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THE SEASONS OF MY MIND
By James Prenatt
Each season has its own mood. As someone who suffers from bipolar disorder, the change in weather can often cause mood swings, ranging from elation to depression and flat-out despair. Spring is rebirth, a reminder that rain brings color: flowers and green leaves. Summer is freedom, happiness, energy. Fall is beautiful decay, a sign that it is time to prepare for the brutal cold with one last harvest. Winter is hibernation, and death.
I work outside so I often dread the coming of each new season, except for those rare cases in which the weather is mild like mid-fall or the beginning of spring. But the weather is pretty extreme in my home state of Maryland, so generally summertime is miserably hot and winter miserably cold. During summer I know I will be working hard since the plants grow quickly and during winter I know that I will be working a lot of overtime due to snow
Summer is often the most manic, as the sunlight allows me to get a lot of work done, or at least makes me feel as though I need to keep working even when I come home. This is usually a good thing and I’m pretty stable when it comes to that side of bipolar. I may not even realize I’m in a swing because I feel so productive. But this also means I can get pretty angry, especially when the sun is sweltering upon my face constantly.
Just like I don’t have control over the weather, I don’t always have control over my emotions. However, I can control how I manage them. For example, when I lean towards the manic side I have a kind of energy that makes it difficult to stop activities such as cleaning but I try because it can stress me and my family out since I go a tad overboard sometimes. Or when I’m having a depressive episode and all I want to do is give up, I’ll try to recognize where those feelings are coming from.
I’ve come to realize that just as the wheel of the year turns, so do I. I am a part of a nature. So, this year I’m changing my attitude by trying to keep things in perspective. For example, my goals for the year are always very lofty with vague deadlines most of which I never reach because I’m too busy being concerned about productivity. But now, since it’s the month of January, I’ve decided to treat it as a second December in which I can still reflect on the past year and prepare for the next. When I’m depressed I feel frozen in place, but when I set those goals and I can make small steps towards them, then I feel a little bit closer to the endgame without feeling the need to do everything all at once. When my mood leans towards the manic side, I feel like I have to get everything done as soon as possible. I might get angry too, which is rarer, but definitely something I have to keep in check.
These moods can feel like on and off switches, as though one person is turning you up to eleven one day and moving the settings down to one the next day. But of course that’s not the case. I take them more as warning signs. Just as dark clouds mean rain, a depressed mindset means that I need to do something that makes me happy (if I can even find it, we all know depression can be a hole with only a shovel to dig deeper) and if I’m feeling energetic I need to take advantage of that energy and use it for writing or working out or just spending time with family as they require an extra battery pack.
If emotions really are like the seasons then I can only protect and prepare myself from them. Though there’s no stopping depression; it comes whether I want it to or not, I can still find ways to change my focus. Even if I have a jacket it on it is still technically cold outside. These days, to cope with depression I try my best to stay active, usually by, exercising or getting out of the house, which may take a lot of energy but is usually worth it. Writing with a pen and paper is another way to help, as writing at a computer feels too much like work.
When it gets hot, I need to drink a lot of water, stay cool, and frequently take breaks. This helps to keep me cool-headed. To me, anger is my body’s natural way of telling me I need to get out of whatever situation I am in. In an argument, sometimes the best thing to do is to end it and come back to the conversation when you’re feeling calm.
Being mindful about my moods has helped me keep level-headed, which I generally am. When I feel that way it’s easier to think logically. It’s the emotional equivalent of finding shade. There will always be external factors in life that will cause emotional distress and only a certain amount of that is controllable. As for our own internal weather systems, we have more control than we think.
James Prenatt lives in Baltimore, MD with his beloved wife and two kids. He writes fiction and poetry along with contributing to blogs such as Everything for Dads and Parent.co. He likes punk rock, good movies, and bad coffee. You can support his writing on Patreon.