The Sun Is Shining and I'm Miserable
“I couldn’t wait for the rain to end. It’s finally summer. The sun is shining, and I can’t bring myself to go outside. What is wrong with me?” he asked.
I paused with the sense that there was more.
“I feel ungrateful or something,” he continued…and this was the topic of our discussion for the next 20 minutes or so.
It was a question I have heard too many times to count and yet something that I don’t feel we really talk about enough. Whether the cause is depression, anxiety or trauma, for those affected the outcome is the same. We as a society say things like “a little sun would do you some good” or “you’ll feel better once its summer.” For some people, this may be true. I can 100% appreciate that my own mood drops when it is dark and rainy for days on end, however, I also don’t know that my own mood is always better when it's sunny, but this isn’t about me so back to my point.
There are a lot of people who won’t feel better when the sun is out so if you are one of them you are not alone out there. I won't pretend that getting some sun doesn't help anyone because whether your mental health is struggling or not, for many people, getting some Vitamin D can absolutely feel like it makes a world of difference. This post is not about those people. This post is about everyone else. So if you are supporting someone with a mental health issue or you are someone with a mental health issue...keep reading if you want to try to understand what happens when the weather turns bright and sunny.
The warm weather almost imposes social connections upon us. There may be more events (weddings etc.) or expectations that can be uncomfortable situations. Alternatively this can also be a situation that makes people aware of how few social connections or friends they have when they have no one to do anything with on one of the many long weekends of the summer.
Warm weather means more people are outside which can feel unsafe. The streets aren’t as quiet as they may be in the dead of winter. There are numerous charity runs and street festivals which take over entire parks or neighbourhoods. All of these can be triggering for someone who has experienced trauma for example and may not feel safe in large crowds or around strangers.
Aside from the physical triggers, it can also trigger difficult emotions or a combination of the two. For those with body image issues, or scars from self-harm, the warm weather can feel like a sign saying "LOOK AT ME." The choice being to dress for the weather, and feel exposed or to dress in over-sized, heavy, winter clothing, which often draws the attention of others. Both feel like a losing battle.
It can be challenging for someone who is just trying to get through the day to feel surrounded by people who are laughing and happy and feelings of sadness or resentment can often surface. This is just the reality of a condition like PTSD, the result of which can leave people feeling trapped in their own life. It doesn't make it wrong for others to be happy but it is important to understand that the solution may not be as simple as getting some vitamin D.
As I have said there is no simple solution and I would like to acknowledge that everyone’s experience is different, something that is all too easy to forget. Psychotherapy is not an easy process and I don't "fix" people or believe that anyone needs fixing. What I try to emphasize is that everyone has their own journey and I do believe it is possible to get to a place of recovery, whatever that means to you. If you do want to work towards freeing yourself and think you may be open to doing individual counselling, let's talk.