If you can not think of anything appropriate to say, you will please restrict your comments to the weather. ~ Mrs Dashwood

When a visitor to these green shores, I noted how frequently weather was a topic of conversation. On my lane, even now, the first comment is generally on whether the weather is windy, rainy, a slim window of sun, or pouring. While this constant accounting of the elements at first seemed antiquated, I am now a fully fledged participant.

There has been NO sun in this country for months! Naturally, that is a slight exaggeration but only just. The winter was mild and lingered on under a low, thick blanket of cloud. A common saying heard here, from Donegal to Cork, is: a fine Christmas, a fat churchyard. The colloquial understanding of this phrase is that a mild winter doesn’t kill off the viruses or bacteria, thus leaving them strong and numerous. Not being a biologist, I can’t comment on whether below freezing temps, or snow and ice, hamper these organisms, but I can well imagine the lack of sun during a long, grey winter producing such despair that a body’s own immune system weakens. Depression does that sort of thing.

A couple staying with us recounted the story of lingering Vermont winters. They explained that in a certain college town, come April (and if the winter had been a dull, long, grey business), students were likely to jump from the bridge out of sheer despair. Despair that the sun would never return, that the days would continue on in the monotonous dullness of a perpetual wool blanket.

That has been Ireland this year. The winter was mild and never cleared. Sunny days were sparse. There seemed to be a few bright days strung together in April, a day or two here and there in May…or was that March. We had the wettest June on record. All in all, fairly miserable.

And I feel it. It’s a strange sensation, to feel yourself slip into Seasonal Affective Disorder. It pours over me, almost from the top down. As though I can feel the chemical cascade as it is released from my brain. Lethargy seeps down: a tiredness so intense that even my bones experience it. Despondency is next, with its characteristic, “don’t look at me”. Literally, I can not stand to be gazed at, even by himself. I don’t feel sad, per say. I don’t have negative thoughts of suicide or self-harm: just an overwhelming urge to sit alone and be.

I felt it coming on me yesterday, after these many dreary days began to affect my pituitary gland. The vitamin D supplements came out (why wasn’t I taking them all along?), and last year’s tincture of St John’s wort. I also forced myself to do some yoga and load bearing exercise. Today I’m going for a run. Strange and amazing, how the elements affect us. I can’t begin to imagine what the native population felt in the bronze age when the sun stopped shining altogether!

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