Winter Solstice Blues

There’s a line in the Youth Group song See-Saw that has been looping in mind lately, leaves haven’t fallen yet, but winter’s been too long. The leaves have fallen, as much as they do in evergreen dense Oregon, but listening to the radio yesterday as I drove around they mentioned it was the winter solstice, officially the beginning of winter. Winter hasn’t even begun and it’s already gone on too long. This has been a weird December, even outside of the political chaos of it all. Growing up poor with parents who were debt averse has given me years to build up the skills necessary to steel myself from holiday disappointment. You mostly do this by setting low expectations, so in December I usually feel alright, my usual depressed self but nothing extraordinary. For me late October through November are usually worse. The return of the cold and rain reminds me how awful winter is. Usually sometime in early December I cut down on the drugs and alcohol I’ve been using the escape the misery of winter and come to accept it. The acceptance holds until late January when the ads for Valentine’s day start to remind me how alone I really am. Then it seems like winter will never end through all of February. This year the acceptance hasn’t come, I feel awful and I’m hating every minute of this winter.

I have no wisdom to impart. No lessons learned. I don’t know what’s making this winter worse than the past ten I’ve spent nearly equally depressed. I didn’t do anything different or makes any changes only to realize I’ve magically improved my mood. Instead I’ve been chain-smoking and drinking more. It’s not a cure, but it occupies your hands and makes sleeping easier which is more than you say for most advice you find on the internet. There seems to be three variations of depressed, lonely drinking. The best case is when you’re feeling down, but not at the bottom and drinking makes you feel good enough to enjoy a show or movie or something. Then there are nights when you drink to escape, but the alcohol gives you the energy to do something creative; you write, you draw, whatever. The final variation involves sitting silently in the dark contemplating how things got so bad with nothing but the alcohol and your thoughts to occupy you until you’re drunk enough to pass out. If you’ve spent a lot of time depressed you know it goes up and down even if you lose a sense of that knowledge when things are awful. They never go completely right, but the worst days and weeks pass, things improve just enough. That, I suppose, is the only cure, drinking enough to have the resilience to stand it for however long it lasts.

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