Helen Hastings Mental Health Blog #3 – Loving Winter

A mental health blog on loving winter by Downpatrick Down News writer Helen Hastings.

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A mental health blog on loving winter by Downpatrick Down News writer Helen Hastings.

Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I come with quirks. I hold my pen weirdly, I have a scary laugh that isn’t restaurant friendly, and I tell terrible jokes at inappropriate moments.

And I’ve never watched Game of Thrones! I dance weirdly to weird music, I think Animal from Sesame street was one of the greatest drummers of all time and I’ve never seen Star Wars.

I’ve always prided myself on being a little bit left of centre and can find pleasure in the strangest of things. For example, Winter. 

While everyone else is recoiling in horror at the freezing cold and short nights, I am in my element. It’s always been this way even when I was a very young child. The drawing down of the days and the ever present darkness pressing at the edges of the horizon would instil a sense of illicit danger. 

Helen Hastings.

I genuinely believe winter to be a magical time, the darkness and the cold reminds us that we are no match for nature and we must do our best to prepare for the long nights. It instils a primeval sense that harks back to our ancestors and makes me feel grounded and connected in a way that no other season does.

Winter walks are headily laced with that intense feeling of the Earth taking a huge deep breath, renewing herself, gathering strength for summer’s abundance. 

There is something eerily beautiful about the landscape in winter to.  The way the cold, hard frost sparkles on the barren and unforgiving ground, coating rocks and bare branches like frosted sugar while I, spellbound take in breaths of life-affirming, cold sparkling air. 

On the contrary, I have a pattern of my mental health taking a downturn in the spring. I know that must sound very strange to people. 

Surely when the days get longer and the weather warmer it should be boosting my mood? But while I find the long evenings and the summer light beautiful I can’t help but feel a strange pressure mounting in my soul. 

It’s that feeling that we now must be super productive and be fuelled by summer since it has gifted us a more temperate climate and more hours in the day. 

Also, I find the light playing a psychological mind game with me, imagining that I am being illuminated and laid bare for all to see. My friends know me as being a very outgoing chatty girl but they don’t see the other me, the introvert who relishes the cover of darkness that winter brings me.

This winter will particularly, for obvious reasons, feel much darker due to Covid-19… and for those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is a threat beyond comprehension especially if combined with loved ones lost this year.  

Even I as a self-confessed winter lover am praying that the stretch in the evenings is soon visible and I am already looking out for the brave white snowdrops that erupt from the soil like white flags surrendering, making peace with winter so we can move on to spring.

In the depth of our despair there is always something good to be seen though grief can make us blind to it. I hope that all those out there struggling after this year can find strength somewhere, a warrior like voice that may be quiet at first, barely a whisper. 

Go and make a cup of coffee’ it might say ‘open a window and breathe some fresh air’ and the voice will persist growing in crescendo until she’s yelling like a drunk sailor urging you to weather the storm. 

There will be calmer seas soon with the brightest sun you have ever seen sparkling on the horizon warming your world and in your hand will be a compass guiding you back home.

‘You are not lost, you are here, and I am so glad’

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(A blog written by Helen Hastings 4th January 2021.)

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