This winter has been a tough one for most people. I am no exception. The entire month of February was spent below the freezing mark; and a lot of that was spent below zero. Snow has fallen in steady blankets that have seen me shoveling, scraping and snow-blowing just about every single day, sometimes more than once a day.
This (left) is the view from my window. Yes, that is snow. It is piled about 10 feet high outside that window. It’s both scary and amazing at the same time. It shows us how small we are in the face of the earth and the changing mind of Mother Nature.
The snowfall that blankets my yard is massive. At the bottom of my driveway the snow (which, over time, packs its way into a solid block of ice) is 6 feet high. Around the house itself, it averages a mere 4 to 5 feet high. The “tunnel” that leads from front door to the driveway has the feel of a bobsled course when you are walking through it.
Time passes slowly when the mind fails to appreciate the moment. This causes bad feelings to fester and imprisons us behind the cage that is snow and house and skull. Depression sets in, and the final bars of the prison are in place: the bedcovers.
You want to get out of bed, but what is the point? All that looms ahead of you is a pile of snow that needs to be moved from here to there – once again.
It’s the Most Horrible Time of the Year
I don’t mind winter at all – seriously, I don’t. So then, why do I find myself suffering one of the worst cases of the winter blues I have ever had in my life? I have had to ask myself this question recently in order to figure a way out of this funk. And, just like any fear, phobia, mental issue or problem, the first step is to understand the problem and dissect it.
The problem is not simple. It is not one of “cabin fever” It is not one of feeling trapped and having nothing to do, even though the only places I have been since Christmas were to the doctors, to church, or to the market to buy food. I have plenty of work to do – my writing sits on my desk and awaits my attention. Yet I have to worst writer’s block of my life.
What is the culprit? Where do I point my accusatory finger?
The Mind in Reverse
The problem is that winter is “deadly” for an agoraphobic. Winter is the enabler, the great excuse. It allows you to slip back into an unhealthy world of staying indoors and not seeing people.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? The weather is bad, so we can avoid going out into it. We cut down our activity, just like most people do. We look out the window, see the snow pounding us, and decide not to go to the movies. No one bats an eye because that is the norm.
The problem is that, as soon as we do this, all our forward progress starts to be reversed. Agoraphobia does not sit still. It is not a static illness. It is kinetic, and if you don’t keep moving forward, it will push you backwards.
Yes, there are solutions, but they are tedious, time-consuming, and never-ending. Once again you are forced back into the trusty old plan, the one that gets you through life. It is simple and elegant, and it works (even if the exact formula varies from person to person). Here are the steps (in no particular order):
1. Pray – seek spiritual wholeness
2. Meditate – use relaxation techniques for both mind and body
3. Exercise – it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you move
4. Positive self-talk – mentally focus on good things, picture success
5. Diet – eat healthier
6. Determination – never give up, a major breakthrough is always right around the corner – until it gets here. Then look for the next one.
My first step in the right direction was going to the mall last week. I had panic attacks on and off the whole day. I self-talked my way through them. My second step was in writing this blog, which has been impossible to do for weeks and weeks. My sense of humor seems to have vanished, so step number three will be to try and find that.
Step number four will be to hide the Fritos. That is going to be a lot tougher. More on my progress as the days turn to spring, and winter loosens its icy grip on my soul.