Friday, December 11, 2009

Doldrums.

It's my new yankee illness.

Winter used to be my favorite time of year. For some reason the gray skies and bare trees made me feel all creative and stuff. When I was younger I used to sit in the woods and write poetry to the smell of woodsmoke during this season.

Not since I've moved up here.

I don't want to leave the house.

I've got two weeks worth of unanswered email. Thousands and thousands of words of essays blocked up in my head. The kitchen floor needs mopping.

And yesterday I found myself crying for no good reason.

Here on the eve of the solstice, I'm unreasonably proud of myself for getting out of bed and getting dressed. Taking the trash cans to the curb was a monumental achievment.

This sucks.

72 comments:

alath said...

If you adjust to it, it's called "hibernation." A couple months of relative down time in the Winter to recharge and cogitate.

If you hate every minute of it, and judge yourself according to Summer standards of activity and accomplishment, it's called "Seasonal Affect Disorder."

It's really the same thing, though.

John said...

If you're not leaving the house, you may not be getting much sunshine, which could contribute to the winter blues. You could try one of those goofy overpriced lamps, I guess?

Anonymous said...

Do load up on vitamin d. Consider a few trips to a tanning bed. Paint a room white and load it up with light bulbs, both florescent and incandescent. Take alath's advice to not beat yourself up over it.

My son bought a snow mobile so he has something to look forward to. It has worked for him.

Michigan is just all Indiana and a bag of chips.

Joseph said...

Keep up the spirit Tam and resist the urge to put on some Tori Amos and a garden hose in the tailpipe of the Z3. In fact, put on some B52's and dance nekid like nobodies watching.

Word Ver: stlouse - Worst. Saint. EVAR!

OA said...

Russian folk music starting to make more sense?

Joseph said...

OA wins the internet today. Well played sir.

Word Ver: dractr - what Frank W James would drive if he were a vampire

perlhaqr said...

*hug*

(Ok, yeah, sorry, random-internet-guy hugs, but, I know what you're going through.)

I wish you the best of luck on powering through the winter. Get more sleep. Drink less alcohol. (Shit, am I talking to you or me?)

NMM1AFan said...

I live in NH, where it gets dark at 4pm. The goofy overpriced lamps actually help...

williamthecoroner said...

Tam

Go shoot something. Even an indoor range is better than nothing. Works for me.

WtC

Anonymous said...

There are two simple solutions:

1.) Vodka.
2.) Sunlight.

You CAN do both at the same time...

Rob K said...

Put on 3 or 4 layers of clothes and go hike in the Deam wilderness.

Joanna said...

I suggest covering every available surface with colored Christmas lights. Always does wonders for me, and if you turn the other lights off it's like a tiny, festive disco. Especially if they blink.

Boat Guy said...

Move west, young woman. It's still cold (overnight temps in minus-teens) but the sun shines a LOT and the mountains provide nice backdrop. That and our snow melts quickly; we don't see November's snow in March.
Bundling up for a hike is also good advice, though you might need to get an Alaska rig to wear over the layers

Anonymous said...

You can buy full spectrum floodlamps at pet shops pretty cheaply. Screw one into a clamp on reflector from home depot and you have a portable "sun" that does the job, lots cheaper than the expensive rigs you buy on line. A goth-ish girlfriend calls it her "lizard light" because she got it in the reptiles section and because she loves to bask beneath it all winter long.

Phil

Jay G said...

Just whatever you do, don't sit around in the dark eating Cheetos. That orange gets *everywhere*. Err, not that I'd know, of course...

Seriously, hope you shake the blahs quick, Tam. It's no fun at all...

Bob said...

The long-term solution is, of course, to move back to the South. Unless, of course, Al Gore really is right and Indiana warms up to Florida levels in the next few years, in which case moving won't be necessary. So your actions will be dictated by what you believe, combined with available funds.

In the short term, I'm sorry that you're unhappy. Over at the Althouse blog, Ann is learning to cross-country ski, and also to snowshoe. Can you do likewise? The winter woods can be soothing.

wolfwalker said...

As several others have said, it's probably tied largely to lighting. Did you change time zones when you moved? If you're a morning person, and it gets light an hour later than you were used to, that could easily slow you down.

Moriarty said...

Yep.

Seasonal affective disorder from the sound of it. I see a lot of it this time of year. Phototherapy helps a lot of my patients, but if you don't have access to bright lights (or they haven't been invented yet) a good old fashioned Bacchanalia is the next best thing.

... and now we know why Christmas shows up right around the solstice...

(Oh yes: None of the above should be construed as medical advice. See your doctor before turning on a light, and Christmas is sold as a dietary supplement only. It has not been evaluated by the FDA and should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Hangovers installed and serviced separately.)

rickn8or said...

Know exactly the feeling, Tam. All except for that girly crying stuff of course. (sniff.)
And it does affect people further south just as much as it does you folks up there by the Arctic Circle. (That being the area north of Paducah.)
Hang in there, less than two weeks to solstice.

Cossack in a Kilt said...

I'll echo the Vitamin D recce, Tam. It's made a huge difference in my life.

wv: unside---what you need less of!

Anonymous said...

Funny when I moved south the dark rainy winter gave me a good case of the blahs. I missed the blue bird day after a good snow storm.

My Bah Humbug Christmas spirt doesn't help.

Exersise and do something nice for somebody, including yourself.

And don't listen to any Paul Simon albums!!

Gerry

og said...

It does suck from space. On the other hand, if you survive, it makes you incredibly tough. And on that first 68 degree day of the spring, you feel so happy you'd swear you could fly. Sunlight does help, a leisurely drive in the rollerskate to a farther-than-usual away gunstore always cheers me up, even if I have no money to purchase.

GreatBlueWhale said...

I always thought a good treatment for this malady would be to find myself flat of my back on a very warm beach someplace. And the first time I tried it, it worked!!
And when I can't, which happens to be most of the time, lots of bright, full-spectrum light at home and at work really helps.

Rova said...

A day's worth? No big deal. So we face the fact we're not twenty any more (or thirty, or. . .) and we stand on hind legs and fight back! A large, sturdy hot chocolate and the best winter weather clothes and it's time to use pliers on the nape of the neck and get outside and cover a few miles!

What's the point of carrying a multi-tool if you don't use it?

When you get back inside, hit the free weights and then floor exercises until you're pouring sweat. Cut out carbs for a couple of days.

Having a log jam of writing banging around in your head? I can relate. Sanity comes from snarling back and whipping order and a clear head out of the fog.

You have an unimaginable wealth of abilities in comparison. One day is excusable.

David said...

Yep - up here in Alaska we know exactly what you're talking about!

We (and some Siberians, Russians, Swedes, Norwegians - yep, none of us are known for our light carefree approach to life) invented this stuff.

My solution - the dogs and I get out every single day for a least an hour long walk. It helps a lot - even when the walk is in the dark at 3:00pm! My theory is that the lack of light makes your mind think that you should be winding down, not being active. BUT - the activity, if you power through it - makes you feel a LOT better. Keep on going - don't let up. Drive On!

Homer said...

If I may be so brash as to offer an unsolicited suggestion: Get off your ass and go do something.

Find someone who has never shot before and introduce them to the joy of .22 revolvers.

Find someone who has shot before and introduce them to the joy of getting good with a .22 revolver.

Find a local range that can benefit from an in-house instructor. The pay is less important than the benefits, in both directions.

And start snarking for profit; you can turn a phrase with the best of 'em, put that to work. Amazing how the mood changes when you see your byline in print, and cash the check, however small, that comes with it.

And stop worrying about the damn trash cans; the big, noisy truck will come by again next week.

Moriarty said...

On rereading comments, I'll chime in on vitamin D...

Since we don't get much sun exposure in the US anymore about half the population is deficient. D deficiency has been implicated as a risk factor for depression, fibromyalgia, insulin resistance, viral infection, cancer and osteoporosis, especially in (ahem) smokers.

Might want to get a 25-OH-vitamin D level checked and see what your doctor has to say about it. It's a cheap thing to fix.

Joe Huffman said...

One January daughter Kim hadn't smiled in a week and I took her and her cousin to a local gravel pit. That smile still brings tears to my eyes.

For the right price Dr. Joe makes house calls.

Just My 2¢ said...

Yup. You need sunshine, which might be in short supply down there in the flat lands. Up here (7200'), it was -32°F at sunrise this morning, but now it's a bright, sunny, beautiful -4!

DirtCrashr said...

My doctor said the same thing about D-deficiency so those go in the daily vitamin packet now, and tanning beds are warm and bright - though it ends too soon.

Old Grouch said...

I'd say the dark + the sudden cold snap. Both make getting out of bed unattractive, and by the time you do half the day's gone.

And this time of year there's about 20 minutes less daylight in Indy than in Knoxville (however you measure it: for today, sun above horizon 9 hrs 24 minutes/9 hrs 46 minutes, civil twilight 10 hrs 25 minutes/10 hrs 42 minutes). And that's when it's not overcast.

If I ever get around to redoing my (north-facing) kitchen, I'm adding a bank of wide-spectrum flourescents especially for this time of the year.

Carl H said...

Vitamin D3, 2000mg gelcaps. Take a couple a day during winter, in summertime just get outside in shorts every day. Add in a few fish oil caps - for some reason the fish oil/D combo helps me beat the winter blues. Don't know the why, just note the effect.

Hope you get to feeling better. You got a lot of imaginary friends on your side.

Wai said...

Get yourself one of them clay chimineas for the porch, light a fire and sit out there with a good book. You'd be surprised how warm you'll be in front of that thing.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Man, a lot of folks love you, Tam.

Anonymous said...

Cut out carbs for a couple of days.

Lolwut?

Malamute said...

Tam, hope you get the blahs out of your system. Sent you some pics, look for "Doldrums remediation therapy pics", and "But wait, There's More!".


Sunshine helps a ton. So does blasting stuff. The fireball looks fun!


Malamute

theirritablearchitect said...

Get outside, despite the cold temps.

Ride your bike, and be damned the cold fingers.

Coffee afterwards, or hot chocolate. Try some other form of comfort food too.

Take care.

Dixie said...

Find someplace warm and bright, get some hot chocolate and a good book, and read. When the sun does come out, go outside and just stand in it. Also, to echo everyone else, vitamins.

Matt G said...

You had some solstice doldrums at this time of the year before you moved up there, too.

Rova said...

"Cut out carbs for a couple of days.

Lolwut?"

No problem: one exhibits signs of S.A.D. and the body craves carbs to raise blood sugars. When the glucose hit falls, the symptoms arise again, and they body knows what worked last time. Unchecked, the weak can roll over an emotional event horizon pretty easily.

Be proactive. Consciously count carbohydrate intake and maintain a maximum of 120 grams a day. avoid sugars in any form completely, and hit lean protein hard. Add ordinary exercise and a cheerfully confrontational mindset and you should be past the worst.

(shrugs)

My family's from above the Arctic Circle. YMMV.

Anonymous said...

@ Matt G

shhhh.. she's dropping xmas hints.

Anonymous said...

That's why God invented fireplaces.

We don't get much sun in Ohio either, but we've got a lot of trees. Seems to work.

Anonymous said...

Here Tam, try this. Its good for everything.


chux

paulcr39 said...

Chin up, big smile, the days start getting longer in about two weeks.

Hat Trick said...

I hope you feel more chipper soon.

I too recommend some outdoor exercise and look into the Vitamin D.

D.W. Drang said...

Go shoot something.

And be careful w/the vitamin D, overdoses can be fatal, you know...

Larry Ashcraft said...

That's why seed catalogs come in January, to remind you of summer, and to remind you that it will be back.

I get the doldrums in the fall too, but about this time of year I keep reminding myself; "spring is coming".

And it always does.

Generally, if I can spend a few days on the river bottom cutting and splitting firewood this time of year, I'm happy. Over 30 degrees, sun, and no wind, and I'm happy.

So I 'll repeat what others have said, you need some sunshine.

keith said...

I'm at the same latitude in Illinois so I can identify.

What Rova said works for me too. The only extra carbs I allow myself are alcohol in whatever fashion/quantity I desire. Of course I never manage to make it past three SA Winter Lagers.

The exercise part really seems to help and I DETEST exercise.
Taking a three mile walk when the wind chill is minus 14 sucks big rocks but it sure make home a sight for sore eyes.

What does your roomie do to keep her spirits up?

I hope you snap out of it, or at least manage to cope.

Tam said...

@ Anonymouse,

"shhhh.. she's dropping xmas hints."

I had no idea I was so subtle.

What was I hinting at?

Ruth said...

find a full spectrum bulb that'll go into your preferred reading lamp, pick up some extra vitamin D at the store, and curl up with a good book. I work 2nd shift so I really don't see sunlight, took me a while to figure out what worked for me :)

Charles Pergiel said...

How do you carry a concealed weapon so you can still get it out if you need to when you are bundled up enough to stay warm and wearing inch thick mittens?

On a Wing and a Whim said...

Tam,

I strongly recommend one of the light boxes for a quick fix of symptoms - iut really helps me. Even better than the light box is getting in front of a window and making like a cat (though reading the book, not sprawled on top of it), or even better, getting out for exercise.

For longer-term fix, cut carbs - I know we crave 'em with SAD, but more fresh veggies and sharp acidic viniagrettes with protein help keep blood sugar steady and weight gain low. Exercise helps immensely, especially if it's regular, and a routine that forces me to get out of bed is better yet and ensures that exercise happens.

The great news is - now that you've identified the problem, you can fix the symptoms by attacking the root causes. Good luck, and remember - solstice is only a few weeks away, and then it's all lighter every day!

Ed Foster. said...

I have to go with the sunlight/VitD/exercise thing. Find a cold day with not much wind and hop on some cheapo used cross-country skis in the nearest snowy park, but don't forget your shades. That sun throws lots of sunlight back at you.

I swear that, at 25 degrees, you'll be down to your tee-shirt and sweating like a pig at a roast in 5 minutes. Cheat like I do. I used to worry about waxes, then I went to fishscales on the bottom with downhill wax.

Once you get the plunge part right you'll get a really good kick going and come home, I s--t thee not, with a sunburn and a grin from ear to ear.

Roberta X said...

Keith asks, "What does your roomie do to keep her spirits up?"

I make tart comments on other people's blogs.

Triton said...

Go make a snow angel and pretend your lying on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale soaking up liquid golden sunshine and sipping a icy Corona w/lime slice while the scent of coco butter wafts upon the briny breeze.
Lifes a beach and then you dive...

At least you dont have to shave for the next 5 months.

Whats cool is we have guns down here too!

Joseph said...

I do hope feel better, Tam

Anonymous said...

I don't know you at all and I care how you feel. I see that there are a lot of others here that care as well.

THAT should pick you up if none of the other suggestions work!

I like your writing and lurk here regular.

Blindshooter

skipelec said...

OK, call Shootin' Buddy over, kick out the cats, put on some tunes,
you know from there.
When ya wake up the world will be right.

Your welcome.

Anonymous said...

Wow!!! What good grouping of RX's, to keep the Snark lively and viable.

Number one and easiest -- LIGHT LIGHT LIGHT. I like the lizard lamp suggestion, and get a LOT of 'em, for here n' there where you 'park it'.

Two, and even cheaper: WALKING, tho it's hard to take a cat on a leash in this weather. Get the sluggish sludge circulating with nice nasty cold Oxy to the brain, and the endorphins kicked up. Walk HARD and LONG until y'r winded and the legs hurt.

Take a fanny pack because you'll be shedding the scarf and other clothes when you start sweating -- and -- it's a legit season place to put the primary popper. Motivational tip: see how many guns you can take for a walk, without obviously clanking.

And, while I'm no healthy physician type, mebbe give that Vitamin D thingy a try.

I have survived Scandahoovian Winter Genes for 63 winters. Don't trifle with winter shut-down. Get it first, or it'll sure bite ya, eh?

And a Thank You to all the folks who posted here on this subject. The BLAHS are OK to joke about, but they ain't all that sweet and life-loving when they get a head start on a person.

In fact, this was a good reminder to me --Gotta watch the carbs, RIGHT NOW. Due to 'must have Momma's dressing table and chair by Christmas' types of deadlines, I have been off the winter commuting bike for ten days. And guess what? NO CARB is safe OR left behind.

Peace Thru Superior Firepower,

John the Red [nosed],

at the West End of Lake Erie

Anonymous said...

Hey, Tam. It's hard to imagine you sitting around, not the way you and I used to kick it back in ATL almost 20 years ago. I lived in Indiana for a few years, and then Michigan, and dealt with the same thing. That pricey go light thing did not work for me. Exercise helps. Get WII, maybe?

Dean Carder said...

Getting sunlight on the top of your head and on your eyes stimulates production of vitamin D. Vitamin D helps to rid you of the affects of SAD (seasonal affective disorder). If there is no sunlight take vitamin D pills and instal a few sunlight replicating lightbulbs in the house and get a lot of exercise.

Moriarty said...

One other little thing to add in the midst of the all the good advice on how to treat this stuff...

I've been dealing with depressed people for a lot of years and one thing that comes up commonly is self-condemnation.

Smart people, especially we "rugged individualists", have an internal locus of control. We bend the universe to our liking and see it as a challenge if it bends back. When you get hit with a bout of melancholia* there's a tendency to tell yourself that all you need to do is X, Y and Z and you'll snap out of it and all will be well.

Behavioral neurochemistry being a little less straightforward and cooperative than that, frustration, anxiety and a tendency to blame yourself can follow.

I spend at least twice as much time giving reassurance than I do diagnosing or treating during a visit with a depressed patient. Resist the temptation to tell yourself that all you have to do is buck up, take a couple of vitamin D tablets, haul up on the bootstraps and everything will be instantly better.

Find a good physician (if you don't have one) and get in to be seen. (As we know, Internet advice -- including my own -- is worth exactly what you paid for it.) Then give this thing several full magazines with everything in the armamentarium.

But above all: Be gentle on yourself.

-Moriarty

(*Literally, "black bile." In the old days, a physic or emetic would have been given repeatedly until you'd purged out all the black bile. That would be followed by a good bloodletting and perhaps a round of blistering and your humors would be rebalanced.

Oddly, few people complained of depression back then...)

Anonymous said...

"Oddly, few people complained of depression back then...)"

ROTFLMAO -- you just made my lunch time a happier event.

Now I go make cold seaweed rock soup, on the shore of a frozen fjord, deep in the dark winter, Ahhhh!!! Now that's real livin', for a Scandahoovian, ain't it?

J, t R

Anonymous said...

Well the Dept. of Homeland Security just ordered 200,000,000 rounds of .40 S&W ammo from Winchester.That ought'a make you feel better knowing the lengths our guv'ment will go to to protect us.Seriously this time of the year makes me blue also.I hope you feel better soon,and get a big smile on your face!

hootie11bravo

Brad K. said...

Honda is playing a radio commercial here, about "a young lady from Weaver Lake, MN" describing her just-completed "polar bear plunge" - ask the temp, she replies it isn't below -4 degrees, because they would cancel the plunge if it was colder than that. Asked why jump in the water through a hole in the ice in midwinter, "Well, you know, it gets us out of the house."

You might check with the Naturist Society in OshKosh, WI, for any information about natural hot springs in your area.

That, or hey! That new movie opened yesterday, Disney's "Princess and the Frog". Hopefully your theater makes pretty good popcorn. Or maybe a pity party, with a big cup of hot tea and honey, some basic Harrison Ford - Six days, seven nights might be diverting, or break out the LaserDisc for Working Girl. Transporter and Under Siege were fun. Or something Christmas-y, like Gina Davis' "Long Kiss Goodnight", or "Die Hard", or Tim Allen's "The Santa Claus". Grab an extra blanket, maybe some fruit juice, and just burrow in for the duration.

Seriously, look for the "daylight" type light bulbs - they can make a surprising amount of difference.

Anonymous said...

Moriarty said...
Oddly, few people complained of depression back then...)

I would imagine the reason they complained less is because they spent most of their waking hours either trying not to starve, freeze to death, die of exposure, or not die from a simple cut or common cold. Not much time to feel bad when you are trying to keep from dying every day.
Hard to imagine having to live like that, and I hope we never really have to find out too...

Anonymous said...

""Hard to imagine having to live like that, and I hope we never really have to find out too...""

DAMN, Moriarty!! Now you've got me depressed.

I think I'll go pray for A New Plague, in order to reduce humanity's numbers to a post-'pre-industrial' agrarian and trading economy. Then our habitat might be sustainable.

At least THAT idea makes me feel better about possible futures.

Sooooo...OK...are we makin' any progress here on awakening the Sleeping Beauty? Lotsa folks thinkin' of you, Tam, and sending good vibes thru the etherways..

Better get ready to put out a row of Tibetian Prayer Flags...Warranted to work in all circumstances, except when they don't.

J t R

Justthisguy said...

Have you tried SAM-e(S-adenosyl-methionine)?

I've been using it for years, both against depression, and because of a bad knee. It also helps the liver against the ethyl hydroxide. Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle have been doing it for years, from back when they had to smuggle it into the country. That was back when Jerry's liver needed all the help it could get, from what I've read. As a matter of fact, I'm about to head out to the Wal-Mart right now to buy a box of the stuff.

Noah D said...

This should cheer you up! Colander-helmed Lords of the Wasteland indeed...

(Mildly NSFW.)

Fiftycal said...

I feel your pain. It hasn't gotten to 60 yet this month. Fog, rain, etc. But it's supposed to be 75 tomorrow. Thanks for living "up north" so I don't have to.

bedlamite said...

It's a 2 1/2 hour drive, but this might get you out of the house

jimbob86 said...

alath said...
"If you adjust to it, it's called "hibernation."


I call it reloading season....