Bleak midwinter

Walking with Jesus / Friday, January 25th, 2013

I am in the middle of a story about my experience with seasonal depression. Begin at the beginning right here.


Nine years ago, I looked out my window and thought, I had no idea there was so much gray in the world. Born and raised on the northern edge of Minnesota, I was the last person in the world to be afraid of winter snow. But every day? Every single day, with constant, oppressive cloud cover? Here was something strange.

Newly-wed and deeply in love, I thanked Jesus for the good life He’d given me. But I was lonely.

My house required little care. My husband left each day for work, taking our only vehicle with him. Stranded in an unfamiliar community with a total of zero family members, zero close friends, and precious few people I knew at all, I paced my living room and watched the snow fall.

I developed what I called “cabin fever” that first winter: a restless loneliness, a desperate yearning for the sight of something (anything!) green.

Growing up, I lived for winter, and I’ll tell you why. Every year of my life but one, my family traveled to Maranatha Bible School, a place I loved, a place I grew and thrived and came alive, a place I belonged. I hated my teenage home of Plain City, Ohio. Winter brought an explosion of brilliance and color, and when I returned home after two months, spring was in full swing.

Only once before in my life had I lived out a whole winter in one place.

Now I was in Guys Mills! the region in which my doctor claims the US government once positioned a top-secret base during wartime, because it was always hidden from satellite images by the heavy cloud cover. I don’t know if that is true. I do know that when the sun comes out from behind the clouds, we all run outside with our hands up, thinking the Lord is returning or something.

It’s one of the worst possible places to live if you have SAD, or are about to have SAD, and the journey was just beginning…

12 Replies to “Bleak midwinter”

  1. Go Shari! These SAD confessions are so refreshing for me to read. Probably because I entered motherhood at THE darkest months of the year. Probably because my nights with my crying baby seem endless. And because there seem to be SO many long lonely evenings for me right now. Still…I’m so sorry for your pain. Jesus, help us all.

  2. And mine seems to start already in August because my whole system is protesting the upcoming bleakness…(there are a few other triggers for me as well in August but that seems to be part of it as well) This August and September was the first in ??? that I didn’t feel a screaming demon inside of me most days…it only came occasionally and I give all the credit to Jesus for the difference, along with the wondering if it really is in the past or that He just gave me a reprieve.
    Thanks for sharing your story…It is extremely important to me for some reason…perhaps so I know that I am not alone….(((HUGS)))

  3. Shari, thanks for sharing. You don’t know me…I’m Geryll Zehr’s cousin… but I appreciate this. Having good friends with depression and experiencing it some myself this last year, I appreciate when people can speak freely about it. I think because it gives hope — that He is in the darkness, that the darkness will lift, that suffering depression does NOT make someone a horrible person (rather more like a normal/real person). Thanks for sharing hope. And wishing you a day of sunshine today! Blessings, Michele Walsh

      1. That’s me. I started reading your blog when you posted the advent ideas … they were nice to do in a place where I was mostly alone for Christmas. And after a couple of visits… I figured out who you were. Blessings!!

  4. You know, this I’m sure is of no help whatsoever, but in Alaska (and way up north) in the winter months, they only get sunlight (or daylight) a few hours each day. Can you imagine!? I know many of them suffer because of that. I wonder how they cope?? I’m being serious, cold and dark almost all day every day – you’d think they’d be the experts somehow in recommendations or remedies. Now I’m curious. It may be worth a Google search, even for some little tidbit. Thanks for sharing your story, Shari. ♥

    1. Having been born in Alaska, that’s something I can tell you, Beth. . . the suicide rate is very high . . . drinking and drugs and prostitution are huge issues. People try to find ways to “self-medicate” and it’s not working well for them. I’m sure there are others who do find legitimate and healthy ways to cope. One tip I’ve seen given is to vacation in a sunnier, warmer climate for a week or two or three during the winter. That often helps give the body a boost. But that isn’t feasible of course for all. Keeping Full Spectrum Light Bulbs on helps at our house. Knowing our enemy helps too . . . just knowing it will get better come spring helps sometimes. Exercise can help . . . for me, making sure I don’t get isolated from support is important. But when it’s really bad (as it has gotten for a family member before we understood all this) can mean serious problems. SAD isn’t to be taken lightly . . .

      1. I didn’t know you were born in Alaska, Hope Anne! What I like about these posts is Shari making people aware and showing there is support available, even among friends – and yes, that it definitely shouldn’t be taken lightly. I’m glad you’re in on these because it sounds like you can shine some helpful light on things. I wish someone would boost me up in the summertime when I’ve had it with the heat and constant sunshine. Talk about not being taken seriously.

        I think a big problem is knowing and seeing someone who is dealing with depression and they don’t want help. You can’t force another adult into help and it’s hard to be on the outside watching what appears to be an oncoming train wreck. Hugs and prayers for all who are dealing with something. ♥

    2. the traditional native diet was high in animal fat – necessary for withstanding the cold and retaining sanity on the long dark days of winter.

      1. jut to clarify – the above is in reply to Beth R’s comment on Alaska natives perhaps being the experts in how to survive the winter darkness.

  5. My strong tendency to depression in the ‘bleak midwinter’ has been on my mind a lot since we’ve decided to move near Guys Mills. I’ve often wondered how i’ll make out. I do have a light i use, and my hubby says he can see a difference when i use it. I am firm in wanting to move there, and i’m hoping that reading your blog and seeing all the encouraging replies here will help me learn to cope after we move.
    Thank you for your courage in sharing, Shari….

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