Ohboy. Some of us are really feelings the effects of SAD season around here. This is the toughest time of the year, if you ask me, and if I were still prone to the sort of depression I used to get, I’d probably be pulling a Virginia Woolf right about now. Either that or getting ready to leave the country.
When I was in my early 20s [back in the mid-80s] I packed up all my stuff in Canada one year and moved back to Niceland to live. It wasn’t exactly what I’d hoped it would be, for various reasons, and I have to say that this time of year almost did me in.
The clincher was that, right around this time, as the winter darkness closed in with all its claustrophobia and gloom, the civil workers decided to go on strike. Can you envision just what that means in a country so geographically isolated? Bad enough was the no garbage pick-up, no buses running [I had no car so I was kinda screwed], no radio, no television [both were state-run at the time], and no newspapers [by some fluke the newspaper workers chose that time to strike as well]. It also meant no customs officers working, so no products could be delivered into the country, and bit by bit the stores started running out of stuff [keep in mind that virtually everything is imported around here]. Bananas were the first to go, then cigarettes. I remember sitting at work, sharing a cigarette with my co-worker at regular intervals, and smoking it absolutely down to the filter while panicking at the realization that soon there would be no tobacco left in the entire country. As the strike wore on, gasoline supplies dwindled fast, and the day after it officially ended – about four weeks after it started – the petrol stations were due to shut down for lack of supplies. Suffice it to say that this was probably the most depressing and demoralizing time I’ve ever lived, not to mention the darkest. And by the end of November, I’d packed all my things into boxes again and moved back to Canada.
Thankfully Iceland has undergone a remarkable transformation in the two decades that have passed … but this time of year is always a struggle, simply because the lack of daylight causes certain physical symptoms that are hard to avoid. Concentration problems, inertia, fatigue, slight nausea, and a proneness to picking up whatever virus seems to be making the rounds are just some of them. I don’t tend to get psychologically depressed anymore, just kind of psychologically wasted, lose my train of thought a lot, that kind of thing. [Did I already say that?]
Lately I’ve heard a lot of people saying they try to make a point of going outside at least once a day to help them with SAD. Try to make a point? To me, that’s like saying, ‘Oh I try to make a point of eating some food every day to help with the starvation.’ If I didn’t got outside once a day for some fresh air and exercise, not to mention daylight, I’d be fit for the looney bin, that much I know. So yeah – daily runs during lunch hour or strolls along the seashore, preferably with my eyes open as wide as possible to allow the daylight in. Yet another perk of being self-employed.
AND DARK OVERCAST DAYS LIKE TODAY DON’T HELP
Actually, back in the days when we used to have snow in the winter, SAD wasn’t as much of an issue. Snow can be a pain, but it certainly helps light up the winter darkness. As do the Christmas lights, which is why in December the Greater Reykjavík Area probably looks like a huge, bright, multicoloured Christmas ornament from space. It started off all drizzly and mild, but it cooled down as the day wore on and right now it’s 3°C [39F], and sunrise was at 10:11 am [Gah! It’ll be more than an hour later before we’re done], with sunset at 4.14 pm.