Summer depression in July is nothing new. It happens every year and yet I still greet it like a stranger, walk around with it as if I’ve never met it before.
©Aaron Amat / Adobe Stock
July comes and with it, the golden sunsets of summer turn to dust. Predictably, a familiar sense of despair finds a home inside of me. It happens every year and yet I still greet it like a stranger, walk around with it as if I’ve never met it before. One of the first signs that its arrival is here is the monotone voiceover that reverberates through my skull. This voice describes what I am doing in very plain terms but less of an exercise in mindfulness, it feels like I am being described to an invisible jury who need my existence justified to them in order to prove my worth. I fail miserably.
She’s walking up the street.
She isn’t really going anywhere, nobody to see, nowhere to go.
No one would notice if she disappeared.
The first thing I feel is anxiety. And then shame. Just enough to make me start questioning what I do with my days, my weeks, my months. All the things that add up to make a life. I think about all the things I could be doing differently, should be doing differently. Like a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ story, I worry about the repercussions and ramifications of all the decisions I have made and continue to make, the endings I will not see through, the lives I am not living. I don’t have answers to the questions I have, and they catch in my throat, leaving me breathless. It hurts for a while, a searing pain that rips through my limbs and then I’m left numb.
Summer days stretch out into the night, stealing the hours I’d usually sleep. Instead I’m left restless, rocking on the kitchen floor, hands clasped around my knees. I think about the memories summer holds; the promises – broken and kept – the lives lived and lost.
When spring melts into summer, it does so with a sigh of relief. Hope breathes new life into the air and for a while it feels like anything is possible. I had mixed feelings about summer when I was a child.
The school year would end and with it, my world would transform into new beginnings and adventures. Summer meant ice-cream and barbeques. Summer meant getting ready to move up a year at school and one year closer to my dream of going to medical school. Summer meant nosebleeds and hyperventilating, for which I was given an inhaler because my doctor wrongly diagnosed me as asthmatic, believing I was far too young to be having panic attacks at the age of eight. I only had panic attacks in summer. It was something about not being able to go to school, the worry about the time I was wasting, this intense fear I had of how these hours, days and weeks were adding up to create something of a colossal chunk of time that I could not justify.
It caused such anxiety that manifested in this complete inability to breathe, this sensation that my lungs were too small, and my mom would find me in my room, gasping for breath. Then my nose would start bleeding and I’d sit on the kitchen table for hours with my head tipped back, or forwards as the advice changed over time. Eventually, June would fade into July, then August would come around, and I’d go back to school, able to breathe again.
Summer is my favorite season. I love the warm weather. The sunny days. The blue skies. I love the light nights, the freshness that fills the air, the sense that the world has come alive. I feel like every cell in my body whispers prayers of gratitude; that I am still here, that life is so fragile and yet carries so much beauty and love.
Then July comes. And everything golden turns to dust.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is real.
It happens to me every year.
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