When fall breezes into existence, excitement arouses as hands warm over a bonfire and roasted marshmallows. Students also look forward to partying and catching up with friends, sipping on spiced pumpkin lattes or tangy apple cider, and watching the rich green leaves transform into colors.
While these activities are all positive and enjoyable experiences, a deeper darkness resides in some of the students. Like an evil spirit, it hovers over them and feeds of their souls. The students may feel it in the brusque wind that cuts across their cheeks and then sinks into their empty hearts. Then students sink into a swamp and feel they can never return to fully appreciate life as they have known it.
The monster I speak of awakens like Frankenstein and like an evil spirit hovers over shoulders for weeks on end. It is called Seasonal Affective Disorder. Students who become depressed at this time of year don’t see the magic twirling around them in the community of their friends or fun times awaiting them ahead.
So it is good during this time of year to ask your new friends how they are doing. If they don’t respond, invite them over for a break from studies and engage in a film you both may enjoy, or take a walk in the fresh air and while the roads are clear from ice. If they feel particularly talkative and start confiding in you, do not interrupt them or try to relate to them. Even if you think you know, not everybody shares every detail of their lives, so you don’t know who may be dealing with depression or what their circumstances may be.
Sometimes when a person explains, not all the context is there in front of you because you are not them and you do not reside in their busy minds.
Listening is a huge part of the respect. It shows you are taking your time and not trying to be a know-it-all. In my own experience, at times when you mean to be encouraging, sometimes you can come across as insulting instead. Especially since some people may also be hit with random memories of what has gone wrong in the past. Any kind of loss serves as a sharp dagger: divorce, suicide, or friends who have moved on. Sometimes when you try to pick yourself up, you just cannot, and you must take the time you need to mourn and that timing is different for everyone.
Aside from empathy, other health factors may play a part as well. According to the Mayo Clinic site (www.medicinenet.com/seasonal_affective_disorder_sad/page2.htm), the researchers are discovering that there is a strong possibility that the depression could be traced back to a Vitamin D.
If you struggle with seasonal depression yourself, take some time between classes to acquire some exercise, even if it is only for a half hour. Listen to some upbeat music and run around campus at least once. Since natural light has a direct effect on your whole self; it may help your mood and strengthen your alertness for the rest of the day, if even for a while. Indulge in the overlooked simplicities, such as taking time out of your day to enjoy a hobby or savoring each ingredient in a Chipotle burrito or whatever is your habit. Something you take pride in provides a source of medicine for any distracting depression and any small step towards victory is still progress.