That Time of Year Again

All writers get depressed. Hell, all human beings get depressed from time to time.

  Even some animals get depressed. Depression is a natural part of the emotional cycle of every sentient being on the planet.

I get depressed every year around this exact same time. I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a condition not uncommon to descendants of Scandinavians. We are unusually sensitive to sunlight or the lack thereof. Our depression begins to lift the day following Winter Solstice as the first sliver of daylight disturbs the darkness. We celebrate the return of light with wild parties and all-night bonfires. It’s too cold to dance naked, so we wear furs or wool or synthetic fibers to keep from freezing.

For the ordinary person, depression lasts less than a week and is often followed by periods of extreme exaltation and mania. If depression lasts longer than two weeks, it may be a sign of clinical depression. Clinically depressed people can become suicidal. If you feel depressed and have suicidal thoughts, please seek professional help.

If all this talk of depression is making you depressed, cheer up. All things eventually end. The sun will return to the sky after Winter Solstice, and Spring will be here before you know it.

The only real cure for depression is time. Treatment (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, prescription pills, and herbs like St. John’s Wort) can ameliorate the effects of depression, but only time can cure it. Time really does heal all wounds.

Writing helps. The problem with this time of year, however, is that family and social obligations often take working writers away from their keyboards for significant durations. Writers who can actually write seldom become seriously depressed or suicidal while they create. We simply put depressive thoughts out of our minds and into the heads of our characters and write them out in stories or novels instead of personally acting them out. Writing is an exemplar of cognitive reframing that makes CBT practitioners envious.

I bring this up for multiple reasons: 1) I’ve felt overwhelmed myself lately because of multiple requests from family and friends to break bread with them (I’m lucky to have so many friends, so I shouldn’t complain); 2) I have new novels that are about to be released or have recently been released and I have created and accepted more opportunities for appearances, interviews, and book signings than I can comfortably accommodate (when I made those commitments long ago I failed to consider the impact on my writing time; I’m booked up from now until the end of the year and have too little personal time and space for creativity); 3) other writers have reported similar feelings; and 4) several friends have actually committed suicide within the past week or two.

Listen, people, everyone needs time for oneself. Self-care is not only paramount, it’s essential. Forget about fame and fortune and family and friends. Find what makes you happy. Take the time to be happy. You deserve it. Do it now. Don’t wait.

Writing makes me happy. The very act of writing is exhilarating, almost orgasmic. I would rather write than do anything else.

I have balanced my life with daily writing time mixed with separate times set aside for social interactions. When I do too much of either, my life becomes unbalanced. When my life is unbalanced, I become depressed.

That’s why I cancelled my registration, reservations, and scheduled panels, reading, and signings at this year’s World Fantasy Convention. I have other appearances and book signings scheduled for next week (Halloween), and the week after WHC I’m scheduled to be at Windycon for panels, signings, and readings. If I went to Saratoga Springs, when would I have time to write? I wouldn’t.

Giving myself extra time has made all of the difference in the world. My depression has lifted (yes, I am currently feeling maniacal), and I’m accomplishing a lot.

Let me provide some perspective. Time is relative. You can control your perception of time. You can make time speed up or slow down. Time itself is an abstraction, a mental construct. You can look forward, look backward, or be in the moment. Writing is a combination of all three processes. Writers are observers moving through time.

As we approach the end of Daylight Savings Time, we can easily appreciate the relativity of time. It becomes increasingly difficult at this time of year, however, to take the time to stop and smell the roses because most rose bushes have shed their flowers for the season. Cognitive reframing allows you to be in flow and be in control at the same time. You can imagine you smell roses, and the effect will be exactly the same on your brain.

Imagine the end of darkness and the return of Light. Take as much time as you want or as much time as you need. Make time your friend and not your enemy.

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