“I would rather feel bad in Maine, than feel good anywhere else” E.B. White’s quote resonates with us Mainers. I’ve seen it written under Instagram photos of stunning scenic views, it’s been turned into lovely pieces of artwork hung in homes and local shops here in the pine tree state, even our very own BDN Blog page has used it. While I am the first to agree that Maine is the best place to live, I know that the reason this quote resonates for me so deeply is that I do sort of feel badly living here this time of year.
Seasonal affective disorder or SAD, is that voice inside me that creeps in around Thanksgiving and sticks around until about the start of mud season.
It often tells me to stay in bed, re-watch all of Fargo, and sometimes it even goes so far as to tell me I am a terrible friend or daughter. My first memories of it camping out in my psyche are from middle school. My most recent interaction with it came at the end of this past December, I found myself one Wednesday night googling “how to stop crying.” (Hint: shutting off Joni Mitchell while googling things alone can really help turn a night around.)
Some of us Mainers are at higher risk for SAD than others. If you are feeling off and are not sure if it’s SAD or something else you can always ask someone who would know and be able to help you feel better here. These are the high risks for SAD cited by the Mayo Clinic:
- Being female. SAD is diagnosed more often in women than in men, but men may have more-severe symptoms.
- Age. Young people have a higher risk of winter SAD, and winter SAD is less likely to occur in older adults.
- Family history. People with SAD may be more likely to have blood relatives with SAD or another form of depression.
- Having clinical depression or bipolar disorder. Symptoms of depression may worsen seasonally if you have one of these conditions.
- Living far from the equator. SAD appears to be more common among people who live far north or south of the equator. This may be due to decreased sunlight during the winter and longer days during the summer months.
Since I obviously will never move to Florida, what’s a County kid to do? Well I was lucky enough to grow up in a loving and nurturing environment that fostered healthy communication from an early age. I still remember my first frank talk with my parents about feeling depressed.
14 year old me: “I feel so blah, like honestly what is the point of like even anything?”
Parents of 14 year old me: “We all feel that way, just go rub some dirt on it.”
To the untrained eye this exchange may seem a bit cold, but in fact it was some of the best advice my folks have ever given me. Playing in soil is good for your mood. I assume farmers and gardeners have known this intrinsically for generations but scientists are now confirming it. There really is something to the “go rub some dirt on it” advice.
In high school I took my first Ag Science course and was able to work in my high school’s greenhouse during the winter as part of my school day. I spent 45 minutes a day in a warm greenhouse planting and tending to seedlings. During those classes we sifted through Johnny’s seed catalogs, got our hands literally dirty, we were constantly moving about while working, and it really improved things for me. It helped me get healthier and happier. In fact out of most of my high school education I only remember a few good books from a selection of classes, but I remember almost everything I learned in my Ag Science courses. When you learn things by doing them yourself, they root deeper into you I think, it’s why the phrase “like riding a bicycle” even exists.
Spending time in a greenhouse, or a similar environment always helps me navigate through the sludge built up by my winter blues. Through my Ag science courses I learned this habit of associating working with my hands and feeling better. I learned this stuff over a decade ago and it still is pertinent to my everyday life. Anyone out there share that sentiment with their trigonometry class? I’m guessing no.
I love E.B. White and how his words ring true every time I read them. However this time of year I prefer another Maine author’s words instead. This poem is by Russell Libby and it perfectly encapsulates the feeling of a greenhouse. A feeling that you sometimes really need in the middle of January.
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