When Seasonal Depression Disorder Reaches Into Spring

By Joseph Mauricio

Welcome to spring! There are people to meet, markets on the street, clothes to peel, and air to breathe again… Kind of scary, isn’t it? Maybe we should wait till next week. Or, till we lose some weight, get some new clothes, or shake off the cottage cheese on our thighs. Sometimes it’s easier to stay in bed on days the rest of the world seems to be living a Nike ad.

Sluggish patterns, in dissonant contrast to the burgeoning spring, seem hungover from winter. We heard a lot about seasonal affective disorder or “SAD” last winter. Yet, any change can trigger depression, including the longer days of spring. It’s ironic to make it through winter just to find that we can be just as depressed in the spring.

Our life is much richer and more rewarding than we have learned to see.

At least, we can still employ the acronym as “Spring is Also Depressing” but depression feels extra bad on beautiful days. The rest of the world is flying and we’re chained to something that sinks us back into our room, and into our mind. The sadness is extra deep here. Not only are we missing out on the life others are having, we have plenty of time to beat ourselves up over missing the life we should have had. As if it were over. But, in truth, it’s not. It’s not over. If you’re reading this, I have news for you. IT’S NOT OVER. In fact, if you’re reading this, your life has just begun.

Despite the stories we create to substantiate not showing up to the ball, we have so much to offer. Our life is much richer and more rewarding than we have learned to see. Learned. That’s right. Learned. Avoidance, resistance, depression do not occur as a punishment, it as proof that we are bad, or unworthy. These are learned behaviors that become seated in repetitive patterning. Once we have a pattern, it’s very hard not to follow it, even if the outcome is the same dead end again and again.

Few things create patterns as readily as negative input, as the mind is programmed to imprint negatives as a way of safeguarding the reproductive momentum of our species. We are, therefore, much more receptive to creating patterns around negative, rather than positive, stimuli. We do this instinctively and our society conspires. Our parents, in all love and best intentions, act on their fear to guide us away from danger by supporting our minds of fearfulness. We end up locked in our room, like bad children, comparing ourselves to mythical beings outside our window, who seem to have it all. We look at them with longing. Their lives seem so balanced while ours seem to fail on the balance sheet. We fixate on the things we need to change in order to find health, happiness and a life we deserve. Only, we’re already living the life we deserve. Or, better said, we deserve the life we’re living.

We can commit to giving ourselves the gift of life, the life we deserve, the life we have, by simply going beyond our fear and opening to the present.

You see, once we begin to see ourselves as worthy of the life we want, we might find that that is exactly the life we have because in order to believe we deserve goodness in our life, we have to find strength in ourselves. Inner strength comes from believing in ourselves and gaining a natural confidence that is not subject to other’s approval. Its belief in ourselves, that comes from ourselves and answers to nothing. Once we have that, then anything in our life is workable because we don’t need any of it to complete us.

In fact, because we are complete within ourselves, we can offer to our world, rather than continue to deplete it. In return, we gain sustenance from the exchange, rather than depletion.

In order to do this, we have to retrain the mind to learn to care for itself.  Instead of habitually beating ourselves up, and waiting for someone else to save us, we can learn to stand up for ourselves. If we stop the self-flagellation over a perceived lack of success in an imaginary world, we might have the energy to actually enjoy the life we have. We can begin by appreciating the fact that we are here at all. We can commit to giving ourselves the gift of life, the life we deserve, the life we have, by simply going beyond our fear and opening to the present.

In order to do this, we don’t need to buy anything special, own anything special or be with that special someone. We simply learn to be alone, with ourselves, mindful of the details of our life. Through the manual application of mindfulness and self-compassion, we learn to develop natural confidence. In time, we allow our fear based mind to relax and lower the walls so we can come out and play. By waking up to the present, we take hold of our life. In order to do this, we need to work with the fear that triggers us into patterns that keep us imprisoned in our own minds.

By staying present, we become more confident in our experience and actually reduce the need to retreat. We can actually lean into the sense of being threatened. We can learn to train ourselves to look into the fear, as a way of working with our fear.

Joseph Mauricio, a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist Tradition, is a student of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. Mauricio is a writer, lecturer and, as founder of LIFEWORK Personal Coaching Services, a meditation, performance, public speaking and personal actualization coach.  

Joe will teaching the upcoming, “Learn to Live in the Moment” workshop, a meditation intensive that offers practical meditation methods for dealing with life’s everyday challenges.