Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Cold and Lonely Winter

by Giselle Renarde

It's been a sedentary winter. The cold! The cold!  Who would go out in those frigid temperatures if they didn't have to? And I didn't have to, so I didn't. I sat on this couch or in that chair and I wrote stories. Or I slept. Slept a lot. Slept until noon, until one, until two...

Have I mentioned I'm a writer?

Is it really Vitamin D deficiency that triggers the dreaded SAD?  I've been taking my D-drops and I've still been D-pressed.  I have a theory, although it could be unique to me. Or not.  It's all the walking I don't do when it's cold out.

I actually love the winter, but this year was hellishly frigid, if that's a thing. I love snow. I don't mind trekking through it at all--I even went snowshoeing with my sister in January, and that was the happiest day of my winter.  It was sunny and the trees (the ones that survived December's ice storm) blocked the wind, so the air actually felt warm enough that I took off my hat and mitts. 

My sister tells me that, in Japan, doctors recommend "forest time" when people are stressed. I could really get behind that. Walking is one of my favourite activities.  I live in the middle of a city, so I walk in the middle of the city, but Toronto's full of forest.  Wherever you are, you can find one.  We've got plenty of trees.

I once knew a guy who started walking and didn't stop until he got to Vancouver.  Some days I think I could do that, except I'd miss the cats.  I'd miss some people, too, but none of those people rely on me to feed them or sanitize their bathrooms.  Actually, I could blame the cats most days for my inability to get out of bed. When I wake up, they're still sleeping. On me. My cats sleep on me.  And if you've got a cat sleeping on you, how can you get up? It's physically impossible.

My cats are depressed, too, according to my vet. He kind of blames me, which is exactly what I need to hear. Thanks.

There's a gym in my building. I've lived here ten years. Want to guess how many times I've used it? (Did you guess zero? Because the answer is zero.)

I can walk for hours, easily, but not on a treadmill.  Outside, in the fresh air--in the forest, ideally.  Once I start walking, I never want to stop.  I never want to come home.  I just want to walk and walk and walk forever.  It's hard to turn around.

(By the way, I've got big plans to write a book about depression. Maybe you can help me: )


  1. Simple movement will often cure depression. It's the theory of inertia in action. My brother wanted to do a book on depression; he committed suicide instead. Delving further into the darkness can be tempting, and strangely comforting, but watch yourself. Or have a loved one watching after you.

    1. I'm sorry about your brother. I find I process information better by writing about it, as opposed to reading about it. That's a form of action too, I guess.

    2. Whatever it takes to keep yourself in motion.

  2. I've had circumstantial depression, such as postpartum, switching from an academic setting to motherhood, and moving all the way across the country, all at about the same time. That was many, many years ago, though, and once I had pills prescribed I felt like I didn't need to take them as long as I knew they were there (just as well, since the meds they had back then are now known to be nasty.) That sort of thing doesn't really count in this context, though, and any depressive periods I've had since had specific triggers, too, and have so far been relatively short-lived. I do think that without writing to occupy my mind I'd have a harder time coping with the tough times, even though when times are toughest I do have trouble concentrating on the writing.

    Not helpful at all in terms of what you're working on, I know. As an adolescent I think I felt more defiant than depressed.

  3. I should add, though, that I have meds for anxiety that I take sparsely when I really need to sleep in order to cope with things like my mother's decline and death, my father's current decline, and ongoing conditions of other family members I won't identify.

  4. I have a great respect for the meds out now. My mother would never take anything-- meds were the work of the conspiracy to make her crazy, according to her. Finally, after fifty years of bipolar extremes, encompassing several extended stays in the hospital, my Mom and Dad finally had some good years together. Dad was no saint, but he did love and understand her enough to stay.

  5. Giselle, you have almost taken the words right out of my mind. It's been a long cold winter all over Canada, even though I live in a different region from you. (We don't get ice storms on the prairies -- not enough humidity. Or maybe not enough trees. We do get blizzards in which snow seems to blow horizontally from Calgary to Winnipeg, or vice versa, and cold that feels like outer space.) After I broke my wrist in a fall on the ice on November 4, walking outdoors has seemed especially scary to me, so I rarely do it. I'm hoping that spring will bring all sorts of changes.

  6. I just returned from Japan, where I walked in the snow for the first time in a decade. Though I lived in New England for nearly thirty years, I find it hard now to remember the kind of cabin fever you describe.

    Cats can definitely interfere with getting out of bed. On the other hand, I've also read that they're good for your mental health. Think how down you'd be to be trapped inside without their company.

    In any case, now that things are thawing, I hope your spirits do, too.

  7. Wow, I really hear you on the walking. I, too, walked less this winter (freezing rain is the condition I least like to be out in, and there was a lot of that in New England), and went nearly insane with cabin fever. I am feeling a lot better now that the weather is changing. I don't know what it was about this past winter.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.