Every year around this time, Ostara beckons, and I am filled with both delight and something that feels like reluctance at the thought. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), which means I have a type of depression related to the seasons. In my case, it is Winter.
For a long time, I thought everyone felt that way during winter, or that I was part bear (of course, a bear is my spirit animal), or it was due to trauma from my childhood. I grew up in a tenement in NYC, and the boiler often threatened to blow up, so we would be regularly evacuated and fearful. As an adult, able to make my own choices and in safer housing, I realized those feelings didn’t go away.
I met a psychic once, who upon meeting me for the first time, immediately told me I’d died during a snowstorm, a nugget of information that made sense, but as more winters passed, the struggle continued and intensified. There would be winters where I literally lurched from bed to work and back again, and the whole season would be a blur. Overlay a pandemic during this past winter, and I continue to not return phone calls, miss deadlines, and generally feel what is best described as meh.
“Meh” is not my usual personality, so a quarter of the year spent like this feels me with dread every single autumn. Being a witch has helped in so many ways, because my motto is “action makes you feel better!” so rituals and furthering my witch education and practice has helped, but honestly, it feels like walking through quicksand, every single moment of every single day. A few things that have sustained me through the years are listed below, in hopes that they help you as well, if you struggle with a particular season.
Spiritual practice: Most days it’s all I can do to drag myself to the altar, but I try. I know I always feel better afterwards, but the effort some days feels like too much to handle. I don’t give myself a hard time when I don’t do so, but most days I will at least light a candle, meditate, read something spiritually uplifting, and focus my attentions on somehow honoring Brigid (I am devoted to her and ordained in her name). This year, I have really tending to the wildlife outside my home, making sure there is a ready supply of water and food, and it has helped me to feel more capable of moving onward through my day.
Focusing Outwardly: At least once a day, I focus on something outside of myself. It can be a cause I am passionate about, tending to wildlife (see above), or interacting with a few friends who understand and respect that I get this way for a few months of the year. Those friendships I cherish, the ones who know if I go silent, it is not personal, and those who reach out and check on me are appreciated more than they know. It helps me in turn to tend to others, whether baking a treat for someone, or sending a quick text, or contacting other silent friends who have been going through their own personal struggles. It helps me stay connected, and I can see my way through to the next day.
Learning: A few years ago, the Cailleach, also known as Beira, Queen of Winter, appeared to me before the winter began. I wondered at her appearance, but soon found others who also received a message from her to “prepare”. Turns out we we were preparing for a pandemic. Easier to see in hindsight, but at the time, a bit puzzling. To keep my mind occupied with something other than mindless activitiy, I learned more about her, and began to include her in my winter spiritual practices. It helps ease the darkness to expand my mind with knowledge and curiosity, and my respect and gratitude for the Cailleach is a much loved part of my spiritual practice.
Acceptance: The opposite of acceptance is resistance, so I have learned to not resist whatever I am feeling, and instead acknowledge it. If I cry over the simplest things, so be it. Ancestral trauma showed up heavily this winter for me, and it took me a while to realize I was finally at a point in my life where I could deal with it. I was finally safe, warm and loved, and the feelings and emotions could move through me. Dealing with that kind of trauma is not for the faint-hearted, because it can be bewildering, upsetting and scary. As with all things much needed for my growth, the other side of that experience feels so much better. I feel as if I have built a more solid foundation for my life, and a clearer vision of what I want in the future. Whatever I have dealt with this winter, it was time for me to do so. I am filled with some excitement for what’s ahead, and each day feels a little bit easier.
Perspective: My S.A.D. is an ongoing journey, and one I know that may never be resolved. I have tried all the usual recommendations for this seasonal depression, but the most effective course for me has been to let it travel on through. It is as inevitable as the Wheel of the Year turning, but in that darkness, I have always felt the tiniest spark of light. Whether it was a friendship that sustained me when I felt at my lowest, an experience that brought me brief joy, or even the thought of Spring and Ostara ahead, I have put one foot in front of the other and kept moving, no matter how much I wanted to stay in bed and hide for months. That keeps me going, and I am ever grateful for my witch knowledge and practices that help guide me through these months. May it be ever so.