Here is a true thing about me: I’ve been living with depression on and off since I was twelve years old. Specifically, I have dealt with seasonal affective disorder, A.K.A. SAD -- in case I needed a cruel reminder about what emotions I get to feel when I’m depressed (if any).
What is SAD, you may be asking? It’s a hilarious acronym that just means I get depressed when the seasons change. My brain forgets how to create the right chemicals when summer turns to autumn and autumn turns to winter, in part because it is literally so much darker during this time of year (living in Oregon, a place that gets very dark and wet during these seasons, can make this worse sometimes).
But hey, that is not to say that my brain remembers how to create the right chemicals the rest of the time. I definitely also deal with depression in non-fall/winter months, which is why I’m on medication to help my poor skull meat out. A lot of people are; according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 5 million college students struggle with mental health, which means you probably already know more than a few people who take medication.
So, during this uneasy time of year, I need to be extra thoughtful about my own mental health. And that, dear reader, is where my favorite fall time game comes in: Is This Depression Or Just My Personality? Anyone can play, at any time of year, really! All it takes is some perspective and a healthy sense of questioning your every move and emotion.
For an example of how to play, consider this hypothetical: if I come home from work or class, realize none of my housemates are there, and take that time to have a quick cry (stemming from nothing in particular) because I’m not sure when I’ll have the privacy again, is that a sign that I’m feeling depressed, or is it just who I am?
Another fun example: if I skip a friend’s birthday party because I hung out with people earlier that day and it exhausted me so physically and emotionally that I would rather go to bed at 10 A.M. and sleep till noon the next day, is it because I forgot to take my meds that morning or because I’m just a bad friend?
This game is extra fun because most of the time I don’t even know the answer! Sometimes I just get to shrug and wait to stop being sad for no reason! Truly, the excitement never ends at a SAD party.
Maybe someday I’ll be able to easily differentiate between depression and regular old human experience, but I won't be ashamed if I don't. Besides, this fall I’ll be a college senior writing my thesis surrounded by a lot of other college seniors writing theses, and there’s a presidential election in November whose results have a 50 percent chance of opening up a hell dimension, so I’m pretty sure I won’t actually know anyone who isn’t depressed in the next few months.
We’ll get through it together.