It’s possible that I’ve written a piece with this title before. Because this isn’t just a badass Lana Del Rey song. It’s real. It exists. I am among the 1% of people with SAD…in the summer.
Only about 5% of people have SAD, from what I’ve read - despite the amount of complaining that most people do each year when the days become short and dark. But most of the people who have it, have it in the winter. Not me. I love the winter. I’m a night owl, and aging hasn’t really changed that one bit. I suspect having kids would have been tough, because I’d probably just be constantly sleep deprived, but I didn’t, so we’ll never know.
And I’m not going to say that I hate summer. That wouldn’t be accurate. I do like summer. There’s something pretty magical about the super long days we get here in the far northwest, and I mean it’s not fully dark right now and it’s 11:30 pm as I write this. I like how much lighter things feel and seeing tons of smiles on the faces of people I know and people I don’t know. I love warm days at the beach, and swimming outdoors.
But there are three things I’ve identified that really convinced me that the summer might actually be hurting me. I’ve shared them with a few trusted confidants and feel really positive that I’ve made a big realization - and knowledge is power. Maybe great blackout curtains are in my future in more rooms than just my bedroom. So let me share the list I’ve made - three items long - for why I am sure I’ve got that summertime sadness, for real.
I really, really hate being hot. Like, I can’t handle it, being too hot. It completely torches my mood and saps my energy, and I sweat at about 75 degrees, so that means I am too hot most of the summer in most places. (It’s frustrating, because one of the things I really liked about the northwest was that summers here are traditionally pretty mild, and temperatures above the 70s used to be infrequent in Seattle. Not anymore. We’re breaking records left and right up here. But that’s a rant for another day.) And I do a lot of things that make me sweat, like yoga, and taking long, steep walks, and lifting weights, and dancing, and being a person (seriously, I am always too hot). You will find me strategically placed directly in front of/underneath/next to any window or fan that is available to me.
I’m a night owl. It’s a real thing, and I’m not that way by choice, it’s the way my body works. This year, I began to notice right around the solstice that my mood was really turning south, and I was in a depressive dip that coincided with the coming of the longest day of the year. All through that week of the solstice, I had the most horrible insomnia I’ve had in at least 9 or 10 months, going days and days on end and not being even the slightest bit sleepy until after 3 in the morning, sometimes 4. And I realized, it’s the sun! My circadian rhythm, which is already skewed because I’m a night owl, was thrown way off from its normal pattern.
I have melasma. That’s a type of hyperpigmentation caused by a hormone imbalance that makes me produce too much melanin, which makes the skin appear darker in places. This is aggravated by wounds, and by sun, and lots of other things. So, I love being outside, and love taking walks, and I get a lot of sun, despite my hatred of being hot. Despite being a very dedicated sunblock user, tons of direct sunlight causes my skin to become patchy, the color uneven. I’ve made peace with it to some degree, but I’m still working on giving myself permission not to obsess over this, and to just own it. But it still sucks, you know?
So. Constantly feeling too hot, not being able to sleep, and watching my skin turn patchy from the sun all blend together into one big, tasty anxiety smoothie. My emotions start running higher, and from there, the roller coaster ride that is depression is over the hump and careening down, down, down…
It is not fun, my friends. Summer is hard for me.
I like winter. I like the dark. I don’t find it depressing, I find it cozy. Like any sane person, I too need the sunlight and feel ready for it come February, when things are just at the complete dingiest and dullest and worst. Worst month of the year, no matter where you live: February. But I digress.
Summer is tough. But I think I’ve started to realize that the best way to handle it is to lean in to some of the discomfort (damn it, isn’t that always what the answer seems to end up being??) and try to find the moments of joy. There are still lots of them. Walking through the beautiful Queen Anne neighborhood that I’ve somehow cheated my way into living in and ogling the gorgeous homes and gardens that I’ll probably never take on myself but will always deeply admire. Stopping to pet and play with every single dog I encounter on said walks. Binging Netflix shows and audiobooks during incredibly long cardio sessions at my gym with the fan blowing right in my face, feeling strong. Sitting on the sand at Golden Gardens with my people and a glass of wine. Watching my dogs snooze in the sunlight on the porch while I write or work or make something. Cooking fish on the grill and listening to music outside. The scent of the flowers in the trees and gardens. There’s a lot of goodness there.
And it’s also hard. And that’s okay. And even though there are not a lot of people out there who agree with me, there are a few, and knowing that helps, too.