Reflections on Seasonal Depression

Photo by Sydney Schertz (she/her) ’24

Perspective by Lyra Seaborn ‘22 (she/her) 

It’s that time of year again: the flowers are blooming, the trees are donning their leaves, and the internet is filling with memes rejoicing in the collective return of our serotonin.

Whenever I come back to campus from my residence in the heart of Texas for the start of the spring semester, I am reminded of my contempt for North Carolina winters. It’s not the slightly more intense cold that makes them unbearable – though I do loathe the cold – so much as the onslaught of rain and clouds. Each week, I huddled under blankets and monitored the weather app, anxiously awaiting the allotted 1–2 days of sunlight until March finally swept in to offer a brief respite from the gloom.

I am immensely privileged to have access to heat, shelter, clothing, and rainboots – things I became even more grateful for as I watched the recent winter storm wreak unprecedented havoc on my home state from the safety and powerlessness of my dorm room. And yet, as well-provided as I am to survive the weather, I relate to the memes that reflect the heft and eventual remission of seasonal depression. Being able to exercise outdoors or simply sit in the sun for a while has been essential in maintaining my mental health, especially when each of my four courses are conducted via Zoom, and I otherwise spend nearly all my waking hours staring into the numbing depths of my computer screen.

The weather has only added to the weight of what was already a weird, frustrating, and lonely semester. Up until the last few weeks, guests were forbidden in rooms and most classes and social events were limited to Zoom or to sparse, socially-distanced and masked gatherings. Prompted to choose who from our larger friend/acquaintance groups to admit into our individual “bubbles,” many relationships withered or were put on pause. The near-constant barrage of rain and chill further restricted options to socialize by taking the added protection of the outdoors off the table. I think we can all agree that virtual club meetings, dates, and gossip sessions leave a lot to be desired.

Davidson is constantly emphasizing the strength of its “community,” but that vague and mutable concept has been even harder to find and foster this year. The closest thing we have to a communal experience is probably the umbrella of suffering and pining. Yet we’ve continued to do our best to cope, whether that means establishing a weekly dinner with close contacts or hanging out over FaceTime or turning off our cameras and mics in the middle of class for a brief crying session. Student organizations have devised creative ways to remain active and even grow while keeping members safe. Maybe forming new relationships has been more difficult than usual, but many of the ones we’ve chosen to rely on have only been strengthened.

Of course, the cycling of the seasons is necessary for life. And the pandemic poses a very real threat that necessitated many of the isolating measures of January and February. But as vaccine clinics and wildflowers sprout, I rejoice in the prospect of summer. The sporadic visits of the sun signal more than an influx of mood-boosting vitamin D. They open the door for a wider range of (still-masked, still-distanced) events, from picnics to walks to just laying out and sweating over a great conversation. When we feel less confined and more energized, we can better maintain connection and care for one another.