On Mental Illness and Weather

At the moment I write this, buckets of rain are pounding the hot cement in Manhattan. Thunder that sounds like an amplified bowling alley is roaring the background – a rarity and special treat for a Texan who misses the drama and majesty of true thunderstorms. Like most people, I don’t want to go outside and get soaked. Unlike most people, I am delighted to be shut indoors, limited to the offerings of the apartment in which I reside. I am at peace.

Depression makes me a bit of a homebody, somebody who needs to refresh and be alone at home after limited engagements, like an old iPhone battery desperate for a charge after only a few hours of use. When the weather is terrible, my natural inclination is affirmed by circumstance and the pressure to perform is absolved. Unsavory weather limits options for activities, and my self-imposed pressure melts away. It’s okay to be indoors, to be in my feelings. There is no need to explain why I stayed in all day, because most people probably did, too. For an average person it may have been the weather, but for me it is the depression I live with like weights tied to my ankles.

On sunny days I am often gripped with guilt and dread. If I’ve slept too long, I feel guilty. If I don’t have a hyper-productive day that includes an outdoor galivant, I feel like a fraud just waiting to be found out by a daily itinerary inspector who doesn’t exist. I do take pleasure in being outdoors at times. My ideal getaway is a peaceful beach vacation, after all. But, it’s the getting home I look forward to: stripping off sticky or dirty clothes to put on something clean and comfortable, hugging the peaceful golden retrievers I live with, unpacking what I brought home, eating something waste-free and healthful I make with my own hands, cracking a book, settling in to watch a TV show I’ve been eager to see, being near Rick.

If rain is special to me, you may have correctly concluded that winter in New York City is sacred. The dirty snow banks pile up and street corners become mysterious lakes of melted snow, depths unknown. I outwardly commiserate with other New Yorkers about never-ending winter and join the chorus of deep desire for spring and summer. Secretly, this time is when I feel safest, un-judged, and mentally at peace. There is no pressure, only justification in holing up in the warmth and safety of my shoebox that sits under and on top of other shoeboxes filled with other humans doing the same. For them, it may be because of the weather. For me, I can just be, and I don’t have to explain anything.

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