For most people, the winter season conjures up cozying up by a fireplace, hot cocoa, time spent with families, twinkling lights, merriment and joyous celebrations with the people you love. It conjures up snow days, the quiet of that first snowfall, the laughter of children learning how to sled and building their very first snowman, feet crunching on fresh laid snow and bundling up to venture outside into a winter wonderland.

To me, winter symbolizes death. My name is Angela, and I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) I dread the shortened days, the biting cold that seems to seep into my bones, the gray days for weeks at a time, the way the earth looks dead, the trees look bare, the sounds are muted. It is a true hibernation period for everything around us and yet we’re expected to keep functioning as if it was 80 degrees and brilliantly sunny out.

I thrive on the sunlight and the warmth. My husband calls me his iguana. I am, truly, at my happiest, splayed out, head turned towards the sun, soaking in, feeling that warmth caressing my skin, letting the sun soak deep into my body and warming me from the inside out. Winter is not my season, winter, in my opinion, should be no one’s season.  When you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder all you want to do is hibernate and wait for the rebirth of yourself along with the earth around you.

You find it hard to continue your normal routine, to interact with your friends and family, to socialize at the level you once were. Your main motivation becomes to maximize time spent indoors in your sanctuary (in my instance, my 850 square foot apartment) and counting down the days when the birds start singing, the ground seems to breathe again, and you can breathe again.

S.A.D often feels like the biggest, longest, wave you have no choice but to ride. It builds and builds and builds to that crest, until you’re sure it will all come crashing down. As waves do. They crash, and spread, and smooth out and suddenly you’ve made it back to the shore. In those moments of what feel like abysmal despair it is important to know your tribe, to know the people who will surround you with love and light, to know your tools and resources to help you build that surfboard that’s stable enough to help you ride that wave to shore, back to safety, back to stable ground.

Spring is a symbol of transformation, rebirth, renewing. But in order to experience those things, we must accept the cycle of all life. I must accept that winter is my season of death, of feeling like I’m drowning, of pain that is hard to articulate. But I must also accept and rest in the knowledge that a wave always knows how to find its way back to shore.