Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Seasonal Affective Disorder

The sadness I feel during the long winter months is very real, prompting me to seek colors and light in my surrounding environment to fend off the effects of prolonged darkness and overcast skies.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is said to be rare in the tropics, but noticeably common above 30 degrees north, and below 30 degrees south. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is directly related to decreased exposure to daylight during the winter months, and causes depressive symptoms in people who otherwise enjoy good mental health. Treatments range from light therapy to anti-depressant medication to cognitive based therapies.

My approach to addressing feelings of sadness during the dark winter months depends primarily on cognitive strategies. In fact, my photography serves a distinctly therapeutic purpose of helping me find beauty in the world when all I see is gray.

The photograph shown above represents my personal attempt to receive the light. Even though the sky had been overcast and gray throughout the day, and the drizzle made conditions positively miserable, just as the sun began to set, the sky illuminated a deep blue hue for the briefest of moments. The contrast between blue sky and the orange glow of street lights combined with the reflection of water on the field. I stopped my car and captured that moment.

With all I know about the feelings of darkness, it's no wonder the ancients hailed the return of light during the shortest day of the year; to bring hope of life's return. All this talk of light and darkness reminds me of a poem I read once. It would make a great prayer during this season of sadness:

In this fateful hour,
I call upon all Heaven with its power
And the sun with its brightness
And the snow with its whiteness
And the fire with all the strength it hath
And the lightning with its rapid wrath
And the winds in their swiftness along the path
And the sea with its deepness
And the rocks with their steepness
And the earth with its starkness.
All these I place,
By Heaven's almighty help and grace,
Between myself and the powers of darkness.

~ Traditional Rune.

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