by Sami-Jo Cairns
Are you a bear or a snail?
Odd question? Maybe. Though I’m among those considered “odd”. Why? Many reasons, but in this case, because while the first day of Spring heralds millions of people to take in a fresh breath of the new season with great hopes of longer days and warmer temperatures, I’m peeking out from behind heavy curtains and closing them tight with a grinchy “hrumph”.
I’m no stranger to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Not only do I encounter it with my clients as a part of my job in social work, but at home with my husband as well. As soon as the temperatures start dropping so does his mood and it takes great effort to produce a smile. Like a bear, if hibernating all winter was an option, I’m pretty sure he would take it.
While the “Winter Blues” have a host of explanations, including a drop in melatonin production and Vitamin D resulting in symptoms from slight to severe depression too, there’s fewer research studying the reverse effect of the “Winter Blues”.
A bear in winter crawling into its cave for the season is called hibernation, this is well known, even to second graders. But what is the opposite?
When certain mammals, reptiles, and sea creatures aestivate, they hide away from the heat and summer seasons. If they can do it, why not people? Or at least a version of it. We’re all a part of the animal kingdom in some form.
While my husband is more akin to a bear, I find the first snow of the year enchanting, not depressing. Feeling the crisp air of Autumn means my leather jacket comes out of the closet. The winter air in my lungs is near heavenly. Do I like being cold? Hell no. But that’s what they make wool sweaters and throw blankets for.
As a kid, summer meant no school and longer days to play outside, but I was a fainter. Whether I ate that day or drank enough water, I was never one to spend hours in direct sun without an episode of passing out and waking up in sheer embarrassment while my friends or strangers stood over me pushing water in my face. I didn’t need water, I needed the sun to fuck off. I’d seek out the shade of a tree and be content with staying up all night when the sun was gone and the cicadas sang. Bliss would follow. A giddiness the sun rays speared down by simply existing.
So, to answer my initial question…I’m a snail.
Snails aestivate to conserve their bodily moisture. Some even blocking the little holes to their homes and hunkering down until the heat passes. My body, and others alike, see longer days as exhausting. Hours and hours of allergies, heat exhaustion, sweating, and eye-piercing sun while you nurse a headache behind sunglasses which only end up hurting your head more, all of this oppression making you miserable.
Living in a place where the climate doesn’t reach below 10°C (50°F) would kill my soul. Too much sun. Too much expectation to be in it every minute of the day. The pocket of Southern Ontario I call home is still a part of Canada but our summers can reach 40°C (104°F) with choking humidity. Send me some place rainy and autumn – like all year round – and I’d be truly happy.
Depression is no joke, and those who suffer the reverse effects of the Winter Blues may only make up 1/10th of those who suffer SAD, but it’s still to be taken seriously. When someone doesn’t want to bake in the sun all day it doesn’t mean something is wrong with them, it means their bodies are different than yours and they’ll be more content to meet up for dinner on the patio instead. It’s not a part of a Goth trend to wear covering clothing when it’s 35° out or to be inside away from the elements, it’s survival. Not only for their body, but for their emotional climate which depends on internal factors the person may have no control over.
For some, the sun is their cure. For myself and my fellow snails with Reverse SAD, the sun is the disease.
Now, how do a bear and snail live peacefully? One of us is always on a mission to make the other smile.
S.J. Cairns is a Southern Canadian, born and raised in St. Catharines Ontario, where she lives with her bug-killing, video game playing husband of 15 years, her spunky mother-in-law, and their three snorting Pugs.
During days off from true chaos working as a Women’s Advocate at a busy downtown Women’s Shelter, you can find S.J. in her writerly lair dipped in all things creepy, plotting against her lifetime nemesis, those deadly evil-doers; balloons.
S.J. hopes to one day add her own works of fiction to her overly crammed shelves as she focuses on a 5 novel series called “Soul Seer Series”.