June 24th, 2024

Seasonal affective disorder can make life unbearable

By Lethbridge Herald on December 10, 2022.

Al Beeber
Lethbridge Herald

Ho, ho, ho, no. Christmas is only 15 days away and I admit I’m having a difficult time getting into the spirit. I’m tempted to get into the spirits, mind you, but the spirit of the season is another matter.

This hasn’t been an easy year for any of us. Inflation is wreaking havoc on all our budgets and while the province has lowered the gasoline tax, it may only be a matter of time before Albertans pay the price in one form or another for that respite.

It’s still much appreciated, though. But the rising costs of living have to be of enormous concern to everyone. At this time of year with much shorter days, the condition known as seasonal affective disorder hits many, as well. And trying to find the motivation to just function can be difficult during these days which seem to be perpetually dark. 

People who battle depression, even occasionally, can find this time of year absolutely insufferable. Trying to put on a happy face while being bombarded with the stereotypical messages that do not represent Christmas for everyone is as fun as doing self- checkout by necessity.

This seasonal disorder always hits me hard; my body is hyper in sync with the seasons so I can easily be bounding out the door for fun before dawn in spring and in the early weeks of summer. But come December, I run out of gas quickly. Part, I’m sure, is age, another the worsening cataracts that have my eyes on fire by evening’s end. And of course, my arthritis causes me never-ending pain.

But I’m trying to combat the impact by rising even earlier than normal so I’m pouring my first coffee at 4 a.m., reading email, checking fantasy pools – to see how close I’m getting to having first overall pick next year in the drafts – and priming the pump to hit Nicholas Sheran by 5-ish to quicken the heartbeat and do a few thousand steps. 

I even eagerly look outside to see if I can finally use the new electric snowblower, or at least the leaf blower, that came with it. After listening to Chris Spearman’s experience with an electric snowblower, I bought one and am so appreciative for his insight. 

Whie the snowblower hasn’t been started yet I can attest that leaf blowers are a toy every old dude needs. Forget brushing snow – just blast the truck. Sidewalk a little snow-covered? Hit it, too. In fact, I do at least four neighbours’ yards when I do my own, trying to pay forward the favours done me by my great neighbours Robert and Dale who always do multiple homes when they clean their own walks.

Brisk morning walks with Ben dog are my way to fight off the blues and tackle the day but the spirit of Christmas still hibernates despite the exercise and caffeine.

Like many I try to fight through the malaise – forcing myself to untangle Christmas lights and string them up which I finally got around to the last couple of weekends to keep pace with the neighbours. 

Thanks to ongoing issues with one residence, I didn’t string them into the alley lest they get stolen, a legitimate fear after catching someone in broad daylight checking car doors recently and chasing away others who were doing a drug deal beside my truck. That same alley right behind my fence is where one stolen truck was recently recovered and another seen before it was eventually found.

So I’m not taking any chances.

I’m getting so paranoid about this never-ending problem when I saw a sketchy looking dude on a screenshot taken by my security camera early one morning this week I had to drop my work to view the footage. Sure enough, there was a person wearing a toque in the driveway, looking all around, not in a hurry. Just standing there, scoping the front yard. 

To my horror when I took a closer look it was me holding the bird seed container and trying to find my key to unlock the back gate. Oops. 

I know with Christmas so close I need to do the dreaded shopping and maybe try being social – after all, it’s been a long time since my small crew had a weekend afternoon “church service” at one of our favourite pubs. Before COVID, those services were almost every weekend and plenty of “holy water” made them rousing and long. Now, my friends and I text each other once every two months which in itself takes non-existent energy.

I did go out at night last weekend when the Herald held its first Christmas party since COVID hit. It was the first one I’d been to  since 2017 and a rare appearance at one period. When I sat at the table listening to the long-service awards being handed out, my mind ventured back in time when we had dozens of newsroom staff. 

For years, members of our Herald hockey team would hit the party after a couple hours of rehydrating following our weekly session at the Henderson rink, and we’d celebrate late into the night. 

Times have changed since then – the only team members there last weekend being Bruce Friesen and Dave Rohovie. Long gone are such co-workers and teammates as Craig Albrecht,  David Rossiter, Jim Haskett, Ron Devitt, John Grainger, Jack Price and Gord Smiley. Also missing was a friend of everyone at the paper, Mark Schandor, who was the best proof-reader in the business and one of the hardest workers. 

Mark was on my mind a lot last Saturday night and it still seems hard to believe he’s no longer with us. Along with Dave and Bill Dudas, I spent a lot of late nights at the paper with Mark, one of several beloved co-workers who left this earth far too early. 

But none of them will ever be forgotten, which in a way is a bit of a shining light during this never-ending darkness, the memories of close friendships which can always provide a spark.

If you’re suffering this season from malaise, you’re not alone. Many of us are feeling it and there’s no shame in admitting it. 

Nobody has to feign happiness because it’s expected in the so-called ‘festive season.’ Be Grinch, if you want. It’s your life. Nobody has the right to force their social constructs on you. Grumpy was one of the seven dwarves, remember? And nobody disliked him – much. You do you and nobody – if they actually respect you – will bat an eye. Peer pressure wasn’t cool when we were kids and it certainly isn’t now that we’re adults.

We can all get through this because at some point, the sun will emerge from the blackness earlier each day.  Granted, it’s not happening this week or next so don’t get your hopes up yet. But hang on and hang in. And maybe buy a leaf blower – it could take your mind off the misery of the moment even for a yard or three. 

Or six if the battery lasts.

Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter.

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