I can breathe again.

Daylight saving time began. Spring is on its way. 

This winter was one of the hardest I’ve had in years. Seasonal affective disorder is no joke. The depression feels like a deep ache in the core of my being, a permeating sadness regardless of how good life is. 

I tried to do everything that the articles recommended. Mindfulness, yoga, vitamin D, sun lamp, good diet, exercise, therapy, socialization, gratitude. I didn’t fall back on my usual vices of shopping and sugar to distract or numb. I even went to Costa Rica and had one of the most blissful weeks of my life! But all it took to send me back into depression was a single gust of cold Chicago wind one evening. I tried everything short of taking medication and permanently moving to a sunny locale. All of this effort was just to feel OK. Some days, all I could do after work was get on my mat and cry, exhausted from a day of holding myself together. 
This winter taught me two things:

This depression lives in my body. I am an advocate for mental health but all of those practices were just to feel okay. Next year, I will treat this as a disorder in my body and not just my mind. I will no longer deny the way I feel. I will no longer deny that I NEED sun and warmth every day to feel okay. I do not need to just “grow thicker skin” or toughen up. I will trust the way I feel. It is okay to be having a different experience of winter and lack of sunlight than most people around me. 

I learned that one of the most important things to me is to feel like I BELONG.

The difference between belonging and fitting in: Belonging is being accepted exactly as you are. Fitting in often requires changing who you are or aspects about yourself in order to blend in or be accepted. Fitting in is conditional acceptance. This winter, I was in a workplace that had so much negativity and judgment flying around that I shrunk into myself and disconnected myself from my coworkers in efforts to protect myself. I felt out of place. I refused to attempt to fit in and connect through negativity. Fortunately, I was able to renew my contract with Walgreens and return to a place that feels like home. Where I belong. ❤