Tag Archives: Seasonal Affective Disorder

Only Child looks back at going back to school

Only Child, age 14 in high school uniform

Only Child, age 14, in high school uniform

Back in the gray ages, each September was different when I returned to school. I felt different, depending on the circumstances. Looking back, the excitement and more positive outlook was definitely before I turned teen. I remember the excitement of buying new pencils and exercise books (I did say “gray ages” so before computers) and anticipated learning new things. The smell of the pencils and paper, new books, reading, even Math, and especially playing baseball with the other girls – my age and older, made me feel good.

Of course, it wasn’t all good. I was bullied in school – first by my so-called best friend and also a nun  in grade 2 and grade 8.

When I started high school, the first day of school and the “anticipation” hit high on the dread and scary scale.

High school grade 9 actually started a few weeks before as Mom and I visited the school (a Catholic one in Toronto) to buy my uniform. This outfit was enough to send you screaming in the street with its dark blue pleated tunic, long-sleeved white blouses, black oxford shoes and (wait for it) a choice of seemed nylon stockings or black leotards – old lady shoes and stockings we called them. However, I didn’t run screaming anywhere because I was just getting over a summer of being sick with the croup.

Great way to start high school? The next high school years’ start weren’t much better. On the first day of any high school year at the Catholic School we were herded into the auditorium to find out our home room and our schedules. For grade 10, some of us found out we couldn’t take the typing class we signed up for but had to take another year of sewing and cooking – both of which I could learn from my mom, thank you very much. It didn’t help that the new school addition wasn’t finished and I got stuck in a portable for the first time. In winter the ink froze in the ink wells (gray ages, remember?) and we had to put our boots, hats, coats back on and trail back to the main school and patrol through the halls looking for an empty classroom – usually the cafeteria for religion class. Was there some connection between food and religion?

As kids and teens traipse back to school today, many are filled with anxiety. Life is more complex now with all the technology, cyber bullying and the peer and other pressure to grow up way too fast – just to list a few things. But the interesting thing that psychologists haves found is that some people long out of school still experience the first day anxiety as adults and some don’t even know this is it. Psychologists equate it with the end of the summer holidays and coming back from vacation and getting back to school or work. The days are getting shorter and the weather cooler with winter now closer and that can affect some too, like a prelude to the winter’s seasonal affective disorder (SAD.)

I get the weather one. Near the end of August and particularly Labour Day, I am saddened that there isn’t much more of summer left. Sure, we still get warm days in September (heat wave right now in Toronto, Ontario, Canada) and officially by the calendar summer doesn’t end until Sept. 21. And I do like the early part of fall. But once the cold arrives – once November arrives and we go back to standard time – it is all downhill from there until sometime in April. I hate winter with a passion – especially after the horrid last two winters – in particular the ice storm and the resulting power outage in December 2013 right before Christmas.

When September rolls around I keep wishing we could go back to July 1 and the Canada Day celebrations. So much summer promise of fun, hot weather, gardening, beaches, holidays, and somewhat taking it easy.  So, I hang onto what is left and garden as long as I can, bringing potted plants inside. Of course they won’t last all winter because the sun doesn’t appear that often or that long in winter.

Read the story “No more pencils, no more books? Fall blahs still hit adults” athttp://www.pressreader.com/canada/toronto-star/20150906/281505044989606/TextView

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Anxiety, Back to School, Only child, School, School days, Seasonal Affective Disorder, Sharon A. Crawford, Toronto

Only Child on weather and moods

Only Child on patio - not quite like this in January but warm enough for a light jacket.

Only Child on patio – not quite like this in January but warm enough for a light jacket.

What a difference a day’s weather makes. Last Saturday I woke up to the sun shining and the temperatures rising. Toronto hit a record high of 15 degrees Celsius and the next day temperatures reached the same. Only difference was Sunday started out grey and rainy – but that soon dissipated into sun patches. Didn’t matter to me. I noticed a big boost in my mood and attitude especially when I saw the snow melting.

I took full advantage of the day – walking to and from the grocery store (about a mile and a quarter all tolled), and went out in the garden. In January I dug up some of the turnips and carrots still out there, found two green onions, and clipped some euonymus branches (a pretty pink, white and green blend) which I placed in small vases to eventually replace two poinsettias which will soon be finished for the season.

And I sat outside on my patio to eat lunch and read the newspaper.

In  the middle of January.

Sure beats the winter blahs. I don’t get it as bad as those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and need to use artificial light therapy to raise their spirits (see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/seasonal-affective-disorder/DS00195 for more info). The most I get is feeling cranky about the dark days with some energy loss at different times. I also resent the short days and long nights so when we get sun (even with the cold weather) the whole day looks different…as long as we don’t get snow.

Snow may look pretty when it first falls down – until the road ploughs and salters do their work. Sloshing through slush and skating on ice patches don’t sit too well with me – in fact that is the position I sometimes end in thanks to these weather conditions.

I don’t do winter sports – skiing, snowboarding or even ice-skating. I used to do the latter in my “earlier years” (and that includes as a young adult) but gave it up because it was too cold for my comfort and enjoyment. Twenty years ago I gave away my figure skates to a co-worker for her daughter.

It wasn’t that way when I was a child. My father hosed down the front part of the backyard and overnight it became instant skating rink. Mom was determined to teach me to ice skate – it took two winters, when I was seven and when I was eight. I’ll leave you with this brief excerpt from my memoir about skating as a child.

Like a dance instructor trying to teach steps to a nervous wannabe, she grabs my hands and tries to get me in motion.

“Come on Sharon. Just slide your feet, one foot in front of the other.”

My feet, tucked tightly into new white figure skates, scrape and totter along the ice and my fingers dig into her hands, my mittens no protection for the hard petrified squeeze they give her. I do not want to fall. I might break a leg. I’m terrified of losing control, so I continue to cling to Mom as she steps backward, sometimes in her rubber boots and sometimes in an old pair of Dad’s black hockey skates. I follow forward like a drunken clown.

Two winters of this private slide and lurch pass. The December I turn eight arrives.

“You’re ready for Dieppe Park,” Mom says. (excerpted from You Can Go Home: Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford)

Happy winter.

During the dark days of winter, please check out the video of my interview about my short story writing and mystery short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, October 2012). Interview was with Hugh Reilly on Liquid Lunch (thatchannel.com) which my son finally edited and my publisher posted to You Tube. Here is the link – you can watch it here or click on the You Tube button and watch it on You Tube

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Beyond the Tripping Point, Family, Gardening, Ice Skating, Mom and Dad, Only child memoir, Sharon A. Crawford, short story collection, Snow, Winter blahs

Only Child on grabbing happiness in winter

Only Child age 8 but obvsiously not on the skating rink.

If I go back to when I was 8 years old, I see a time when I embraced winter – snow, cold and especially ice. After Mom taught me how to skate on the backyard rink Dad created, she turned me loose in Dieppe Park. I write in my memoir:

I clutch the skate guards, one in each hand, and stagger slowly. I look around and see people – old, young, even some wielding hockey sticks – they’re supposed to be in the hockey rinks. I take a cautious step onto the ice and almost lose my footing; when I point one skate guard out, I find my balance. I put one foot in front of the other, hold both skate guards out and I’m off.

It is exhilarating and scary but I am skating around the rectangular rink. No one can call me stupid now. I am gliding and… One of those hockey-wielding teenage boys nearly crashes into me as he takes the corner too fast. I clutch the skate guards and skate on the spot. Then I get my momentum. I can skate.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford).

Not anymore. I gave away my skates 20 years ago and just the thoughts of snow, cold and ice are enough to make me wish I could afford to spend winter in a warm climate…almost.

You see, I may regard the beginning of each winter day without much joy – getting up as daylight tries to poke its way out (sunrise 7.51 a.m. – it expands about a minute a week) is not my idea of bright joy. Too cold to go out into the garden and if the sun doesn’t actually show up then, having to turn on a light to see the coffee pot on-switch is pathetic. But once I get a few cups of coffee in me and get dressed, usually I see things in a brighter light. And if the sun actually comes out (as it did just now), my whole atmosphere changes drastically to big smiles.

The health experts and studies show that this lack of light in winter can cause some people to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Because I snap back fast usually (unless one of my eight health problems is acting up or I have too much administrative consumer stuff to deal with) and retain my joy and passion in most of what I do, I don’t believe I have SAD. If you want to read more about SAD, go to Pub Med’s article on Seasonal Affective Disorder at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002499/ You will be surprised as it is not all lack of light.

So, if like me, you sometimes get a smidgeon of winter blahs and your budget won’t let you visit warmer climates, what can you do to get some happiness? First I suggest you do some reading on what exactly happiness is. There are many books and Internet postings on the subject and everyone has his or her own idea. Just Google it. You might want to check out an Ipsos study done on Canadians’ happiness last year. It has some startling, yet not-so-surprising results. According to this study, 18% of Canadians are extremely happy, 43 moderately happy and 39 are what the study calls “downright testy.” The study showed three main factors that tipped the happiness scale: living debt-free, living in a romantic relationship, and having some sort of spirituality. High on the list also was having a passion for something you are doing in your life. (See http://www.creditcards.ca/credit-card-news/author-qa-debt-and-the-happiness-equation-1278.php)

According to that study, I fall somewhere between testy and moderately happy. I have some sort of spirituality (wacky, some people might call it) and I am doing what I have a passion for – writing, teaching writing and editing, gardening (in the summer, although I try with indoor plants in winter), reading, walking, etc. This study has shown me that happiness is a combination of outside factors and inside factors. A psychiatrist once told me that it might not be happiness per se you seek but some form of contentment. The bottom line to me is you have to work with what you’ve got to lift yourself out of the blahs and make some happiness in your life. For each of us that may differ.

Here’s my personal list to start on the road to happiness.

Do something you feel passionate about – daily.

Express your gratitude for what you have – daily.

Go for a walk or get some exercise – what you like, not what others say you “should” do – daily.

Listen to soothing music.

Read a book.

Watch a movie, TV programs you like (but not more than three hours max. a day).

Meditate and take deep breaths.

Solve your problems – one at a time.

Get together/talk to and email friends and family – but watch they don’t take over your time.*

Get enough sleep.*

In the next couple of postings I’ll be blogging about time issues and sleep issues and how they get in the way of our happiness. Meantime, read The Happiness Plan by Sarah Treleaven and
Astrid Van Den Broek http://www.chatelaine.com/en/blog/happiness_plan and books about happiness, such as The Happiness Equation: The Human Nature of Happy People by John Hallward (Price-Patterson, 2011) and The Happiness Project by Gretchen Craft Rubin (HarperCollins Canada, 2009).
How do you deal with the winter blahs?
Cheers.
Sharon Crawford
Only Child Writes

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Filed under Happiness, Ice Skating, Only child memoir, Passion, Seasonal Affective Disorder, Winter blahs