How do you know it’s Autumn? Outside the changes are everywhere. Fall knows how to make an entrance with its vibrant colours, falling leaves and endless Pumpkin Patch This Way signs. And while I am one of those people with a deep-seated love for pumpkin spice and scarf weather, for me, the realization the season has changed is far more subtle than the altered landscape and seasonal menu at Starbucks. It’s in the air—and inside of me.
The summer breeze I welcomed only weeks ago, the one that brought a reprieve from the heat—a natural shield that allowed me a moment to breathe and gave me a little bit of faith that the world was on my side—has given way to a chill that brings my nipples to attention and leaves me catching my breath. I hug myself for warmth and protection—no longer confident the world has my best interests at heart.
As the air shifts and the weather turns against me, my mood follows suit. The wind may be biting but nothing compares to the chill that comes from the inside, out. For as long as I can remember, the transition from Summer to Fall finds me increasingly vulnerable to the constant whispers of negativity inside of me. It is terrifyingly easy to slip into a negative mindset.
The relentless devil on my shoulder catches my attention far easier this time of year. The whispers become a roar and overpower my voice of reason and positivity. Even when I’m medicated; Even when my mental health feels stable; Even when I’m prepared for it and even when—like this year—I’m busy and it is the furthest thing from my mind. Even then, as the leaves change, the pumpkin patches open and the air cools, my mood ultimately collapses and I’m left scrambling to find the floor that has seemingly disappeared from underneath me.
My rational and positive brain that is usually so much louder than the negative one, now becomes the whisper I strain to hear over the noise of Here are all the reasons your life is hard. It gently reminds me that I want to get out of bed, to write, to go to the soccer games and read to my kids. It tells me to do my hair, return my texts and even to eat. Don’t skip the gym. Light a candle. Take a bath. Drink water, not wine. And, most importantly: Stay the course. Take your meds. Your life is good and you know this will pass.
The perk to chronic clincial depression is that I know it well. After a lifetime of feeling it take over me and almost 20 years of really knowing what it is, we have an understanding—a balancing act of sorts. I know where I need to push through and where I can afford to let things go—where to give myself grace. When it’s overwhelming I’ve learned I don’t need to live my best life but can give myself permission to live a life that’s good enough for now. And I’ve learned to tune in to the whispers that help me survive these seasons as I wait for them to become the predominant voice in my head once again.
Mental health struggles can be difficult for people to understand. The air changes so you put on a sweater but a shift in someone’s mental health is not so easily remedied. Like any chronic condition, the longer you have it, the more you understand it and the better equipped you are to handle it. But know this for certain, you are not alone.
If you are struggling, please reach out—to a friend, a loved one or a doctor. If you know someone who is struggling, aim to understand and never underestimate mental illness.