We just finished up spring break, and it was glorious! The weather was absolute perfection, a huge contrast to the preceding winter. I have never seen a Texas winter like this last one. Down here, we do hot and humid. It’s our thing. It’s what we expect, what we know, and what we’re built for. When it comes to cold...not so much! And while it was exciting to get snow on three separate occasions, it was also kind of a mess.
I will never forget the look on my boys’ faces that cold January morning when they saw the ground covered in a thick blanket of snow, a perfectly picturesque winter wonderland. It was pure magic! And they couldn’t wait to get in it. So we bundled up in our best winter getups and headed outdoors. But after a few minutes of digging into the pure white bliss, Jett began to cry and scream out in pain. His hands were frozen and aching from trying to make snowballs, and just like that, the magic was gone. He was over it. We didn’t last very long out there and quickly retreated back into the warmth of the apartment.
The snow practically shut down the state for a couple of days, leaving us shut in. I ran the heat constantly, layered myself in sweats and socks and blankets, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to shake the intermittent chills that ran up my spine. It was also a little odd to feel so isolated for those few days. We are on-the-go kind of people, so to log so many consecutive hours within the confines of my house ironically felt a little foreign.
I don’t remember exactly when I realized that this physical season of winter was actually mirroring the internal season of my soul. A couple of months prior, a cold front blew through the corridors of my life, leaving me in the bleak of winter. It was a wintry mix of loss and rejection that seemingly came out of nowhere. One day, I was standing in the warmth of the sun, and the next, I was stuck outside in frigid plummeting temperatures without a coat for warmth.
This drastic change in the seasons of my life immediately sent me into denial, as if not acknowledging it would make it go away. When that didn’t work, I tried a barrage of distractions. When they also failed, then came the numbing. I didn’t want to feel anything, but in contrast, I felt everything.
The hallmark emotion of my winter was loneliness. I couldn’t shake it. Like the cold in Jett’s hands, it felt like the loneliness was in my bones. It didn’t matter how many people or activities or events I tried to layer myself in, the rawness of that cold was inside me still. It was completely polarizing to the previous season, one of kinship, reciprocity, and connection. I felt none of that now. Instead I felt a total disconnect from the world I had grown so comfortable inside, like an outsider observing my previous life.
It’s crazy to me how loneliness works. Physically, nothing had changed. No one had shunned me. I still had the support system of my family, a great circle of friends, and my church. So many people live with this daily feeling of isolation that has nothing to do with their external circumstances. They could be single or contentedly married. They could have many friends or very few. They could have no children or a whole mess of kids. I’ve come to know that loneliness isn’t always the absence of these things, rather the disconnection from them.
The queen of introspection, I got even more curious about my depressed state and started to do a little research. I came across something interesting. Like myself, you have probably heard of the winter blues, but I was fascinated to read about the scientific evidence to support Seasonal Affective Disorder, aptly acronym-ed SAD. The National Institute of Mental Health describes SAD as: a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer.
The symptoms of SAD closely mirror those of classic depression. And while the cause isn’t completely known, there are biological clues that point to one, namely increased melatonin production and decreased levels of serotonin and vitamin D due to the external environment or the season. In fact, some treatment ideas include activities and supplements that manipulate the production of these things.
These are the 2 things that stood out to me:
Seasons come and go.
When you’re in the throes of depression, it is hard to imagine that you will ever feel otherwise. Emotions can be bullies, overthrowing the logical and realistic parts of your brain. I’m emotional. I’ve come to terms with the fact that my natural response is to feel first, and sort through those feelings later. I’m getting better at making the transition more quickly, but I’m still a work in progress.
One thing I did during this dreary winter of my life was repeated tell myself and others that this was just a season. I will admit that at first, I didn’t believe me. It’s hard to separate yourself from the feelings sometimes; it’s hard to believe “I’m just feeling sad in this moment” when you’ve already committed your entire being to “I am sad”. But the truth is that you will not always be sad or happy, for that matter. Feelings come and go much like seasons. Circumstances change. People come in and out of your life. People grow. People die. The only thing that never changes in life is change.
If things are going well and life is grand, cherish it. Soak up every bit and enjoy it to the fullest. Squeeze your babies. Love your friends well. “Throw kindness around like confetti!” Cultivate a deep gratitude for the seasons of plenty because it is sure that winter is coming. (Where my GoT people at?)
If you are in a dark place, take solace in the fact that this season won’t last forever. It may feel like it now, but it won’t. My advice to you is to simply be. Sometimes you have to sit with the sadness. You have to endure the cold. Take your mind off of your feelings for a while by filling your mind with good things. Conserve your precious energy and quit fighting against a winter you can’t control. Warm yourself by the light of the fire and rest. Save your strength for the upcoming spring when you can be much more productive.
You can’t control external circumstances, but you can make internal adjustments.
I am a firm advocate of fake-it-til-you-make-it. I’ve read too many psychological studies that support it to believe it’s just fluff. During my winter, what I really wanted to do was live in yoga pants, buy stock in dry shampoo and Blue Bell, hold up in my apartment while watching really bad reality television. But I knew those pleasures were short-lived at best and probably not the healthiest. So, I woke up daily, put on a cute outfit, did my hair, and plastered on a smile that I hoped would convince the rest of me to be happy again. I started posting an outfit of the day (#ootd) in my Instagram stories. The people that know me know how much I love clothes, and this daily post kept me from rolling out of bed and throwing on something that reflected the grungy, disheveled nature of my spirit.
I also joined an accountability group focused around health and fitness. We engaged in a health challenge that gave me something positive to focus on while holding myself accountable to a group of strong and inspiring women. I joined with the superficial goal of looking good in my bathing suit this summer, but it proved to be mutually beneficial to my soul simply by shifting my focus and energy.
The truth is that I couldn’t change the circumstances that ushered this winter into my life. But I could shift my focus and my perspective. It’s only natural to ask why. When we are staring loss, grief, rejection, and sadness in the face, we are driven to seek the meaning behind it. I believe that sometimes we find it, and sometimes we don’t.
But as with the physical seasons that come, I also believe that there are times when something has to die before something better can grow. And while it's not pretty and often desolate, I’ve learned that nothing pushes you quite like pain and nothing grows you quite like suffering.
So, as we stand at the dawn of a new season in Texas, a new one springs up within me as well. I’m finding myself in the midst of the transition where the days are longer and warmer. Hope is budding, and the ice in my heart is beginning to thaw. I’m starting to get the feeling back in my fingers as the sun brings the color back to my face.
It’s amazing how quickly things start to transform when you stop watching and willing them to do so; it’s incredible how fast the green grass grows when you stop giving it all your mental attention.
Once again, Grace has germinated the parts of me that felt dead. I look at my limbs that were so bare and sparse just a few weeks ago, and now they are lush with little blooms. As we approach Easter, this reminds me again that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. I am reminded of what the Bible says in Romans 8: the same power that rose Jesus Christ from the grave lives in you. I’d like to think of my winter as the 3 days in the tomb: cold, lifeless, hopeless, but God in all of his glory and power and love reveals his nature, which is to breathe life back into dead things at just the right time and make them more beautiful than before.
Some very wise mentors spoke these life-giving words into my heart during my chilly season, and I would like to leave them with you today. God knows right where you are, and He has not left you or forgotten you. Even when we don’t see it or feel it, He is working ALL things for our good when we remain in Him. I pray that His divine peace and infinite love wrap you with warmth as you patiently wait for your spring to break through.
All my love,
Hey! My name is Andrea. I'm a teacher by day in a small Texas town, but in every other aspect of my life, I consider myself a learner. This blog is about life: learning through experiences, sharing through stories, and growing through faith.