Summer Onset Depression–The June Blues

June Depression

I am part of the less than 1% of the population affected by “reverse SAD” 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 autism.

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.

After moving to New Hampshire, my June Blues emerged conspicuously.  Oddly, our visible light lingers only 90 minutes more than in New Mexico.  Some sensitive neurological pathway is disturbed, nonetheless.

June’s eight p.m. sun feels like an unsavory protuberant eye, leering at me with wild diurnal thoughts. It 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 watercolored ten thank you cards for Liev’s awesome treatment team.  I even shampooed the kitty.

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

Re-Post: What to do When You Are Bored

Distribution of Books in Downstairs Library

Distribution Of Books In Our Downstairs Library

Heh. Over the summer, I had some extreme boredom moments when my son fell ill. Since my sick boy needed me nearby, I asked, “What can I do with myself and still be 5 feet away?”

I decided to categorize all my downstairs books and plot the distribution on a bubble graph. Since this wasn’t quite fancy enough, I extracted and “steampunked” the bubbles. This turned into a week long labor of  Asperger Love.

I am compelled to add, that the distribution does not include  all my books. If it did, the short story and atlas book numbers would triple. I have crates of  short stories in the spare room plus a stack of atlases next to my bed.

Yay books!

ETA: I am taking some time to read my best buddy’s novel. So I’m sharing my love of books and charts with you!

Original Bubble Graph after the jump.

The numbers are the numbers of books in each category.

Digital elements: Marta VanEck, Google charts.

Emotional Regulation and Asperger’s

Unstable

Before my diagnosis, I worried about having rapid cycling bipolar disorder. Daily, I experienced spells of heightened excitability and mental energy followed by profound boredom and lethargy. The pattern of my cycles troubled me—they lacked regularity.

After my son’s diagnosis, I observed his behavioral patterns and eventually connected them to my own.  Twice exceptional people often have difficulty regulating their emotions.

I wrote this lament the night before I came down ill with the flu a few weeks ago.  This post captures my experience of emotional disregulation.

I feel so unstable, unusable, broken.  I cannot find balance in a life full of ups and downs. Daily glee skyrockets over little things– a cup of coffee or a tender glimpse of a loved one. I am unbound, untethered and out of my mind with bliss.

A moment later, ensnared by stress and the unexpected, I am smashed and hopeless.

I lack self-regulation.  I struggle fiercely. I struggle incessantly. So does my son. We are both untied and colliding, collapsing, crushing each other until we are flat and empty.

I am a cheery person, I insist. This is my identity. I think wonderful thoughts and ask why, why, why, in an exuberant, perky voice.

Yet, when I am not enraptured with questions or drawn into a favorite task, my idle mind grinds in ever tighter circles. It winds in on itself, tighter and tighter until the center coils into a deep dark dot. My life becomes blackness.

I fight.  I bounce, pace, and whirl. It helps.  I float toward the surface again. My buoyancy is tenuous.  Soon I will be lost, spinning away to the tiniest black speck.

Each day unfolds in song and dips in and out of despair and exhaustion. It feels pointless until it feels sacred again. I live the same day, forever.

I read the books and hear the words of what to do, but deep, deep grooves are etched in my brain. Like canyons, like caverns, neurological folds block the light or reveal a brilliance so blinding that I become senseless with joy.

Norovirus Creations

Abstract Feb Vacation

My family is limping  through our third bout of seasonal norovirus.

Liev missed four days of school last week. I am sick of toilets, paper towels and Mickey Mouse cartoons.

I fought my ennui with watercolor, crayons, and ink.

Without an easel or chain link fence to protect it, I painted atop our bookshelves, standing on a kitchen chair. I enjoyed balancing on one foot. Afterall, it’s the process, not the product!

Doddle February 2012
Doodle feb2

Boredom, A School Memoir

boredom

I used to consider boredom the remote affliction of others. Bored  people lacked imagination and an appreciation for beauty.  In my childhood, I spent hours  tilting and gazing at kaleidoscopes. Plaster patterns on the wall continuously evolved and reshaped into faces, beasts, and foreign geographies.  How could anyone be bored when all they had to do was look?

My assumptions about boredom were misguided. I struggled mightily with boredom, especially in the forced confines of school. I fidgeted and interrupted upon occasion. Usually, though, I traveled in my brain.

I remember Rafaela and her ponytail holders.  Decorated with translucent red balls, the holders fastened tight and close to her scalp.  I mentally traced the smooth channels of her dark braided hair up to the holders and back down again.  Sometimes the light would hit the holders just right and they would glow. Eventually the teacher picked up on my fascination and seated me elsewhere.

High school algebra classes numbed my brain. I digested material instantaneously, making lectures redundant and banal. One day I brought a Phillip’s screwdriver to school and disassembled my desk top.  The mischief makers behind me regarded me with new respect.  I spent the rest of class balancing the desk with my knees while I charted the progress of a rolling pencil.

Not soon afterward, I spoke to my math teacher, Mr. Tigers. “I know all of this, “ I told him, “From chapter one to seven. Test me.”  He didn’t bother and let me go to the library instead, provided I take scheduled exams. I wound up using my free period to tutor the special ed class he taught.

I relished making learning fun for other people.  Math class bored me  because it was too easy. The kids I tutored found math boring for the opposite reason–it was too hard. This irony escaped me at the time.

In my senior year, I took calculus with Mr. Guam, the wrestling coach. The course took place in a big booming room that felt more like an oversized bathroom stall than a classroom.  The ceiling was twenty feet up and small windows seemed to float in the distance.

Uneasy, for  subtle, incomprehensible reasons,  I drifted away during lectures.   I deemed his instruction style bewildering and disorganized.  Furthermore, his homework and assignments did not correspond to the book, impeding my understanding further. He held homework sessions after wrestling practice, too late for my anxious self to attend.   Coincidentally, his exam questions derived from these very  sessions (the wrestlers did quite well).  I hated his strategy and handed in a nasty note in place of my second exam.  He gave me a D-.

A year later, I re-took calculus at a university. My instructor was an unintelligible foreign professor, yet I aced all my exams. He followed the textbook. The next year I became a popular calculus math tutor.

So what happened to me? Why fail in one class and not another?  I’ve asked myself these questions hundreds of times, because my academic career was so mixed.

I succeeded when I worked alone and followed the book. I failed in a distracting and social environment. It is the story of my life.

So how does one with such a brain raise a chatty, precocious boy with autism?

I doodle (above), bounce on a yoga ball, and get excited about teaching my son math.