Summer Onset Depression

June Depression

I am part of the less than 1% of the population affected by “reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder” or summer onset depression.  I find summer days insufferably long and empty.

Doctors can’t identify what causes reverse SAD, but theorize that heat and extended sunlight hours are likely causes.  I am a native New Mexican and veteran of months of 100+ degree weather.  I attribute my troubles more to humidity than heat.  Most of all, I blame long summer days.

In New Mexico, my June Blues resembled a lasting case of the blahs. School was over, so I rented movies by the armful.  Watching movies and reading books for six weeks seemed like an awesome way to spend half the summer. Besides, the snakes were too active for rock collecting or desert adventures.

White Night 2

I experienced my first unmistakable summer depression in Russia. I assumed my new marriage, new country and new language overwhelmed and exhausted me.  The contribution of heat and unremitting sunlight were unconsidered factors.

On my honeymoon, I collapsed.  The air was crisp and fresh as Egor and I sailed north of Saint Petersburg to picturesque Vaalam .  Daylight glowed incessantly. Surrounded by pastoral riverfronts and whimsical Karelian cottages, I should have explored miles of coastline.

Instead, the white nights stupefied me. The sun scraped the horizon, casting the land in a hazy twilight.  Like an over-exposed Polaroid, the world was bleary, bleached, and glazed with an unnatural film.

Disoriented, I slept for most of the next two days. I assumed some mysterious northern illness incapacitated me, when actually the culprits were depression and sensory sensitivity.

whitenight

One of our white nights.

After two blinding summers in Moscow, Egor and I moved back to New Mexico. I welcomed the darker, longer summer nights.  My seasonal doldrums persisted, overlooked.

Moving to New Hampshire, my June Blues emerged conspicuously.  Although our visible light lingers only 90 minutes more than in New Mexico, some sensitive neurological pathway is disturbed.

June’s eight p.m. sun feels like an unsavory protuberant eye, leering at me with wild diurnal thoughts. This gaze is as disconcerting as a nude stroll in a crowded, but hushed stadium.  So, I climb into bed, toss a black sheet over my head and watch movies on the laptop.

My blog, Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter have fallen silent. I have not finished reading my dear friend’s novel.  A weekly shower is a major goal.

June Blues 2

This is not a pity party, however. Despite the electronic vanishing act, I manage my family responsibilities with aplomb.  I shop, clean, cook and vacuum.  I water colored twelve thank you cards for Tyoma’s awesome treatment team.  I even put up bookshelves!

Solstice means the June Blues will be behind me.  I await you, August Idylls!

ETA: This is a revision of an older post. I still feel the blahs, but daily schedules have helped me stay organized and busy, thus more cheerful. Heat and light can impact many on the autism spectrum, especially those with co-occurring Tourette’s  syndrome (heat exacerbates tics). Help yourself and autistic loved ones by boosting structure (schedules) and encouraging the pursuit of special interests.

Adapting to Family Illness

My Home

I prefer not to post vague references to personal events–I either share proudly or maintain privacy. Nevertheless, events occur that require delicacy to balance discretion and disclosure.

Last week I put my mother in a skilled nursing facility. Mom had hid her illness to protect Dad and me, but when her health took such a sudden and alarming decline, Egor and I flew to New Mexico to help.

Mom wanted to stay home, but we could not honor her request and keep my father safe as well. She agreed to the changes we needed to make and is content in her new place.

I do not know how long Mom will be with us, but I do know how much Dad needs us. During their 50 years of marriage, they have rarely parted for more than a few days.  Dad says the house is painfully empty without her.

I call Mom and Dad daily. Every month I will fly out.  A Quiet Week in the House will continue as a creative outlet, but I am scaling back on interactions to focus on family.

Thank you for reading my posts and sharing your thoughts and well-wishes. I look forward to connecting with you more in the future. Your visits  mean a great deal to me.

Warmest wishes,

sig2

Celebrating My Mother: She Can Fix It!

She Can Fix It!

I knew it was January because another car engine sat in our living room.

After the excitement of Christmas faded, my restless mother decided to rebuild our 1970 Grand Prix. She didn’t have a shop or a mechanics education, but she did have a library card and a neighbor who would answer countless questions for a case of beer.

Mom’s fascination with mechanics began with an old gasoline powered washing machine. At six, she disassembled the monstrosity and stacked the pieces together in the most sensible arrangement she could think of.  When she reported her experiment, her irate father insisted she put the washer back “the way she found it.” Mom assembled the pieces more convincingly, and plotted her next mechanical adventure.

In the 1970s, the family passion was underwater photography. Factory-made underwater camera housings never satisfied Mom. She had no tolerance for poor design or awkward functioning.  To meet her specifications, she modified every camera, strobe, and battery pack she came across.

Consequently, our guest room housed projects, not people. Spread on the floor, our good sheets hosted O-rings, tiny bolts, clips and mysterious metal bits. The arrangements seemed haphazard, but Mom knew if anything was out of place. Once, I tiptoed across one of her projects, lodging a teeny screw between my toes.  I tossed it back on the sheet absently. Three days later, Mom advised me to hand her future wayward parts.

Mom and the Engine

In the mid-1980s, a series of hurricanes wiped out my parent’s favorite diving spots, requiring them to economize for more exotic trips. This meant long boring winters for my mom. With no exciting place to go or camera gear to tinker with, she turned her eyes and hands to auto mechanics. For most of the eighties, engine re-builds swallowed late winters and early springs.

One year, Mom decided to rebuild our 1970 grand prix Pontiac. This was to be my car.   Some kids got junkers or fancy sedans. My mother built me a racecar–a 455 cu in (7.5 L) V8 with a hot cam.

The Pontiac turned into a family member before I ever drove it, settling itself in our living room.  Its metal and grease smell permeated our house in a pleasant, friendly way, like the subtle cologne of a favorite aunt.  On windy March days, curing silicone gaskets gave off a vinegary odor, reminding me of Easter egg dye and spring holidays.

As spring ushered in desert wildflowers, I helped out, holding casings or pumping molybdenum lubricant into joints. Mostly, I watched or poured the occasional glass of wine.

One glorious April day, quite close to my birthday, the neighborhood assembled to celebrate the placing of the Pontiac’s engine. Champagne filled our glasses while our loving neighbors popped the tops of Budweisers.  Sputtering to life amidst cheers and whistles, we christened the car “The Blue Bomb,” since the engine rumbled “Baa-bomb—baa—bomb—baa–bomb.”

1970 Grand Prix

The occasion was momentous enough to warrant a visit from Dad, who famously despises social gatherings. Nevertheless, he entertained a cluster of senior ladies for a full twenty minutes, before stoutly shaking hands and excusing himself.

Mom, the guest of honor, discussed automotive mechanics until her companions became uncivilly inebriated. The balance of the evening was spent at the kitchen table, nibbling nachos with wives and daughters. The specifics of these conversations are lost on me but I can recreate the mood in a flash.   The atmosphere was convivial; a feeling of warmth and acceptance united the women around the table. Mom was the neighborhood Rosie the Riveter. “She can fix it” became “I can fix it.” We all sat a little straighter, spoke a little louder, planned a little bigger.

A week after the engine-starting, Mom, Dad, and I took the Blue Bomb on its inaugural drive.  Mom planned the maiden voyage with precision. A new engine must “settle in” through a complex combination of long distance driving and oil changes.

We drove to Gallup, NM and back. Dad followed us in the family van, filled with such a quantity of tools that care was taken to distribute their weight equally over the vehicle’s axels.

Windows down, we zoomed across the weedy, flowery desert. As we approached Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, Mom opened the engine up further, tearing along at maximum speed to seat pistons and O-rings. Toes tightened and the Pontiac resonated.

As sure as Vikings exalted the majesty of the open water in their longboats, my mother and I embraced our own frontier–a car speeding amidst a sea of desert flowers. A future of possibilities swam before us; we can fix it resonated in our ears.

The Fan

A Sunrise for Mom

A Birthday Wish

Dark Nest

Domestic Diversity

stuff

I am a messy house expatriate.

My mother, who loves burgeoning stuff, feeds a heightening bedside nest of fliers, letters, and newspapers.  In the garage, boxes dating to the early 1970s crowd to the ceiling. Time travel through receipts, magazines, and greeting cards would be a breeze.

Mom had only one household rule regarding clutter: keep a clear path to your door in case of fire. That was it. I could keep my room in a book-ridden, toy-stacked, plate-layered maelstrom of disarray as long as a firefighter could drag me out through my bedroom door. More than one third grade boy marveled at the delightful chaos of my room.

Surprisingly, I evolved into a neatnik of unbelievable proportions.  I overhauled and organized the house so every pen, pencil, and paperclip had an assigned and official place. Other kids might have thrown parties when their parents went out of town.  I re-painted the bathroom and chipped up the kitchen tiles. Once, I even tore out the faded paneling in our kitchen to replace it with textured drywall. I still remember my parents muted “that’s nice” response, as if they feared praise might encourage me to re-carpet the house while they slept.

Mom bore my frenzies with patience and good cheer. She knew order and uniformity soothed me; perhaps in the same way collecting and stacking soothed her.

order

Some take the condition of your home to be a metaphor for your inner life. An unruly home symbolizes tangled thinking, or laziness bordering on neglect. The spare and overly organized dwelling suggests a tenant so tightly puckered that they might squeeze the breath out of you if you sat next to them.

These notions emphasize differences between people and do not reflect the important matter. The important matter is not how you keep your house but how you keep your family.  My own messy mother accepted me each time she put the scissors in their special bin.  She encouraged independence through home improvement projects and gave me my own kingdom to alphabetize and straighten.

I, worshiper of straight clean lines and neat labeled boxes, luckily have a similar son. If one day he should metamorphosize into a keeper of things, I hope to teach him to manage his collections with curious bins and spruce labels. Fill life with acceptance and support regardless of where your loved one falls on the spectrum of glorious messes and immaculate houses.

 

Dear Friends,

Due to serious illness in our family, my ability to respond to comments is diminished. Thank you for reading.

 

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