The rain that began overnight is accomplishing what 50 degree temperatures and sun could not: Putting a serious dent in the concrete-like layer of ice that has covered our driveway for the past month.

Mud now replaces the ice in most places along what some has said is the most infamous driveway in Floyd County — a steep, 450-foot long mountain trail that challenges even our Jeeps.

I last rode my motorcycle exactly one month ago: My birthday on Dec. 17. With luck, I’ll be able to negotiate the off-road trail also known as our driveway on Monday and put some miles on the Harley Super Glide.

Those who ride know that cruising on two-wheelers is therapy — and after this past month I can use all the therapy that the Harley can deliver.

Psychiatrists call the depression that comes with gloomy winter weather “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” which has the appropriate acronym of “SAD.”

Dr. Carol E. Watkins of Northern County Psychiatric Associates in Baltimore describes SAD:

Throughout the centuries, poets have described a sense of sadness, loss and lethargy which can accompany the shortening days of fall and winter. Many cultures and religions have winter festivals associated with candles or fire. Many of us notice tiredness, a bit of weight gain, difficulty getting out of bed and bouts of “the blues” as fall turns to winter.

However some people experience an exaggerated form of these symptoms. Their depression and lack of energy become debilitating. Work and relationships suffer. This condition, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may affect over 10 million Americans while the milder, “Winter Blues” may affect a larger number of individuals.

The typical symptoms of SAD include depression, lack of energy, increased need for sleep, a craving for sweets and weight gain. Symptoms begin in the fall, peak in the winter and usually resolve in the spring. Some individuals experience great bursts of energy and creativity in the spring or early summer. Susceptible individuals who work in buildings without windows may experience SAD-type symptoms at any time of year. Some people with SAD have mild or occasionally severe periods of mania during the spring or summer. If the symptoms are mild, no treatment may be necessary. If they are problematic, then a mood stabilizer such as Lithium might be considered. There is a smaller group of individuals who suffer from summer depression.

With all due respect to Dr. Watkins, there is a much simpler explanation: Lousy weather puts people in a lousy mood. When you have a storm like the one that dumps up to two feet of the snow on the ground and then follow it up with sub-freezing temperatures that makes the snow on the ground last longer than some marriages you have a recipe for depression. Frozen water pipes, power outages, impassable driveways and other discomforts of bitter winter weather add to the mood-altering state.

While I am not much for for psycho-babble, I can understand how prolonged bad weather can sink even the most optimistic of spirits. When you factor in the current economic conditions that have left too many out of work, scrambling to pay bills and struggling to hold on to their homes you it’s little wonder many are depressed.

The politicians who masquerade as leaders of our country tell us things are getting better but they are lying — which is about the only thing they do with any consistency. Unemployment remains at 10 percent and that is a phony number. It’s closer to double that when you factor in those who long ago gave up looking for jobs that aren’t there.

A record 2.8 million households lost their homes to foreclosure last year and the number is expected to top three million in 2010.

Lord, no wonder people are depressed in this winter season.

At least I have a Harley to ride and boost my spirits?

What’s your therapy for beating the blues of winter?

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4 COMMENTS

  1. The first site I open everyday is Blueridgemuse.com…that seems to get me started on the right foot and wanting to greet the day. Doug, you always have me smiling and nodding and, yes, even thinking. As a Samuel Beckett character once said, “I can’t go on…I’ll go on.”

    Thanks, Doug

  2. Doug, if you want to experience SAD, then you need to live in the Pacific Northwest. It starts raining in late October and generally doesn’t let up til the third week the following June. In addition we have rainy “green tomato” summers on occasion. : ( Everyday it rains and if it doesn’t rain then you get a bout of a week of freezing Arctic cold that pushes a tongue of icey air through the Columbia River Gorge spilling out on Portland Oregon and cooling down what is typically a milder marine environment. Then again come the rains that must plunge through the cold layer of air generally freezing and causing what we call a “silver thaw”; ie., ice on everything. This can be followed by a SW “Chinook” wind might start blowing with ferocity and as the warmer rain and winds strike the Doug fir and other trees you start hearing them drop as they hit the ground in the night or day with a thunderous crash hopefully not on your home or outbuildings. The quick thawing of limbs and branches cause them to go off like a gunshot at times. Since we are generally spoiled with milder temperatures as now; we’ve had as high as 50 degrees with the ever-driving rain coming down, but that can change quickly as I’ve described. One thing for sure, we have freshly washed clean air to breathe and no water shortages. 😀

    To combat SAD which is a real phenomenon and not “psycho-babble” as referenced, I suggest folks try going to a tanning parlor so you can get a dose of UV-A and UV-B radiation over your body plus a healthy tan to boot. Just don’t overdo it. This will also help activate the vitamin D that’s used to fortify milk in the form of ergosterol and also available in supplement form. Another idea is to install full spectrum lighting throughout your home wherever. Fluorescent tubes are available with such a spectrum as well as CFC’s and even older incandescents that have more of a blueish cast to them. In the Nordic countries they have full spectrum booths where the citizens can enjoy immersion under such full spectrum lighting in order to belay the onset of SAD. Seattle has one of the highest suicide rates in the country and its been linked to this seasonal disorder. I’ve provided a convenient Wiki link reference concerning Vitamin D and its relevance to human health. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_D Carl Nemo **==

  3. Send out the cry…”Don’t be SAD! be GLAD!”
    We live in Floyd,VA not Antarctica. Sure, the weather has been colder and wetter than ‘normal”,but it is still warmer than a lot of other states. We live in the “Floyd Triangle!”

  4. A really effective solution for SAD is to get a couple of full spectrum lightbulbs (thankfully those aren’t TOO pricey anymore) and use them in the rooms where you spend the most time each day. They have done wonders for my dad.

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