Well, the Diagnostic and Satistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (better known as the DSM-IV) lists it as “a specifier of a major depression.”
Or as the Mayo Clinic says, seasonal affective disorder (also called SAD) is "a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. If you're like most people with seasonal affective disorder, your symptoms start in the fall and may continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody."
Hmm. I never thought I had SAD before, and I used to be very happy and energized this time of year. The rains starting, the leaves changing color, in this “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness/close bosom-friend of the maturing sun.”
Sorry, to go all Keats on you, but I loved the way this sad, Romantic, dying-young 19th century poet described this favorite season of mine in his “Ode to Autumn.”
The fall always signaled new beginnings for me. This sense of starting anew goes back to my school days. I also always developed new crushes, or, on a couple of occasions, fell hard in love in the autumn. That would include with my husband. The autumn we started dating and fell in love is the best of my life.
Then again, before he came along, those autumn loves usually didn’t go according to my wishes, usually winding up in the category of unrequited love on my part.
Funny, but perhaps significant, I had a dream last night involving my first major love, a boy I met my junior year of high school. He was a little awkward and geeky, but also smart, funny, kind, and with soft brown eyes. He would grow into his looks in a few years.
We became friends doing a play together the fall of my junior year. He said something appreciative about my figure—probably in response to something joking and self-denigrating I said—and that was that. He had noticed me in a certain way, or so I thought, and I was hooked. I was excited when he asked me to homecoming dance. He learned that I was excited, and took me on a drive after the end a rehearsal one evening to set me straight. He told me that he was sorry to lead me on, but that he had a girlfriend, a girl who had graduated the year before. The next day, nosy gal that I am, I asked around and learned that this relationship was news to others.
He learned that I learned he wasn’t really going out with this girl, so he took me for another after-rehearsal drive. He must have sensed that I would be sympathetic, because he confessed to me something he said he had never told anyone else: that he thought he was gay. In fact, he told me, he was probably in love with his best friend. We sat in his car by the side of the road near our high school for a long time, steaming up the windows--but with talk, punctuated by his tears, and not much else.
Silly girl that I was, I was deeply moved by his sensitivity and became even more flattered that he had singled me out for his confession, and I fell even more in infatuation.
Let’s say, I was in love with him for the rest of the year, wanting to be near him, willing to be his sounding board even if I wasn’t getting what most girls would get in return from such a devoted companion.
Funny, to dream about him for the few hours I slept last night. But it is autumn, and I fell in love with him in the autumn.
And it’s autumn again, and the leaves in the maples outside my office—with their “rosy hue” in the “soft-dying day”—are beautiful. (Yes, Keats again). These leaves were especially beautiful in the rain yesterday, when the rain was falling gently. The beauty of those trees, and of the rain, breaks my heart right now, because there’s a part of me that can’t enjoy them, and look forward to all they mean, not like I would in past years.
Over the past couple weeks, I have become sad and moody and self-doubting—even self-hating—and full of regrets. I haven’t been sleeping well. Actually, this moodiness descended on me at the same time last year. And my therapist even asked, does this usually happen around this time of year, and I said, no, it really doesn't, because it never had before.
But now the moodiness has returned. And I’ve been awake much of the night, thinking, ruminating. I did fall asleep, and I dreamed about a boy I fell in love with--but who couldn’t love me back. How self-defeating is that?
In the dream, we were at some party, and we were aware of each other. I think, though, we were no longer in high school, but older. Adults. Even the age we both are now. He was watching me, while talking to other people, but didn’t approach me. Still, I thought--assumed--we would leave together, and I was happy to linger, taking my time, to gather up my things, so that I would be ready to leave when he did.
I woke up before that happened.