“An Insistent Optimism”: Dealing with Depression and Anxiety in Springtime

N.B: This post was written as I noticed that spring seemed to be hard for so many people that I love. Grief, trauma, depression. I’ve been there myself, even though it has been many years since my struggle with depression. I still struggle with heightened anxiety of this time of year, and it’s important for me not to forget, even though I am content, and even though spring and summer now give me more joy than sorrow, that this time of year is still difficult for so many.

As winter starts to fade away, as the daylight hours increase, as everything seems to start blooming and thriving, depression and anxiety are suddenly thrown into much starker relief than during the cold, dark, wintry, stormy days and nights of late autumn and winter.

At first, I couldn’t quite place why spring always felt so very awful. It was absolutely incongruent: wasn’t I supposed to be as cheery as a floral-print dress, as refreshed as a cool pint of lemonade?Β The seasons, indeed, seem to have odd emotional mandates: the thoughtfulness and reflection of autumn; the melancholy and mutedness of winter, the serenity and sensuality of summer, and, yes, the insistent optimism of spring.

It was this optimism that made spring so terribly painful: it was the feeling of the world coming suddenly alive again, everything thawing much too quickly, and all I desperately wanted to do to stay under the covers. Winter had been slow, you see, there was time to be quiet, reserved; the pathetic fallacy of melancholy weather. Huddling and waiting for the bus on a rainy winter morning inspired a grumpy sort of solidarity. Nobody begrudged us our groans or our grim, sleepy stares. A tear or two would go unnoticed as the rain or snow besieged our faces.Β Snow was a blanket, a hush.

Spring sunlight, in contrast, is glaring, insistent, demanding – do now, grow now, be now, happiness now, futurity now! Vibrant greens, out with the dank, damp, grey! Sunshine and smiles – aren’t you happy that it’s so gorgeous out? Have you started in on your garden yet? Are you just about finished school? Are you working out? Have you got summer plans yet? Isn’t it wonderful to be alive? Aren’t you simply grateful for this gorgeous, divine season that is upon us?

“It’s time to turn a new leaf,” they say, as if somehow, springtime ought to cut short the allotted seasons for grief, for sorrow, for exhaustion, for longing.

After so many months of darkness, this gnawing, insistent, intolerable inertia can compel one to slam the blinds closed, shutting out the sunshine streaming through the window.

And so, for those for whom the spring thaw is painful, know this: you are not alone.

Advertisements

132 comments

    1. Thank you – so sorry for the late reply. Sometimes I find it hard to speak about these issues when everyone else (well, some others, anyway) seem so happy that spring has arrived.

    1. Thank you for commenting! It seems a bit easier now that spring is officially here, but then summer’s just around the corner, and that comes with its own set of pressures, somehow….but I must say I’m looking forward to late sunsets and less rain.

  1. Sometimes it can be a bit too insistant. Last Spring was a nightmare, as I work through my grief I’m more responsive to this year. But what you wrote is all too true.

    1. Absolutely. I have had a few Springs where I spent them mostly in bed, even when it was sunny outside. I’m sorry for your loss – sending you many good thoughts in the process of grieving.

  2. This is very sad, and for an optimist like myself I have difficulty understanding those who suffer in this way. Thank you for giving me a glimpse of life through your eyes. It might help me to be more understanding.

    1. In many ways, I wrote this post in an attempt to understand what so many of my loved ones still struggle with, because it has been easy for me to forget what it was like to face the change of a season which such dread. It’s been a reminder for me that while I face spring with more joy than sorrow these days (albeit still with anxiety), that even my optimism can potentially be hard for others to bear. Thank you so much for reading and for commenting!

  3. I love this! Your writing is awesome and I have to say I whole-heartedly agree with this opinion. The pressure to be as happy as everyone else when spring arrives is burdening. Winter offers the comfort of hiding.
    Love it

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for commenting! There really is something so comforting about winter in that way. It would be lovely if life were less burdensome with sunshine and impending beach-days, but….alas.

    1. Thank you for reading and for commenting! I remember the first spring that didn’t feel like utter dread to me, I found it so strange. Even now, I still remember what it felt like, to shut the blinds, to feel awful for crying on a sunny day. Now it’s the social anxiety that still keeps me from all the spring-time joy, but I am learning to lean into it much more than I ever used to.

  4. There is a fallacy that says are toughest times are during the holiday season. This, statistically speaking, is not true. The spring time is the season where we struggle with anxiety & depression and the rate of suicide also increases. It is a transitionary period like the caterpillar first spreading its wings. So much expectation to be beautiful, to be bold, to fly… Thank you for the words that help us understand it is a season and it shall pass and we once again will be comfortable with who we are and where we are.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for commenting. I remember when I first learned that suicides increase in spring and summer, and I was very confused, until I suffered from depression in late teens and realized that spring and summer made me feel absolutely guilty for being depressed. I keep trying to remind those I love, who are currently struggling, that the seasonal marketing of happiness is simply that, marketing, and that they (and we all do) have the right to feel how we do, no matter the season.

  5. Feeling what you say and write so well. Wherever we are, we are and that’s really okay, we don’t need pressure from anyone or any season to feel differently than we do; for me, that triggers the “downs” even worse as does any stress. Just this morning on my Facebook public page, I posted this and it seems to fit here very well, too. “People are all too quick to judge, telling others what they should do, think or be grateful for. Even Dr. David Burns says we need to stop “shoulding” all over ourselves. So why do others feel the need or right to do so instead of simply hearing and LISTENING.” #lost #art #hearing #listening #human #thinking

    1. Absolutely! Over the years, I’ve learned more to just lean into the feeling I’m in, whether it’s anxiety, or sadness, or anger, of even joy. It’s hard not to absorb these cultural messages about how we “should” feel, and I think so often people’s instructions to simply “be grateful” are a bit misguided, if well-meaning. I’ve sometimes found myself just wanting someone I love to be happy, to enjoy the sunshine, to enjoy the day, but when I was depressed, just being told to be grateful was one of the most hurtful things to hear. Reminding myself that I, and others, are where they are, and by listening and practicing empathy, that is often one of the greatest ways we can help. Thank you so much for reading and for commenting!

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting! I think it’s important to take time away sometimes just to be curled up and hibernating…

  6. You write with such expression and so much beauty. Your post spoke to me and it is awesome to see that people get it. With the sunshine and the “Stepford” smiles. I often feel myself recoiling back into the comfort of my bed covers in hand and blinds shut. I hope you have a lovely cosy day and thank-you for your beautiful writing. πŸ™‚

    1. I’ve definitely heard this from friends who struggle with depression, and I know that my social anxiety sometimes makes me reluctant to leave my cozy little perch on the couch, even if it’s nice outside….but I do try to remember that I don’t need to feel guilty for spending some time inside, just being quiet, until I’m ready to venture out and face the world (or, well, until I *have* to, anyway!)

  7. Congrats on your Freshly Pressed! I hope that’s a pick-me-up.
    I can relate to your post. Having lost my brother at Christmas time, this winter was just dreadful, but I dreaded spring even more for exactly the reasons you state. Fortunately, the extra hours of daylight and the birdsong have worked like a tonic for me and I do have a few good days now and then. I hope that you emerge from your darkness soon. I surprised myself by writing a post on laughter last week! You never know…

    1. I’m so sorry for your loss, Melanie. I can’t even imagine how tough grief is, especially as the seasons change and things seem to thaw around us. The daylight has been wonderful for me this year. Fortunately, I haven’t struggled with depression for many years, and I’m working hard on not letting the spring anxiety get the better of me. But it’s hard, sometimes….I do feel guilty for having anxious days when it’s nice out. But I notice, in myself, that this year more than any other, I am leaning into moments of joy, with more intention than usual. The anxious days will probably be with me all year-round, but I am finding myself uncovering more joy than usual. Thank you so much for reading and for commenting!

  8. This post was very well-written. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can definitely relate; there are moments in which the warm weather surfaces latent grief, making me nostalgic for winter. I’ve always thought it was a cruel irony …

    1. I’ve had that thought, too. The other week, I was so anxious, I just wanted my warm coat back, I wanted snow and a hot cup of tea, a bit of a biting wind. Thank you for reading and for commenting!

  9. Well spoken.

    I also feel the sharp inconsistencies between the perkily obnoxious “optimism” that all those “normal” people traditionally associate with spring and the gnawing realization that, despite the arguably more humane weather conditions (I’m in northern IL.), my psychological and emotional forecast is still rather “inclement”.

    Thanks for sharing.

  10. Yes, coming to life…the distance becomes clear. What is real and vigorous shows itself and unashamedly grows. We ache because we’re looking at the very thing we are longing for. At first it seems cruel but if you are brave enough you’ll look and percieve something even more real; even truer…the life inside you cannot die no matter how you feel you have failed it. Neither does it depend very much on your strengths. In fact it is stronger than you know. If you begin to look, to consider, to trust something so devoid of proof you will expierience what you tried so hard to have. We become like little children. We fail and fall into a grace that is the very power of life. You cannot fail to grow when you turn to what has always been there for you all along. A tender journey. A risky journey….but theres no other way. The crisis holds an oportunity if we lay our conclusions aside for a moment.

  11. Please dont missunderstand me. I learn everything the hard way. I do it but I kick and scream and I still dont miss out. So the truth is true and not afraid of my wrestling xx

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful words – it is definitely a struggle….but sometimes that wrestling can be fruitful.

  12. Love this post…I find spring and summer just so damn difficult sometimes. It makes me even more jealous of the people who can be happy and enjoy the sun when I have bad days with my depression.

    1. I agree. As the summer days approach (almost here) I find it hard at times not to envy the people who seem sprightly when I am feeling stressed out or sad.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting. I agree – it is lovely in spring to have those moments of play between the sun and the rain (or the snow, in some places)!

  13. Thanks for sharing this post. I agree, Spring is added pressure. Spring clean your home, your life, yourself. Dragging your body out of those winter layers. Laying yourself bare. Just keep repeating:
    Choose to be Happy, Choose to be Happy…..

  14. Thanks for your insightful blog. For those who do not struggle with this problem its hard for them to understand why those of us who do, can not look around smell the roses, and see the happiness that is all around us, and just be happy for the little blessings in our lives. Reading your blog made it clearer to me that we can change how we present our self to to others and we can appear to them to be OK and happy, but to those of us who share this “unwanted yet so real heavy burden of depression right to the marrow of our bones” its not something we can will gone.

    1. Very grateful for your comment. I still sometimes have to remind myself of this….while I’d love for people to be able to feel happiness at certain times (or seasons), depression simply can’t be willed away. Thank you so much.

  15. I’ve lived in Florida over 33 years, most of my life. Last February I moved back to Ohio. I took a walk this morning because the sun was out after this horrible winter we all endured. I can relate so much to this post. I never liked spring when I was a kid. I can’t stand the smell of worms after the rain, everything in its blooming stage while I always felt removed from ever blossoming in my own. At least in Florida I was exempt from seasons, we had 2 seasons: hurricane and not hurricane. It was perpetual summer where everything was always at its peak. Great post and thanks for letting me know, I’m not alone when it comes to spring being my least favorite season.

    1. Thank you so much for reading, and for your comment. It’s so interesting to hear the experiences of seasons in two completely different places. Glad I’m not alone.

    1. I’ve never tried one of those, though I’ve heard wonderful things about them. Winter is often glum at times for me….I wonder if a bit of light-box therapy would help.

  16. Thank you! As one who sinks into winter like a feather-bed, because there is NOT that insistence on jolly working, playing, smiling-at-rankles — spring is lovely, and hard to take in the seemingly required big single gulp. It’s a bit like chugging Scope mouthwash…and similarly colored.

    1. Thank you for this lovely and beautifully-written comment. I love how you’ve pointed out that sometimes it seems as though we’ve got to take Spring in all at once….it’s often so, so overwhelming!

  17. Very thought provoking post. I have been lucky and never had the deep depression or lucky enough to have always had people around to help me pick myself up. What I did find interesting was that I have often felt that low at the start of spring, everyone else has so many friends, everyone else is out doing so many fun things. So I would add to your statement if I may, it may not only be those that feel as if they are darkness, maybe we all feel a touch of this spring sadness. Thank you for the post

    1. Thank you! I think you just might be right. Spring is not easy for many people, even those who aren’t struggling with depression or anxiety.

  18. I am so glad I read your thoughtful article. I recently learned that I may suffer from seasonal depression; after a few years of wondering why I was so tired and down while everyone was so cheerful and productive during Spring, I got an answer. Thank you for sharing this. It’s nice to know I’m not alone, and good to see it is possible to over come it!

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for commenting – I’m so glad that you were able to connect the depression to the season….it DOES seem counterintuitive for most of us that depression isn’t a winter-thing, but any season can trigger it.

  19. I feel the exact same about spring. Happy winter is gone but where I live even though the season has changed it is still cold outside and gloomy rain. I am waiting for summer.

    1. More hours of daylight and sunshine can certainly feel lovely. Spring can be such a strange transitional period…

    1. Thank you so much for your comment and for your link to your blog! Your thoughts are so spot-on. Just being there for loved ones with depression is a hugely important thing.

  20. I honestly did not think anyone else felt this way towards the change of seasons, especially when spring comes. Thank you for writing this!

  21. Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve never been able to adequately express why I feel more at ease during the shorter days and longer nights of winter, but your post here sums it up very well.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for commenting. I’m already looking forward to October…still enough daylight hours, but also enough time to be still and breathe when it’s dark, to be comforted by scarves and tea.

  22. Such a wonderful post. Have suffered from these nasty disorders for years and springtime/summer is always a hard time for me. Quite possibly because everyone is out enjoying the sun and I feel guilty that I don’t want to. Oh well. Here’s to finding happiness in the little things in life. Go well

    1. Thank you for reading and for commenting. It’s so hard sometimes to deal with that guilt….giving myself permission to just stay home and watch Netflix and not be out at the beach has been very freeing. And you’re right about little happinesses. πŸ™‚

      1. All the best to you! Have found that treating myself to just one thing I enjoy each day really helps. Whether it’s picking up an awesome cup of coffee from somewhere or getting my nails done πŸ˜‰

  23. This too will pass and I hope that one day anxiety will no longer be in your vocabulary.. Great post!

    1. I hope so too! Things are getting a bit easier now that there are more hours of daylight to enjoy. Each year I think that I’m gaining more tools in my toolbox to fight anxiety…for that I am grateful.

      1. You will be whole soon. Shattered won’t fit the new you.. This too will pass.

  24. Reblogged this on tulageliot and commented:
    Never before had I felt this, until it came so strongly this year. I spent days on end closing my curtains to the glaring sun, despising that it was telling me to be happy before I was ready. It makes you realise how nature doesn’t wait for you. We have to slot into its demands, and somehow find a way to exist without collapsing under it’s authority.

    1. Thank you so much for reblogging, and for your thoughtful and beautifully-written comment about it. My thoughts are with you.

    1. Thank you so much for reading, and for commenting. Mental health still always needs more talking about….I hope to never stop talking about it.

  25. An interesting discussion of the unhappiness of springtime. In my readings about optimism and motivation, I recall reading that a common theme with springtime depression is that people believe that springtime will bring an end to the doldrums and melancholy feelings they experience in Winter. When any negative feelings continue, the depression is renewed. Insightful article and I encourage you to keep up the good work!

    1. Yes! I think you’re so right. I always tend to hope that sunny days and flowers will magically fix anything, even work stress or boredom….and get disappointed when they don’t always succeed in doing so. Thank you so much for reading and for commenting!

  26. This is so well written, and I understand it also. I, too, feel guilty about not going outside and enjoying the beautiful day and sunshine. I really have to fight this feeling some mornings. For me, it’s best to maintain a daily schedule that includes getting up around 6:00 in the morning

    1. I find it hard – I often sleep late, and then feel as though I’ve wasted so many of the spring/summer hours of daylight. I am trying, lately, to re-set my sleep schedule….I am hopeful it might help somewhat!

  27. Hi Lucia,

    Thank-you for this post. I am a Therapist and really notice people having difficulty around spring and them not knowing why. You put it beautifully here! We are subliminally told to “be happy” and “move on”.

    On a personal note, I put down my dog and best friend recently. I lost her to aggressive bone cancer before her third birthday. I didn’t want spring to come because that meant things were moving on. That meant people expected me to “get over it”. It also meant me moving into the ‘season of optimism’ without her.

    My heart goes out to those in not-so-optimist spots this spring. Again, thank-you kindly for your thoughts.

    1. Hi Jaime, thank you so much for reading and for commenting. I’m so sorry to hear about your dog…those losses are excruciating. My heart is with you.

    1. Thank you for reading – and thank you for the link to your blog. It’s good to know there are others who are writing about and through these struggles!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s