as such a skeptic but my life changed and surprised me completely. Its been too long since my last visit- I am regressing. I need to go again.
I also feel happiest alone. Or with my husband and children. And yes positive vibes or short spurts. I also catch vibes...I have to be careful with whom I surround myself with. Yes, I understand.