The Light at the End of the Tunnel Is Closer And Warmer Than You Think

And other answers to questions you didn’t ask.

Image: Eden, Janine, and Jim via Flickr

“I get depressed when the seasons change from Summer to Fall. What can I do?”—Bummed About Autumn

Who wouldn’t get depressed? The days are getting shorter. The nights are getting longer, and are already full of terrors. Everything’s getting colder and darker. There’s no good TV shows running. The only comfort in the entire cruel world is like pumpkin-spiced things. Beers, coffee, pumpkin-spiced pumpkins, whatever. Your baseball teams are probably not contending. Leaves are dying and smelling a little like poop. Football players are all injuring each other.

The light changes ever so slightly. As if it was not there to send you warmth or illumination. It is “light” in scare quotes. Just enough to remind you of everything you’ve lost and are slowly but surely losing a few minutes at a time. Sure, I’m right there with you, Bummed. Even if Fall is your favorite time of year, even if this is a particularly warm Autumn so far, you know in the back of your mind how this movie is going to end. We’re all headed straight for another Winter.

In Winter it’s dark all day and all night. This lasts for like 5 months. Or it seems that way. No one understands you. There’s few reasons that seem worth emerging from the warmth of your blankets every morning. At this point you’ll yearn for anything pumpkin, but it will be gone. All the pumpkins are frozen. Their little pumpkin faces filled with frost and regret. They once smiled so joyfully but now they feel nothing except cold and dark and helpless.

But there’s a lot you can do about feeling blue. I see a therapist. She is nice. And it’s nice, if you can afford it, to talk about your problems with someone trained to care about you and your problems. It is a big help. My problems are pretty boring. I feel a little bit bad and guilty about that. But that’s why I pay money! To alleviate the guilt of feeling boring. I’d recommend this to anyone, even on a temporary basis. You can even talk about how our slow, inevitable, communal crawl toward cold, lonely is freaking you out. They’re supposed to help! And you can drone on without a care in the world.

Taking care of yourself is also a good way to stay up. No one feels good when they’re tired, sick and feeling crappy. Get a flu shot. You may not be crazy about getting shots. But not getting the flu is pretty great. I highly recommend that. Take vitamins. Do some yoga. Drink some delicious tea. Anything to keep your mind away from the cold, ever-awaiting jaws of Winter, when our hemisphere is furthest from the sun. There’s no guarantee that we’re even ever going to tilt back toward the sun. We always have. But you just never know. What if we don’t? I think about these things. A lot. When I should be drinking tea. Or doing yoga.

There are these awesome light bulbs you can buy that give you full spectrum coverage of light. They do feel different. It’s nice to be bathed in all the colors, even the invisible ones. This is probably some kind of placebo ripoff, but so what? If it makes you feel better? Placebos are often as effective as actual medicine. Last year I took St. John’s Wort during the beginning of Fall. Did it help? Maybe it did. But it felt nice to feel like I could do something to affect the way I felt. So much of the world determines how we feel. Late subways, angry weird people, terrible racist Presidents. But when you can feel like you’re actively doing something to make yourself feel better, it’s just way better. Don’t let terrible Presidents get you down. This is your life, and you get to decide what it’s filled with. Not some fucking moron!

And when you need help, you really should ask your friends for a hand. They will help you. Or they’re not your friends. Everybody feels down once in awhile. And sometimes it’s just nice to see someone who knows you, knows all your problems and likes you anyway. Talking about stuff makes us feel better, usually. If you can’t talk, write. If you can’t write, think. If you even just take a second to realize that things are not so bad, the sun will come back eventually someday. And the world will not be cold and depressing forever. You get to decide how good your life can be and you have the ability to make it nicer for yourself. Nothing is over! Except maybe the Astros series against the Red Sox. And hopefully “Twin Peaks.”

There’s no dark day or night so far in the history of human beings that has lasted forever. And we always have choices and options while we’re alive. Sometimes we slip and have a little too much pumpkin stuff. It’s everywhere. It’s like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Drink a pumpkin thing or they’ll find you! And make you drink one! This might be the Stockholm Syndrome talking, but they sometimes taste good. Be good to yourself! And to pumpkins!


Jim Behrle lives in Jersey City, NJ and works in a bookstore.