I was planning to return to one of my recurring themes today, Self-Loathing, because I experienced it in waves all day. But thinking about that led me to contemplate depression (specifically, how it is less painful than garden-variety self-loathing), and that led me to Seasonal Affective Disorder, and I decided to go with that instead.
Here's my S.A.D. story.
When I was nineteen years old, I spent part of my winter break from college hiking in Shenandoah National Park. I took the bus from Boston to DC, then to Front Royal, Virginia. I backpacked from Front Royal to Waynesboro, basically the length of the park, on the Appalachian Trail. It was cold, and I didn't see many people. I was alone with my thoughts for hours, days, more than a week. I observed myself, how I thought and what my personality was like, with no people around to influence it. I started to notice a pattern, and it was like this: I'd be hiking along, and feeling gloomy and pessimistic. My inner voice would be saying, "This was a stupid idea. What was I thinking. This is boring. This is hard. It's cold. I don't have enough food. I'm tired." For a long time I would just be slogging and barely motivated to put one foot in front of another. And then ... ! ... The Sun Would Come Out. And I would instantly recover--my mood would swing dramatically and I would be happy, relieved, cheerful and optimistic--and I would realize that all the negativity was just a result of the lack of sunshine. A few hours later, it would happen again, and take me by surprise again. But eventually I started to understand it and when I would start feeling negative I would take note of the cloud cover and tell myself, it's okay, the sun will come out in a while and you'll feel better.
That's how I discovered that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, or at least a version of it, a sensitivity to sunlight that affects my mood dramatically. It fully explained the clinical depression symptoms I experienced when I was living in Boston, which disappeared instantly and completely when I moved to south Florida.
I haven't done much research on it; apparently there are special lights you can buy, but from my observations of my own symptoms, sunshine is the best remedy and after that any bright light is good. If I had to have some kind of disorder, I'm glad it's one that can be treated without money or doctors or medicine!