5...4...3...2...1...SUMMER BREAK. I’m sure we’ve all counted down the hours until school, work or University was over and we could relax in the blissful sunshine. Summer is stereotypically a time filled with joy, excitement, relaxation and happiness. But not for everyone. Personally, summer plays with my depression and I find it an incredibly difficult few months. We’ve all heard of SAD in the Winter but what about when it’s the other way around? “Summer SAD” has basically all the same symptoms; lethargy, pain, anxiety, feeling guilty, hopeless and even suicidal. The major difference that I have found however, is the expectation of those around you.
“It’s sunny outside, why are you still in bed!”
“You need to make the most of the good weather”
“Why are you so sad? It’s a lovely day”
“Why don’t you have any plans? It’s the summer holidays”
“Well you’ve wasted your summer”
These are just a few of the hurtful, but incorrect, questions and statements I’ve received over the last few summers. I knew I should be making plans with my friends or family but felt like they wouldn’t want to be around the less enthusiastic version of me. I didn’t want to ruin their summer too. This then produced an endless cycle where I felt guilty for wasting a day or for ruining another’s but I also felt frustrated that I couldn’t just force myself to have fun like everyone else. This pressure to enjoy myself exacerbated already difficult to deal with depressive symptoms. After all it was summertime, you couldn’t be sad right?
Wrong. Your feelings are totally valid. No mental illness goes away just because the sun has decided to shine. For some, it actually only comes out when summertime comes around. From personal experience there are 4 or 5 reasons I’ve found this to be true:
Now comes the trickier question of what to do about? Firstly, I always recommend speaking to someone. Whether that’s a counsellor, a therapist, your GP, a school teacher or University tutor, friends or family, reach out and explain how summer can make you feel. The more they know, the more they can try to understand and support you through the coming months. What else you might ask. Honestly I’m not sure. Some days just going for a walk with the dog helps whereas other days I need nothing more than to close my blinds and sleep the day away. However, I have tried to include some suggestions that make a difference, even if it’s just a little.