Everything has a name I suppose. This one is clever: “SAD.”
Google says, “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer.” Everything has a definition too, I suppose, like, “typical” defined as “showing the characteristics popularly associated with a certain thing.” SAD during the winter is typical. SAD during the winter is popular—is a mood—is a FB post—is a viral tweet. We all have a little bit of SAD in us when the temperature dips. No need for a support group when your entire city feels it—#BringBackTheSun, #IWantToWearThotClothes, #LetMyMelaninPopAgain.
It is Monday morning and I am sad in the regular way that Monday tends to leave me with a “feeling of sorrow.” It is the beginning of the week and of course I am miserable at work—typical—a popular mood. The day has spun and it is now five o’clock, yet the sun is now shining outside my office window.
This past weekend the government decided to do some shit to save our daylight, and now the sun is #FeelingHerself again. It is five o’clock, this girl is still out bright and burning, and the weatherman says, “Nice with a chance of getting nicer.” We’re at fifty degrees going on sixty. I can hear the women on the street below humming a serenade of “at laaaaassssst, our warmth has come along.” My fiancé texts me some shit about air, and freedom, and skin, and I can feel him bursting between each character. New York City is a carnival soon to be reopened, and I’m the child screaming to go back home.
I close my window and lower the blinds in an effort to muffle the song of the women and the sun. I tell my fiancé to do what he wishes with all his merriment, but I’ll meet him back at home. I sink into my desk and let out a sigh so deep it fogs my monitor.
It’s spring. SAD is suppose to be less likely in the spring or summer. I think it has something to do with Vitamin D. I ain’t a doctor, so I won’t diagnose myself, but I do know what sad feels like and I’m pretty sure that this is it. I flip off the lights in my meager attempt to reject this change in season, yet I can still hear the music.
It is said that misery loves company, but personally, I just prefer a climate that affirms me. The way a snowstorm supports your decision to not leave your bed for the day. The way fifteen degrees whispers, “You do not have to worry about what you eat, you can just cover up your body.” Winter never gaslights my depression the way summer does.
No matter how much therapy, I am never really ready for what the sun demands this time of year. The brunches, the day parties, the summer park nights fueled on laughter and liquor. And liquor. And liquor. And liquor.
Sometimes I try to repeat the word enough that it’ll just become a sound I control instead of a memory that controls me. They call that semantic satiation—there’s a word for everything, I suppose. But words, though they try, don’t stand a chance against my SAD. No matter how many times I whisper to myself, “You are more than your trauma.” I still flinch when someone yells, “Shots!?” during the function.
My therapist says “children of alcoholics (COA),” and suddenly SAD isn’t my only diagnosis. He says it is typical for COA’s to feel anxiety in social settings where drinking is involved. Definitions can change too I suppose. In this context “typical” no longer means “popular,” but rather “lonesome.” During the spring and summer I am often typical.
It’s been my experience that to be young in the sun in NYC is to either be the bar or to be bar adjacent. I struggle yearly to feel connected to community due to the burdens I carry as a COA, and nice weather often exacerbate these feelings.
But what magic it is to be Black, and carefree during the summer. To be cocoa butter wrapped in a thick twine of cotton. To be two Black palms sticky and stacked with freshly sliced mangos and chili powder. To be so Black the sun reflects you gold, and now your skin is the only thing worth gossiping over. And eventually I will marvel at all that static—but it takes me a minute to get there.
In the meantime, you can catch me convulsing as I check my weather app. The symptoms of SAD vary, but usually, despite how pointless it may be, it leads me to writing. Usually I’m trying to avoid everyone I know in an effort to not have them catch my sad too—but the sun demands differently. The sun demands friendship, and outings, and picnics, and nights you’ll never remember with the people you’ll never forget.
But what if you don’t have those people? What if the sun just helps to illuminate the empty space left around you? Is this season still a celebration? Maybe I’m too atypical for a word or definition of my own. But I know SAD in the spring, and in the summer, and I just hope it’s worth a retweet too.