Winter Hibernation or Depression?


Snowy Day

Winter is not my favourite time of the year. In all the years that I have lived in the east, this is the only season in which I had and is still having difficulty. I had taken a long and glorious hiatus to the sunny Cali and Arizona but decided to return to the frozen east coast. I had noble ideas about the reason for coming here – be close to family etc. However, the longer I am here the more I am craving, actually desperate, for the southwest warmth. While I am aware that one should make the most of the situation in which she finds herself, I seem to be falling into the winter hibernation lull.

As a single person, who is not living close to family and friends, I have noticed some recurring behaviors during the frozen tundra season. These symptoms include excessive withdrawal from the world when possible. This past week I had the pleasure of having 5 work-free days. 2 1/2 of those day I did not get out of bed except for the necessary bathroom breaks and easily prepared sustenance.

If it was not for a Thanksgiving invitation I accepted, I would have slept away nearly three days. I had plans to do minimal exercise while being a shut-in but the most I accomplished was a fantasy exercise routine in my mind while half asleep (Yes I know that  does not count). When I am awake, my mind is bored and therefore idle which leads to random crazy internet searches until I am mentally tired and ready for another nap. Other symptoms include the lack of energy to do anything which includes my normal routines.

There is limited daylight which definitely contributes to the tired ‘I need to be in bed’ feeling,  experiencing irritation if the phone rings, hoping no one knocks at the door and foregoing daily hygiene practices (after all it’s just me at home). For me, winter is also my sick season. Obviously, even if I am mildly sick, I use this as an excuse to stay in bed. Leaving the bedroom is unwise because the rest of the apartment/house is not as warm and cozy as being under my blanket in bed. The thought of getting dressed to go out is as exhausting as doing a 1 hr worth of intensive zumba.

Winter months have never been kind to me. As mentioned, I do get sick during this time of the year, my skin is so dry I could bathe in Vaseline and that would only last for a bit. I do get mild nose bleeds from the dry air (it’s always fun putting lubricant in your nostrils), never feeling warm no matter how many layers I wear or feeling nauseous and faint when I easily over heat because of all those winter accessories. According to the Mayo Clinic, Seasonal Affect Disorder includes the following symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Problems getting along with other people
  • Hypersensitivity to rejection
  • Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain

As I have noticed, I do exhibit a few of those listed, however, I am not ready to diagnose myself with SAD. I wonder if I would be this affected living close to family and friends?  Social interaction does help to decrease the need to isolate and minimize the vegetative symptoms like over sleeping and tiredness. However, the thought of entertaining anyone makes me want to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head – a vicious cycle. I realize I could blame all of this hibernation behavior on my introversion but that would be blatant denial. I am looking outside my window (from my cozy bed) and the sky is overcast, the ground is covered with snow and it looks dreary. Oh yeah, it’s only 3pm. In an hour, it will be dark which tells my mind and body that it is time to go right back to bed.

I have yet to find a solution to combat the winter hibernation/depression except to move back to a year round sunny and warm place. For typical depression, engaging in outdoor activities is recommended – yeah! that will never happen in winter. My most feasible solution, like before, is to wait it out until the spring comes or I finally pack and move back to the southwest.

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2 thoughts on “Winter Hibernation or Depression?

  1. Thank you for your post.
    I feel the same dread of the darkness falling and the desire to hide in bed.
    I am currently lying next to someone and we have gotten up yet today. It is now 7:15pm. I know he is depressed and it is rubbing off on me. I’m scared that I am going down with him.

    1. Suzanne, Seasonal affect can be such a difficult thing to fight this time of the year. It is not uncommon for one person’s mood to affect his/her partner’s. Maybe if you mention what you have noticed about yourself and with your partner, then you both may be able to help each other. I know that it takes effort for me to get up on the weekends unless I have something specific to do that just cannot be delayed.

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