Once, I called my Dad from New York. It was the middle of December, and I’d been living in the city for three months. “Dad,” I said. “I woke up this morning feeling so bummed, and I don’t know why.”
“Mmm,” he said. “SAD.”
“I know.” I nodded into the phone, and stuck my lower lip out further, as if he could see it. “It is sad. And I felt stupid cuz it was for no reason, but I thought I could call you because you’re my dad, so you have to care.”
“Well,” my dad said. “That’s debatable, but I was talking about SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder.”
It was my first winter outside of California or Arizona; that is, it was my first winter. I spent awhile half listening to my father explain Seasonal Affective Disorder, and then awhile Googling it. Like most ailments I look up online, I had most of the symptoms: oversleeping? I never woke up before my alarm. Social withdrawal? Who in their right mind would brave the gusting wind and snow to meet up with friends? Weight gain? Well, wasn’t that just my body’s way of trying to stay warm for winter?
Because it made me feel better to say that I had something, I bought a blue light lamp that sat on my desk. Supposedly, this was supposed to mimic sun, making my poor, confused brain think I wasn’t spending much of my year in a climate mostly uninhabitable to humans, breathing in the breath of a thousand coworkers, only going outside during the pitch dark mornings and evenings during my commute. Did my brain think I was on a sunny beach in the Caribbean? I’m not sure. Did having the bright blue light shining in my eyes make me feel like I was doing something to help myself? Let’s go with yes, although not enough for me to forget it at the office when, that summer, I left the company.
Fast forward to the next winter. This time, I was in London, at a latitude---God forbid---even further north than New York. In London, I’d peek out my window and find that night had fallen at 3 pm. In London, the snow was pretty the first day and freezing and slippery for the following forty-eight. When people asked me if I was enjoying London, I would tell them that the grey cloud layer that lay over the city like a reverse blanket was making it awfully hard to go out and explore. I’m sure I’d like London, I’d say, if I felt like I could see it.
Within the past few weeks, though, something magical has happened. Tentatively, the sun began showing its face, finally casting away the clouds to blatantly, brightly hog the bright blue sky. People began spilling out of their houses to fill park benches; pubs began dragging heavy wooden tables onto sidewalks and streets and roofs and alleyways---anywhere, really, which qualifies as outside. I went to the grocery store the other day and found it closed when I arrived. “Sorry,” the manager mouthed, pointing to the sign he’d just hung in the window. “We close at eight.” Eight? I looked at the time on my phone, then up at the perfectly sunny day, then down at my phone again. Even the sun loves London in the summer, it seems; it refuses to pack it in and call it a night.
A new London began to emerge, and with it, a new me. I was suddenly energized in the morning. I was eager to strap on my shoes and wander down canals, discovering the new parks that pop up in every corner of this city. I sat at outdoor cafes and laughed as my hair became dusted with a snow shower of falling flowers from a nearby cherry tree. I watched the sun set from the top of Primrose hill, and looked past the green grass to the shining city below me, lit amber as the sun slid beyond the horizon at near nine at night, and I thought: so this is London.
SAD? I don’t know about that. But suddenly, I’m finding it much easier to be happy.