It might be hard to believe, but I remember when I was an little 11 year old girl beginning Year 7, with my bright red floral backpack and wonky teeth, listening to Taylor Swift’s 1989 album on repeat. Thankful that the humid, claustrophobic summer months spent in my grandma’s bungalow in Ireland were over, I was so excited for everything that the autumn and winter months had to offer: falling leaves, conkers, Halloween, Bonfire Night, Christmas, a chance of snow, and especially the longer evenings. I was confounded when other people would comment on how much they dreaded the shorter days and how terrible it was that the sky was pitch dark at 4 o’clock. To me, it was a symbol of warmth and comfort, and when I was even younger, it meant that Santa would be visiting soon.
This year, however, I’ve felt this strange longing for peaceful spring evenings and warm summer days for the first time. I’ve been out of sorts with myself, and not even the golden tones of the 2000s TV show Gilmore Girls got me excited for the last months of the year – instead, it was background noise for my crying sessions.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who’s been hit with some kind of seasonal depression this year. In an online poll of 72 people, 88% said this was the first year they had felt especially down in the dumps in wintertime. The obvious new factor is the notorious Coronavirus. Yes, I’m sick of hearing about it too, but that must be the reason why I’ve laid in bed most days feeling so unmotivated and down.
I never like to play Devil’s advocate, but I actually enjoyed the first lockdown: being enthralled by Tiger King, listening to new music day in day out and taking the neighbour’s dog on a walk for my hour of daily exercise. It was a break from the world, a novelty, and a much-needed rest from GCSEs - but the more recent tier system and new lockdown feel repressive and monotonous. It’s like the UK is on a carousel which we can’t get off, stuck continuously going up and down and round and round, while we watch other countries like New Zealand buying candy floss.
This was my first experience of seasonal depression, but for many it’s much more common; 83% of people surveyed said that they had experienced it before. Half indicated their seasonal depression was mainly due to COVID-19. Others blamed different factors but elaborated that the virus had exacerbated the depression they have felt in previous years, especially if they already have mental health conditions. According to them, ‘the lack of routine and being isolated makes things a thousand times worse than it would have been normally,’ and, ‘in past years I’ve had the ability to go out, do more things but COVID has really made it worse because that’s been taken away’.
It’s hard to know how to console people when you have a complete lack of power and the ‘Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’ message to follow, but I do know that somehow we’ll make it through, just like we made it through the shambles of a year called 2020. The human race has been through much worse – The Pet Shop Boys being on the radio, for instance! But on a serious note, thanks to the vaccine and the oncoming warmer seasons, there is plenty to be hopeful about.