When Your Mood Doesn't Match the Weather
It is one of the first days of spring and the sun is shining into my consulting room. It is remarkable how many of my clients comment how their mood is improved with the better weather.
It seems obvious, of course. No bundling yourself into heavy or waterproof clothes. No struggling against the wind and the rain. If you are a parent of young children, it is far easier to get out of the house with fewer clothes to put on reluctant bodies. Most of us welcome the improved weather and the longer days with more light. Indeed, there are some who really struggle with the dark days of winter. There is a syndrome known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is far more common in countries with significant changes in daylight and temperature between seasons. In some cases, the sufferer can experience severe depression. Many clients will tell us that their mood improves in the spring and worsens in autumn.
Yet spring and summer have the highest rates for suicide. It seems counter-intuitive. Surely people’s moods lift with more daylight and sunshine. For the seriously depressed this is not the case.
This was brought home to me when I saw Laurence who had been battling a particularly severe bout of depression. His medication was not proving very effective and on the day I saw him, the weather was glorious. He just felt despair. Everyone around him seemed to be enjoying the weather. The cafes were full of people sitting outside. He realised how differently he experienced the world. He could not enjoy the weather, it made no difference to how he felt inside and in fact it exacerbated how he badly he felt inside. He wasn’t like other people and he didn’t belong.
In this mood, I could see how Laurence could be at risk from suicide. Fortunately, as well as being in therapy, he was also part of a self-help group from the Depression Alliance. He was hugely relieved to talk to other members of the group who understood his feelings. It is never easy to feel different and when you are depressed it is all too common to use this feeling as an additional weapon against oneself. Sunshine is lovely, and does make us feel better when we are not in the grip of feeling terrible.