I was going through my pictures the other day, and realized just how dark this one is. This is my street, during a snowstorm a few years ago. And it got me to thinking about how dark days, dark winters, really, really affect me. And my writing.
I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that a lot of my Horseman books happen in the dark cold of a New Hampshire winter, or in the Shadow Lands. It’s a dark series, and for me, cold and dark have always gone hand in hand. I vaguely remember enjoying winter once, but now, it seems as soon as the days start getting shorter and it starts getting colder out, I start to shut down. I don’t want to do anything other than sleep. I hate being cold. I hate having to wear coats and gloves and YakTraks. I just don’t like winter.
But this winter seemed especially hard, even though it wasn’t that cold and snowy. My depression whispered to me during these long nights, taunting me, reminding me that I wasn’t writing when everyone around me was, I wasn’t doing much of anything, I was gaining weight and losing time, and didn’t I just feel awful about it? Never mind that pretty much NONE of that (except the feeling awful part) was true. Depression is like that – it’s a snake that whispers where no one else can hear, and it tells lies that sound like the truth, and it’s so hard not to believe it.
I can only imagine what winter was like before electric lights, before heated buildings, before cars to get to work. I luckily don’t lose power that often, so I don’t get to experience that. Even camping now seems less…rustic, and I know it’s because I chose to make it that way. And yet, winter isn’t just a dead time.
It’s a sleeping time. The earth doesn’t die – it sleeps, snug in a winter blanket, dreaming of the longer days and warmer sun that’s coming. Everything needs down time, and perhaps I’ve been looking at winter the wrong way. Perhaps, even though my depression is telling me lies, those lies are rooted in a truth that I’ve been ignoring: that even though technology insists we can go 24-7, all day, every day, that life doesn’t do well at full-throttle. That everything needs a break, a winter’s nap, and that I should see this time as hibernation, my body and my soul recovering from the stresses of life. I’m not hiding away from everyone – I’m recharging, waiting for the cold to roll back, and the soil to warm, so I can spread my leaves out to the sun again.
I’m not denying that I have depression. I will always have depression – there is no cure, at least not yet. But I can learn from it, use it, respect it and what it is trying to tell me. And realize that under the lies is a kernel of truth, and nurturing that truth is what I need to do.