Every fall is like this.
On the first day, I step outside, and everything is different. The air is cooler, if only slightly. There’s a rich, nose-tingling scent of dried leaves.
Then the sun pales and sticks around for fewer and fewer hours. Driving on the highway, I notice more hawks fluffed up on power lines, and the fauns that graze along the interstate are taller and spotless. The trees become bare. The chill sinks in.
These things are beautiful to me, but I still hug my arms around myself and fight back dread. The sensations of sight and smell and touch bring back memories that, somehow, are harder to let go of because they feel much closer. It’s like visiting someone’s home that you haven’t been to in many years, but suddenly you feel like you could touch your past self there, as if no time had passed. Space and time have compressed into just time, and a loop closes, bringing you closer to your past self than you were before.
I don’t know why I feel this in the fall and winter and not the spring and summer. I think of spring and summer as the times I come back to life, but I know many who thrive in cooler weather. It’s not really the season, I think, though I have always been a warm-weather person.
It’s really the feelings–the associations–that remind me of past anxiety that revolved around the holidays and the cold, and how my subconscious tells me that I’ll go through it again because some of those sensations have returned.
Every year, we hear the metaphors about seasons changing. Winter and spring are often compared to death and rebirth. These metaphors are beautiful, but they also are reflected by the change in our attitudes and actions during these seasons of rest and activity.
But I have never been good at rest–maybe that’s my problem. Maybe I need to learn how to embrace seasons of rest so that I can be renewed.
I know I’m not alone in my seasonal affective disorder, and everyone has different reasons behind their feelings. I have written before about how I have to fight for joy during winter by appreciating every little thing. But there is something else that has been my hope lately.
When I step outside, or when I’m driving, and those sensations come back with a ripple of anxiety, I remind myself of this:
The seasons may repeat, but I don’t have to.
I have already lived through the anxieties of the past, and every time I did I came out stronger because of what I learned about myself and God. The more I overcame in the past, the more evidence I have that I can do it again
I can’t go backwards. I don’t have to go back to the same old thinking. I am a new person with new thoughts. I can’t forget what I’ve learned.
Anyone with anxiety knows how some anxieties are persistent. It’s like trying to quit a drug cold turkey–it’s nearly impossible to let it go. But a relapse doesn’t equate going back to the beginning. We’ve only taken one step back after several steps forward.
There is no going completely back. You and I are on a forward journey.
Let’s keep moving.