6 Ways To Help Beat Your Seasonal Depression Before It Starts (That Don’t Involve Drugs!)

Winter is coming.

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I, like, a lot of my LGBTQ+ partner’s in crime, suffer from soul-sucking anxiety, major-depressive-disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It takes a lot of work to keep those pesky mental illness demons at bay: popping a Wellbutrin 300mg and Zoloft 100mg every single morning.

Dealing with the side-effects of the Wellbutrin 300mg and the Zoloft 100mg (diluted orgasms, fatigue, trippy dreams that make me wake up exhausted, not-so-sexy ~stomach issues~, bizarre shifts in appetite, night-sweats and incessant dry mouth—to name a few).

The financial pressure of paying a psychiatrist $260 every few months to get the pills that keep me (semi) sane. Battling the stigma of psychotropic drugs and the judgement of new partners and friends, who don’t morally believe in “medication” and smugly say things like: “All you need is more green juice, babe!”

As if depression is something you can “juice away.” (For the record, I’ve tried. Sadly no amount of activated charcoal and organic liquid kale was able to flush away the mental illness. Sigh. A girl can dream!).

Not to mention navigating the surplus of irrational panicky feelings that follow you around like a distorted shadow, throughout the entire day. The “feeling sad” for no reason and then the “feeling horrendously guilty” for “feeling sad” for no reason. What’s wrong with you! Snap out of it! The negative-self screams down your ear, causing you to fall even deeper down the rabbit hole of guilt and shame.

It’s a lot.

And it all just seems to worsen when the weather gets colder. It’s as if the moment mid-November hits, the bright light in my brain becomes dimmer and dimmer with each passing day.

Depressives are highly sensitive people. We’re wildly affected by the energy that surrounds us, and when the energy is dark, cold and gloomy, our brain metamorphoses into a dark, cold and gloomy place.

Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD), is a very real condition. Scientifically it makes sense; according to The Mayo Clinic, decreased sunlight can actually cause a noticeable “drop in serotonin.” Seratonin is a natural, chemical neurotransmitter our brain produces, that’s vital to attaining a happy, relaxed mood and a healthy sleep cycle. When your brain produces less serotonin, feelings of depression can be triggered in even a non-depressed person.

And let’s face it: Even if you don’t suffer from a clinical depression or “SAD” or whatnot, that doesn’t mean that you’re immune to feeling a little bummed out now that the promise of a long harrowing winter is hanging heavy in the rainy-glum air.

There’s a very real energy shift that’s palpable to anyone who is even remotely sensitive this time of year. The carefree vibes of the summer have ever-so-suddenly screeched to a halt. We’re collectively triggered by “back to school” anxiety, even if it’s been decades since we were in school.

And then, of course, there is the looming pressure of the holidays. The financial pressure of buying everyone lavish gifts. The pressure to be gleeful. The pressure of having to trudge back to your homophobic hometown and pretend to be “happy” when you’re really just miserable and flooded with dark memories of being a pimply closeted teenager who never thought life was ever going to get better.

The climate is cold, the weather is dark and we’re feeling down, baby.

But you know what? The other day as I sunk into my couch, feeling paralyzed, I decided I was going to take matters into my own hands this season. Obviously, mental illness isn’t curable, by any means, and I don’t expect these little actions I’ve decided to take, to stave it off.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there are simple things I can do every single day that help to ease the sadness, even if it’s just a tiny bit. Sometimes all you need is a just a tiny bit of a relief, a slender moment of reprieve.

And, obviously, none of these might not be effective for you. This is simply MY list. However, maybe sharing my list will help to inspire you to make your own list. (And I personally, would love to hear what’s on your list! Facebook me!)

After all, we’re in this haphazard, difficult life together, and maybe if we start sharing instead of hiding, we’ll feel little bit less alone.

1. I’m going to start every single day with ~gratitude~.

My bestie Owen Gould and I have been doing this thing lately: we email each other in the morning a list of shit we’re grateful for. It doesn’t have to be a fluffy, stupid, fake, Instagram #BLESSED, “I’m grateful for the beautiful life I live!” garble. It can be as simple as: “I only cried twice today.” “I woke up this morning without a hangover.” “My outfit is chic as f*ck.” 

It’s a game-changer. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that if you don’t live in a state of gratitude, you live in a state of expectation. And living on the emotional see-saw of expectation is a surefire way to feel anxious. All. The. Time.

Oh, and living in expectation will leave you wildly disappointed too. What comes up must come down. Expectation (up). Reality (down). Your entire life is inconsistent and unstable, made up of false highs and soul-crushing lows. Don’t do that to yourself.

2. I’m going to sweat it out at the gym, blasting a playlist of high-impact, angry-girl music!

Don’t suppress your feelings of anger; make love to your rage instead! F*ck it like you would drunkenly f*ck a toxic ex you still secretly love. 

Rage, anger, passion, these are all very sexy emotions. They’re hungry and radical and energized! Society doesn’t teach women how to manage our aggressive emotions. So we’re often left with only two weak options: stuff the rage deep down within ourselves and have a nervous breakdown at 45, or lash out at an innocent friend, lover or family member after tossing back a few cocktails. Both options leave us feeling unhappy, anxious and spiritually depleted.

I say put together a playlist of all the music that adds fuel to your fire! Crank the volume as high as it can possibly go. Don’t worry about blasting your eardrums. I’d rather have weak hearing than unresolved feelings! Now, run, sweat, box, walk, lift weights, stretch, do whatever feels good. Just move. Work through the feelings with music and movement and you will shed emotional weight, babe. 

3. I’m going to cut back on the booze.

A wise woman once told me to “play the tape” when you’re tempted to get loaded on booze. So now, when I’m feeling like “Screw this, I want to get drunk because life is too razor sharp to look at in focus and needs to be blurred with liquor” instead, I’m going to play the tape of what will really happen.

I will toss back some shots with some equally self-destructive friends at an overpriced dive bar in Manhattan. I will have FUN for about twenty minutes and then I’ll start to feel groggy. I will trudge over to the ATM and withdraw $100 to purchase a few more cocktails in hopes to drink my way out of the fatigue.

The next thing I know I’ll have spent $200 on booze and shit food, only to go home and pass out on the couch with my contacts in. The next thing I know it will be morning, and I’ll feel extra depressed because alcohol is a depressant, extremely ill because alcohol is poison, and just wanting to crawl under the sheets and hide, which I won’t be able to do because I have a job that I love. I will then feel guilty for not showing up fresh-faced and fresh-brained to work and will beat myself up for the next 48 hours. Then I’ll look at my bank account and realize I’m broke because I got drunk and reckless and that will send me spiralling into a darker hole of depression!

That, or I’ll end up texting a toxic person from the past! I don’t know what’s worse!

4. I will wake up before my depression!

A wise man (yes, I know they are few and far in-between) once told me, he wakes up at 5am, because he likes to wake up “before his addiction.” He was a recovering cokehead and claimed that if you can wake up before the craving, you’re golden.

I decided to try this with my depression, which I look at as an addiction of sorts. An addiction of the mind.

And guess what? It works! If I wake up at 5am when the world and my brain are still quiet, I wake up in an entirely different headspace. I wake up before the demon wakes up, and I’m in better control of my emotions throughout the day.

5. I will write 1000 words of my novel every single day.

Do you know what reminds me that I have a purpose and a voice and something to really “say” in this cruel, cold world? Writing. In particular, writing my coming of age novel.

I channel my younger self and heal my younger f*cked up self when writing. I get out of my head and go into this far away meditative land of make-believe. And afterwards, I feel glorious. I think so many of us depressed and anxious entities have so much inside of us, and if we don’t have an outlet for it, we go nutty.

Maybe your outlet isn’t writing. Maybe it’s dancing, singing, acting, running. Whatever it is, do it. And set aside time to work on the projects that don’t make you money. As soon as you attach money to passion, there is an outside pressure, an energy shift. It takes on a different feeling.

Do something just for the pure joy of it and you will start to remember who you were before all these crazy monsters took over your brain and held you hostage.

6. I will have as many orgasms as possible. 

Because nothing in the world makes me feel more human, more connected to my body, more visceral, more primal, then cumming, babe. I don’t care if I give them to myself with my pink sparkly vibrator or if another girl gives them to me. All I know is that lustful bliss sparks up my tired f*cking heart. Even in my darkest hour.