It’s 7:30 on a Friday night and I’m wearing a fuzzy adult onesie, eating cheese, and drinking wine. However, as flippant as this sounds, it’s more of a depression survival strategy than a party for one.
You see, this time of year is the WORST. I’ve never been officially diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I can say that my depression is definitely more present this time of year. Last year my doctor and I tried adjusting meds with no real luck. My mood would be better, but I’d feel manic and out of control or have excruciating nightmares. This year I took a different approach. Towards the end of the “bad season” last year I read an interesting article about how a writer prepared himself for the bad times. He made lists of things that he had found from experience that he NEEDED to do, whether he felt like it or not, to help him get through.
This year, on January 15, a reminder popped up on my phone. It said “Caution: February!! Plan bike rides, activities with friends, and lunches out. You’ll need it.” I shit you not. At first I brushed off the reminder, thinking that I was feeling pretty good what with just coming back from a sunny MTB vacation in Arizona (see, you knew I’d tie in bikes eventually, right?!). I hit snooze on the reminder, but when it popped up again 2 weeks later the malaise had begun. I could feel the grip of February — the cold, the ongoing lack of sunlight, and the lack of purposeful social interaction — all taking their toll. I buckled down, forcing myself to ride my bike when I didn’t want to (this is different than a typical burn-out or over-training scenario, trust me), doing strength training exercises, being mindful about what I ate, and more**. I’d like to say that it fixed me up 100%, but that’s not realistic. Was I still depressed? Yes. Did these steps make it more bearable and help me weather it better? Absolutely.
I know I’m not alone as I’ve picked up on more and more people saying things on social media about how they were just trying to survive February. Perhaps since I’m more mindful of my own moods I recognize the same in others. I try to encourage or bolster people when I can.
I’m moving out of February and into March. March is inherently a little better. I plan to go on my first group ride since November tomorrow morning. Although, I just let the dog out and saw fresh snow falling and immediately began cataloging reasons I should bail. Ugh. He, however, views snow as his own personal water-like buffet and was ecstatic at the sight.
This time of year I’m getting close enough to spring races and rides that it provides a little extra push, a reminder that this WILL get better. I have some gravel rides and races on deck, plus even some road racing again(?!). I had higher aspirations for where I’d be at this time of year in terms of fitness and weight, but those were probably perfectionist goals anyway.
Slowly, I come out of my protective cocoon. It’s isolating but it’s also what saves me this time of year. Please forgive me if I’ve been behaving like somewhat of a recluse; it’s nothing personal. See you all on the roads soon.
** The “and more” mentioned above involved me scheduling and coordinating a weekend away in Chicago for me, my son, one of my dear friends, and her daughter. It gave me something to look forward to at the end of the month. It was my birthday weekend and what better way to celebrate than by giving my son an experience he’ll hopefully remember for a long time to come? I mean, just look at his face. FIRST. PLANE. RIDE!!