Fall can be a beautiful time in the Pacific Northwest. The grass is green, and the trees have vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows. As we move to winter, leaves begin to drop, the cedar trees drop their helicopter seeds, and we head outside with our rakes to chase the leaves the wind blows across the lawns. Before we know it, the grey skies return, rain falls, and daylight significantly reduces.
When I used to commute to an office, I found this time of year difficult. I could no longer open my windows or sunroof and rarely experienced fresh air. I would go from the house to the garage, get into the car to drive over an hour to yet another garage, get into an elevator, to sit in an office. I would be indoors all day, only to return to the elevator, to again go to the garage, get into the car, and commute to my home garage and back inside. After a few weeks, it felt like the movie Groundhog Day with events repeating. It felt like it would be forever before I could have the windows open again.
It is important to recognize these transitions are often gradual. The leaves do not change colors and fall off the trees in a day. We don’t go from nearly 16 hours of daylight to under 8-1/2 hours in a week. I did not wake up and suddenly stop opening the windows; while on the other side, the spring flowers do not just instantly appear. The changes often begin without us noticing. On one of my walks this week, I saw flower buds on the rhododendrons that will become red, purple, and white flowers in a few months. Even as we approach the winter solstice, the day with the least amount of daylight, signs of spring exists if we look.
Change to our mental health is similar to the changing of seasons; the change is often slow and gradual over time. Depression often does not show up on Tuesday and go away the following Thursday. Before we know it, we no longer see the flowers and leaves and feel like our life is stuck on repeat. However, with the right support, we can find the buds that lead to the flowers; before we know it, the leaves are back against a blue sky.