thinking fall. there, i said it.

Summer’s been fine, but it’s around this time every year I start thinking about fall.

Some of the trees around here that seemed to bud out just recently are beginning to look a little drained already. A flame of orange leaves here and there, crowning an occasional yellowish roadside treetop…it won’t be long now before the evening breeze carries with it the first perfumed waft of woodsmoke. Delicious.

I mention my feelings about autumn to some friends and the joy of my anticipation is met with a sigh, or a groan, and talk of depression. I understand that. I feel that way every year in early spring when the days begin staying noticeably lighter, later into the evening – when the frozen ground dramatically unlocks in a torrent of mud and the warm jackets come off and the world gets wet and bright and busy and loud again.

Is it unusual to dread the onset of warmer days? I suppose. But since I’ve always felt that way it doesn’t seem unusual to me. Do I have seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.)? I don’t know. Probably not, I’ve never been diagnosed. And it’s relatively uncommon, affecting only from 4 to around 6% of the US population each year, with only a fraction of that fragment being known to have the “summer” version of the affliction.

Self-diagnosis is much too easy a solution to life’s normal ups and downs and I’m reluctant to do that. Odds are, summer is just not my season.

As for the real thing, S.A.D. – you’ve probably heard of it described (incompletely – very incompletely) as the “winter blues”, and left at that. If the “summertime blues” are mentioned at all it may inaccurately be described as “reverse” S.A.D., or the “other half” of S.A.D., although there really are no “halves” or “sides” to it. S.A.D. describes, holisitically, mood and physical changes brought on by the change of seasons. Any seasons: winter or summer (or spring or fall for that matter).

Because proportionally so many more people diagnosed with S.A.D. are affected in the wintertime, the disorder may be misrepresented as a wintertime affliction while the other potential seasonal manifestation(s) are frequently overlooked or disregarded. I can tell you they’re real.

I’ve found a few articles online that discuss the disorder in its fullest form, and some even speak specifically to the “summer blues”. It’s something of a relief to read them. I feel like someone finally gets it. I don’t “hate” summer, my experience with it doesn’t really involve emotions at all. While I appreciate the renewal of life the season brings, I personally find summertime unpleasant and uncomfortable and I DO hate the feel of sun directly hitting my skin. (And then there’s the insomnia, and the anxiety when the weathercasters cheerily announce all of the “nice” cloudless, hot days ahead…) But usually before I realize I’m feeling anything at all, I’m just tired. Very tired and wanting more than anything to close the blinds to shut out the blaring light and turn on a cool fan so I can sleep until autumn.

When I lived in southern California years ago I found it soothing to go home at the end of the day and enjoy the rooms we had painted dark red (livingroom), lavender (bedroom) and moss green (dining room). The cool colors offered a comforting haven from the heat and light that constitute the overwhelming majority of days there.

Now that I live in New England I find the summer more bearable, if only because of the beautiful green forests and the plentiful access to cool, shaded swimming spots. The creemees don’t hurt either.

But I’m still anticipating fall and the first time I’ll be able to step out the door to crunchy, frost-covered leaves underfoot and the low, fervent honking of southbound Canadian geese in the sky above.

It won’t be long now.

Or, so I tell myself.

More on summertime S.A.D:

The “Real” Summertime Blues

New York Times on Seasonal Depression

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