We might be saving light this time of year, but for many people we become increasingly aware of how we have to go about saving ourselves from the winter chill that sets in when you live in Western Massachusetts. Daylight savings brought the undeniable feeling of winter that, for many of my fellow college students, leaves us struggling to battle school work, extracurriculars, jobs, and the added weight of dread that we will be forced to remain indoors for the upcoming months.
Recently, Andrea Gibson (a well known queer slam poet) visited Smith College, and reminded us that “sometimes, the most healing thing to do is remind ourselves over and over and over other people feel this too.” We all seem to realize that we’re caught up in a cycle of mood changes due to the darkness that sets in around 4:30, but one thing we constantly forget to remind ourselves is that we are not alone in this feeling. Andrea Gibson encourages us to remember this, and I’d like to do that as well.
Advocating a healthier lifestyle during this time of year might feel like a cliché and advice that seems mute to those who struggle getting out of bed on cold winter days, but it’s a small step that has helped me in a big way. I come from an able-bodied background that allows me to work out regularly, which has lifted my spirits in more way than one, but healthy does not only have to mean getting exercise and eating greens. Smith has always been a tight knit community, but we stray away from discussing many topics, including mental health. What our community needs to get healthier about is opening up, reminding ourselves that we are a place that has fought to make changes and won, so why shouldn’t we try to battle the stigma around mental health?
I have a close group of friends, both here and back home that openly talk about the challenges we face as individuals who deal with mental health issues and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without that. What I’m urging is for us to come together as a community and begin to talk about how a very prevalent aspect of our life here in Massachusetts: winter, affects how we live day-to-day. I’ve struggled to find ways to deal with what is most commonly known as Seasonal Affective Disorder and until I understood what was happening in my own body I didn’t even know where to begin looking for ways to help myself. Shedding light on the fact that many of us feel the same affects of these deeply cold months is just a beginning. At some point we have to let other people help keep us warm when we know we can’t do that for ourselves. Understanding that I am not alone, especially in this community where I was able to figure out so many aspects of my own being, has been on of the most warming experiences of my life, and everyone else deserves that same warmth.