Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The fall dreads

Maybe you get the fall dreads?

They're the slight melancholy that arrives with the shifting of the light from sharp summer yellow to gentle, filtered gold.

They're the sudden sink the first morning you wake in confusion, thinking it must be 4 am rather than six, and you realize that the velvet dark is encroaching on both ends of your day.

They're that little spark of panic in your stomach the first morning you realize that there's a slight chill in the air.

Chill might be too strong for it. But the heavy heat of summer no longer surrounds you like a hug when you walk out the door.

The fall dreads sneak out in many ways: the too-often verge of tears; the constant simmering discontent that flares into anger too easily; the lack of patience; the longing for days past; the reaching for sugar, sugar, sugar.

People who don't get it - the godancers - just don't ever get it. No matter how much you explain.

"Why," they ask, "would fall make you nervous?"

They like to say things like: "But fall is refreshing!" and "It's not cold yet." and "You should go out for a nice hike!"

I smile (I try - it might manifest as more of a sneer) and think, oh, fuck you and your nice hikes.

Nick would be one of those people, used to be one of those people, but he's lived too closely to it. He can't feel it, so he can't empathize, but he can see it. He recognizes the shift.

The ones who get it, who know in their bones that while it starts slow, and you still have your tight grip, it's loosening. You need to readjust. You need to get a firmer hold. Get some help if you need it.

Because if you let yourself slip, the drop is a fast one. And the depths of winter are brutal.

It starts now, with the fall dreads.


  1. I understand The Dreads, though we suffer during different seasons. I despise summer, the sticky, sweltering temps, the slugginess that overwhelms me when the heat kicks in. I guess that makes me one of those awful people who enjoys a brisk autumn hike. But still - I empathize. Hope this fall doesn't get you too down.

  2. I have to work out more in the winter. Up the endorphin dosage or some such. Fortunately, that balances out some of the sugar sugar sugar.

    Nevertheless, it is impossible for me to be happy in the wintertime. The best I can hope for is a thin screen of it between me and the seething discontent.

  3. Hugs!! This is one of the best reasons I live in Florida. SUN. I used to totally get the dreads. Hope they aren't too bad for you this year.

  4. I guess I'm one of your "fuck you and your nice hikes" people . Such is life. I was on my way to work this morn thinking how nice the cool air felt. Boy, not only am I one of those people, I so much a cheerful one you'd probably not only sneer at me, but also punch me.

    Happy Fall!

  5. I've always looked at Fall as the dying of the year...watching it slip away. I guess I'm a spring person in temperament, happy to see new life emerge. You know what to watch out for and how to get help for the sadness. It's the waning of the light that your pineal gland feels. (insert joke here, but not really) My thoughts are with you.

  6. I agree with Donatella, even though the days are beautiful and crisp, and the fall light is so flattering in pictures, it feels like a dying season. Things are wrapping up. Maybe things change, once you don't have a new school year to look forward to? Fall used to be my favorite season, because it was the beginning of excitement and fun. Now..meh.

  7. God, you're such an incredible writer.

  8. Every word of this applies to me, but I need to just move it back a couple of months. I love fall. Maybe it's our weather though, we get the gorgeous fall light without the dropping temps. It's 90 degrees outside right now, which is comfortable and pleasant, and those temps will probably stick around into October. Things don't start to get depressing until December. Then it's the "it's the holidays! It's cheerful!" and I sneer.

  9. I understand all too well. That's one of the big reasons I needed to move back to Southern California. No matter what I did, how hard I tried the depression hit me hard every winter. When the snow was falling it would go away for a little while because it was so beautiful but then it was gone and I was back to crying for no reason.

  10. I completely agree with the person that said you are an incredible writer. Just reading through your post brought tears to my eyes. Tears because I have a husband with severe SAD that starts late fall every year. It's very difficult to deal with since I'm a native of the Pacific NW and the clouds are fine for me. Medication made things worse for him, and it can be really hard on our marriage. This year I'm hoping (with all of my hope!) that a SAD lamp and a long trip to Mexico in Feb will help.

  11. Lisa,

    I totally understand although like a previous poster, I now live in Florida. Unlike the previous poster, it is this time of year that I start praying for a break in the humidity (its like the fall dreads for opposite reasons.) I just want a little crispness in the air... or hell, just not to feel like a warm wet towel was thrown over my head every time I walk outside. And, speaking of hair, my flat iron could use a break as well.
    Last year when I was pregnant, I just kept thinking "If I can make it to October, the weather will break. Surely October won't be so bad." Ugh, did not break until Novemeber.
    I can't wait to move back to somewhere with some fall (and no winter!)
    If you need some sunshine this winter your welcome to come visit.

  12. I get the fall dreads and I live in a place with a MUCH milder winter than you - Australia. My GP actually reckons Seasonal Affective Disorder has to do with a drop in Vitamin D levels. It's not just psychological.

    Also, it's now half-way through September and it seems Spring just can't be arsed this year and I am thoroughly sick of the glooms.

  13. Oh man it's supposed to be spring here in NZ and all it does it rain, everything is wet, soggy wet, I swear I am developing webbed feet with all this rain. occasionally we have half a day of blue sky and beautiful sunshine that you turn your face up to just to feel it against your skin and everyone starts smiling and talking to eveyone, and then it cluds over, goes dark and rains again for days on end like today for instance I am sitting in my office and it is teeming down outside and it is cold and I am feeling totally miserable because all I want is to feel some natural warmth on my skin. I am definately lacking in vitamin D and am as down as a down thing. I know what the dreads feel like and can sympathise with you.

  14. Yes. Spring is this way for me too, if I let it slip in the fall. Spring makes me disgusted with myself for not changing, not getting better.

    I love fall, but I get the dreads. Sunny days help. But post-Christmas? Watch out. That is some dark ass shit there.

    I still don't know why I chose a wedding date in mid-October. Along with the fall dreads I also have a big dose of pre-wedding stress. I iz smart.

  15. I so get them. Although in California I am sure it is rather less so - but I always hate when I wake up and it's dark out again. kills my soul just a little bit inside every day.

  16. I dislike Fall. I really do. Because Fall is almost-Winter. The thought of Winter approaching makes me cringe. I've already been bitching about needing a cardigan at night and it being dark at 7:30. I'm a whiner, I know, but I DO love my Summer. The hotter the better. Seriously. I thought I was the only one, but your post describes my feelings exactly. Eff Fall.

  17. I hadn't really thought about it, but since moving south, the Dreads don't hit me like they used to. Or maybe I'm just in such a constant stressed state, I don't feel them anymore?

    Sugar, please. With a Xanax chaser.

  18. That's one of the reasons I'm sorry I left So Cal. Winter is a total BITCH in Alaska and I'm not sure I can do another. I'm thinking a well-planned escape sometime in November. Alaskan summers are nothing short of amazing, and the winters are the same, only BAD.

  19. It's the waning light that gets me. I hate it. Makes me sad and rwitchty.

    Sorry we go through this. The only thing that helps me is to have a vacation planned to someplace sunny and warm.

  20. The last few years I've switched out my lighting for full spectrum lights, and I find it helps.

  21. I totally get it. My dreads relate to the passage of time in general. I hurt when I think about the fact that things constantly change. Even if the present is wonderful, I still get achingly sad. Fortunately, I can usually force myself not to dwell. My brothers? Not so much. Both have had severe problems with depression. So I guess I'm lucky.

  22. Lynn - I totally enjoy a brisk hike in crisp weather - it's more that I don't see it as a "cheer up! this'll fix your life!" solution.

    Jessica - This - "a thin screen of it between me and the seething discontent" is an amazing way to put it. I know that upping the endorphins is very helpful - but without some help, I have trouble motivating to do that. Cycle cycle, no?

    cla517 - Sun makes all the difference. It's astounding how much light matters.

    FoggyDew - Yah, probably. Better you not say that to me on a day that I'm down, since I'm so much shorter than you and the punch could really hurt.

    Donatella - That's exactly what it feels like! I totally equate winter with death! And fall is the march towards it.

    Susan H - I remember being excited for school to start...and then immediately getting sad and starting to struggle.

    Jennie - That's an awesome compliment coming from you. Thank you so much.

    Lisa - People are more and less affected by the amount of light as well. I think I'm hugely sensitive to it, and as soon as the days shorten by a few minutes, I start feeling it. December is super grim.

    Grace - Southern California is definitely a good place for anyone who gets depressed in the winter. You can always go out during the day and get a nice blast of sunshine, even when the days are short. So helpful.

    Tia - Thank you. I'm so sorry about that - I know how terrible it is. I assume he's tried a variety of meds? There are so many options. Hopefully the lamp will help, and the sunny trip should make a big difference too. It is just so hard.

    Angel JAM - This summer has been sweltering, and I'm definitely grateful for a little respite from the heat. And it's so pretty out right now. I dislike cold, but my real struggle is the amount of light. I am sure you get tons of great sunshine for most if not all of the year in FL. Definitely something to appreciate! (Although heat into November being hugely pregnant would make me so bitter!)

    Nicole - Yah, I've read a couple articles about the importance of Vitamin D, and I've been taking it. Especially since I wear sunscreen all the time (and assume you do as well in Australia). I hope your spring arrives soon. It's so awful when winter drags.

    Go-Betty - Ugh! I'm sorry! I'm hoping for sunshine for you! Endless rain and cold will get anyone down. Buy some Vitamin D. And get a sun lamp if you need one. Very helpful.

    Kate Bee - Spring can be hard, because it can take a while to recover from winter. I'm not kidding. When I didn't understand, and would fall into the serious depths every winter, I wouldn't be able to pull myself out until summer. I'd slog through spring trying my best. But your October wedding will be lovely! Lovely!

    SarahLeigh - The dark is a huge soul killer. Huge. It's better in CA because you can go out for good sun during the day, but you still get the early dark. Ugh.

    Kim - I know. I start getting nervous and then it just gets worse and worse the closer we get to winter. I wouldn't dislike fall if it didn't immediately precede winter.

    Lisa - I'm sure there's a huge light difference between Georgia and Indiana. Huge.

    Sugar and Xanax could get you through a winter, though, if need be.

    J - I'm pretty sure I'd be curled up in a dysfunctional ball for the entire Alaskan winter. I need sunshine for many many hours a day.

    lachochran - Definitely helps to break the winter up with a good dose of sun somewhere. I'm hoping we can do that over Thanksgiving.

    tammater sammich - I have one of those lights on my desk at work, and I sit by windows. Makes a huge difference.

    diatribes and dish - When I get depressed, I get very stuck in the past and dwell on everything. There's a marked difference in looking back vs. looking forward, depending on my state of mind.

  23. I feel the opposite. I am joyful and energetic and no longer barfing from the heat and there aren't any headaches from the sun. You'd totally tell me to go to hell...

  24. Amen, a thousand times over!


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