The Winter of Our Content
by Amy K. Sorrells
“I’m going to be Dorothy Hamill,” I declared, clinging, white-knuckled, to the wall of the ice rink.
“Of course you are,” said Louis, a grinning septuagenarian, as round as he was tall, with a bum hip which caused him to limp and gimp in pain. Except for when he skated. On the ice, Louis’ limp disappeared.
On that particular day when I was eight years old, Louis waited for me in the center of the ice rink, beckoning me, encouraging me, cheering for me to let go and skate out to meet him.
For a couple of years, I spent one night a week with Louis for ice skating lessons, during which I performed two things well: aiming for the wall, and aiming for Louis. My fingers stiffened in the cold chill of the coliseum, as did my knees and my ankles, the parts of my body which needed to move if my skates were to ever leave the pocked and grooved ice along the wall and glide along the smoothness of the center ice.
But I was afraid.
Afraid of falling.
Afraid of failing.
While my best friend passed skating test after skating test, moving rapidly up the ability rungs to Level 6, I remained solidly in Level 1. All I had to do to pass to Level 2 was skate in a forward motion without the help of a wall or another human being. But the wall and I were great friends, and it’s hard to let go of a good friend—real or imagined.
Winter causes many of us to cling to familiar walls of depression and mood disorders, often caused by seasonal affective disorder (SAD). A very real and, at times, debilitating condition for thousands who are snow bound, ice bound, or who simply don’t get enough sun in the decreased daylight hours, SAD causes us to feel moody. We eat too much, or too little. We shrink from social obligations because of overwhelming fatigue and a lack of motivation.
I experienced similar isolation and fear after the birth of each of my sons, in the form of perinatal mood disorders. Winter comes for each of us, in many forms. But we don’t have to cling to it. Doctors and counselors know of a few ways we can overcome the winter blues, so we don’t have to wait until spring for “the winter of our discontent,” as Shakespeare said, to dissipate. Here are a few tried and true tips:
1) Birdie Gunyon Meyer, RN, MA, CLC PSI Education & Training Chair, Past President of Postpartum Support International, and a dear friend of mine, says if we don’t do anything else, get out of the house at least once a day. Take a walk around the house, down the street, to the mailbox. Get some fresh air. Notice the nests the birds made all summer, now visible in the crux of barren tree limbs. Meet a friend for a cup of tea.
2) Don’t be afraid to talk to your medical doctor about possible treatable conditions, such as low vitamin D and B12 levels, depression, and anxiety disorders. There is no shame in treating chemical imbalances in the brain, just as chemical imbalances in the pancreas, liver, and all over the body are treated, too.
3) Make healthy food choices, and reduce the number of tempting, unhealthy junk food around the house. Reach for high-protein foods such as legumes and cheeses to curb cravings and reduce the feelings of sluggishness often brought on by high carbohydrate snacks.
4) Choose how you want to live. This isn’t easy for everyone. No doubt, my friend Louis had every reason to let his painful, crippled hip slow him down. And yet, he rarely—if ever—missed a chance to get on the ice and teach generation after generation of children how to skate. There must’ve been days Louis struggled through the pain, and yet I don’t remember a time when he was not smiling, encouraging, and motioning to us to let go of the wall, waiting for us with his arms outstretched in the center of the rink. Louis chose, daily, to live well.
5) Finally, spend time with God every day. Purchase a new devotional if that helps with motivation, or sign up for many of the free smart phone applications which offer daily Bible readings and reminders. The ultimate “Louis” in our lives, Jesus beckons us to let go of what we’re sure of, so that we can find in the release the freedom and joy we’ve been seeking all along.
Amy Sorrells is a registered nurse who lives with her husband, three boys and a gaggle of golden retrievers in central Indiana. A former weekly newspaper columnist, her award-winning first novel, How Sweet the Sound, debuts March 1 from David C. Cook.
We’d like to hear from you. Please share your comments below or like us on your Facebook page. Be sure to check back each month for more articles and products available at your local Christian bookstore.