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No Winter Maintenance: Travel At Your Own Risk

Posted Jan 23 2010 2:41pm

By Lynn Haraldson-Bering

Some of you know from my post, “Four Little Words: A SAD Remedy,” at Lynn’s Weigh that I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder and that this year’s been killer.

Winterhike 004 Winter weight maintenance is more difficult with SAD. While my food intake is relatively stable (except for the worse than usual carb cravings), there are days you can’t pay me to exercise. Yesterday, for instance, after one – just one! – set of four back strengthening exercises, I quit. And nothing – no meditating, coaxing, promise of reward – was getting me on that elliptical, either. I just didn’t have the mental mettle.

Within this deep emotional hollow, I could do little more than stare at my computer and come up with excuses not to go to the birthday dinner Larry and I were invited to that evening. I knew I’d feel worse if I didn’t go, but you know how you get so emotionally drained with depression that you don’t know what the hell to think? For hours I vacillated between “You promised to be there! You can’t let your friends down!” and “How can you fake happy for three or four hours? You’ll be the most dismal person there!”

I had a hair appointment at 3:00. Cut and color, the anticipation of which usually perks me up. Instead, I hemmed and hawed until finally at 2:30 I washed my face, brushed my teeth and put on normal clothes (I was still sitting around in my under-utilized workout clothes). After throwing on some extra moisturizer (the cold is brutal on the skin, isn’t it?), that little voice in the back of my head said, “Put on some makeup. You’ll feel better and you’ll be glad you did.” Ugh. I can never seem to shut that thing up. But I put on makeup and I went to my appointment. Two hours later, I felt a little less sad and a little more capable of being a sociable human being and one who wouldn’t plunge head first into wine and birthday cake.

Lynnelisabeth The party, like most anticipations, wasn’t as difficult as I imagined. In fact, it was a lot of fun. I reconnected with old friends and I met a new one – a woman who is maintaining a 25-pound weight loss! Thing is, we didn’t talk about weight. We talked about SAD, among other things. She – as well as our hosts – understood SAD. They deal with it every year. My new friend told me about a passage from “The Book of Disquiet” by Portuguese poet Fernando Pessao, a quote she said doesn’t evoke who she is, but resonates with her. That’s what SAD is: not who we are, but merely a part of our experience.

No winter maintenance. I’m determined to not let this be my mantra.

Winterhike 009 The sun was out today – a rare occurrence in winter in western Pennsylvania. It was 36 degrees, and after a full workout, I went hiking with my husband in one of the most peaceful places I know, Cook Forest. The hemlocks, the running water of Tom's Run, along with the air and sun cleared my head, and another day of SAD was laid to rest.

I’ll leave you with Pessao’s quote. Like my friend, it doesn’t define me, but it explains a part of me.

“The mere thought of having to enter into contact with someone else makes me nervous. A simple invitation to have dinner with a friend produces an anguish in me that’s hard to define. The idea of any social obligation whatsoever – attending a funeral, dealing with someone about an office matter, going to the station to wait for someone I know or don’t know – the very idea disturbs my thoughts for an entire day, and sometimes I even start worrying the night before, so that I sleep badly. When it takes place, the dreaded encounter is utterly insignificant, justifying none of my anxiety, but the next time is no different: I never learn to learn.”

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