Mary Irene Carolan
‘I appreciate your concern. None of this is your fault. It’s me. It’s me and my head. In Winter, I collapse’ Virginia Woolf, Letter to Violet Dickinson (January 1909).
I would draw the sun in the corner of the page; bright, yellow, the crayon outside of my lines. The sky would be blue, the occasional meandering cloud somewhere on the upper half of the page. Wavering black lines there too, those are the birds. It’s a happy picture. I suppose we popularly see the sun as associated with happiness, the looming darkness of the Autumn and Winter months as a weight that settles upon its warmth. And I do, of course, but I too have always considered myself as belonging to the colder seasons. I look forward to crisp mornings and layers of clothes, scarfs with a knit chunkier than ever necessary. Comfort comes back to me then, something that summer does not fulfil.
Regardless of the 19 years of this being my truth, I have come to accept that first year has changed everything for me. A shift that ultimately, even if it were expected, I don’t think I would have ever been able to prepare for. I am learning that perhaps this is the point. Perhaps learning to be at peace with the uncertainty and the change and the vulnerability is what will bring us to a place in which we are not so heavily consumed by our innate need for control.
It is anything but one of the difficulties that abandon our trajectory once we do wonder into our 20s; a feeling that fades away as the youth does our skin
Nonetheless, this talks from somewhere surface level and is not as easily attainable as it is written. And to be there, there where you can feel that familiar cold as pragmatic for more than just the cold, is anything but so. It is anything but one of the difficulties that abandon our trajectory once we do wonder into our 20s; a feeling that fades away as the youth does our skin.
So, as Autumn came to an end and the gold and orange hues fell to grey, I would usually feel a childlike blithe for the holidays. I would see myself smiling in the reflection of my home’s fireplace, joy as the rain came to snow and sublimity as The Pogues came on the morning radio. I would find the heart to look past the year and onto what could come next, a hope in the promise of tomorrow. But instead, I became consumed with what I could only describe as being sixteen and so little to the world again. Except, this time, it holds more weight and more defeat and more confusion because, perhaps if someone had asked, I would have told them I believed just for a moment that I had it figured out at Nineteen.
I am not much of a numerical person; I don’t think I have the brain for it. Instead, I look to find my own understanding, empathy, and calculation in the lyricism of writing. Though, for the first time in my life, it has not seemed to come to me as naturally as it usually would. Just like that, the one thread of solace that has trailed behind me, tied to my shoe, the one reoccurrence that I did not foresee to feel so separate from myself at any time had blurred. And into it faded the line between who I was and who I wanted to be. And this is just what it does: stealing the excitement from our pleasures and interests, persistent in the restlessness and the worthlessness and the helplessness, physical pangs of aches and pains, the exhaustion more noticeable with each day. I realised I could not rely upon the consistency of it anymore.
All while the sun sets at 4pm.
Some studies have indicated its relation to reduced levels of the chemical serotonin, suggesting that sunlight affects the maintenance of its balance in the brain and thus why the winter months are so affecting
So, although the science within things has never been called to me before now, writing this has given me the perfect opportunity to delve into this side of reasoning. Putting aside the feeling and the emotion and the sentiment to be quantitative for a moment does give some easement that I am not in fact going crazy and that it is in fact real. The National Institute of Mental Health talks about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in terms of its causes – though it is disclaimed that nothing has yet been confirmed. Some studies have indicated its relation to reduced levels of the chemical serotonin, suggesting that sunlight affects the maintenance of its balance in the brain and thus why the winter months are so affecting. Other studies connect its causes to melatonin levels (a hormone important for maintaining a normal sleep-to-wake routine) suggesting that people who are inclined to winter-pattern SAD produce too much of the hormone and so are inclined to oversleep.
All in all, I am a big believer in giving into things for a little while. I would be the first to tell you to wallow, to be defeated, to be a little glass half empty, to feel sorry for yourself for just enough time that you can recognise that you may not be wholly okay. And I do believe in this because you will always come to a place during this hiding called “realising that you don’t want to anymore”. And soon you will not want to be anywhere but there, soon you’ll do anything to stay. It was here that I could start to stomach writing again, writing until what hurt started to heal. Stomach to let go of sadness’s simplicity.
And then I remember listening to music to listen to music like I used to, not to fill the silence. I remember buying coffee like I used to because I like coffee and not to stay awake. I remember hoping the morning air was filled with Ice like I used to, just so I could wear that one scarf and still feel the rose surface of my porcelain cheeks and fingertips.
And then I remember seeing the cold as just cold like I used to because I belonged to the Winter season and could not be collapsed by it.
Mary Irene Carolan
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