February is, in my mind, the worst month. I don’t care that it’s the shortest, I just count that as the tiniest of blessings in this otherwise inexcusable misery of a time period. It doesn’t matter that the light is starting to come back and that the temperature climbs some days. In March, the warming days take on a consistency that whispers promises of spring. In February they’re just cruel interludes before we go into another deep freeze and series of ice storms. And while the daylight hours are increasing, it’s meaningless when the sky is grey for weeks at a time.

Prone to depressive bouts as I am, I still never used to feel particularly affected by seasonal depression, but that seems to be changing in recent years. I’m finding winter harder and harder to deal with. December’s alright – the weather and temperature aren’t that bad, and the Christmas lights really help. But the holidays definitely disrupt my routines, for writing and otherwise, and I find it difficult to restore them afterward.

January is rough – the post-holiday exhaustion hits me, and the weather takes a bad turn. I’m finding my writing takes a real dive about this time of year. I get off track with the holidays, and I’ll be full of good intentions for getting back at in January but nothing happens. I just can’t find the energy to get up early and drag myself out of bed to write before work. The evenings are a total write off too. Ideas will still come to me, and I might have a day or two of excited typing, but as soon as I hit the smallest of roadblocks in developing that new idea, I put it aside.  

I think February is just when my reserves are running their lowest. I’m tired of the dark and the cold after slogging through it for months. My reserves are all but depleted and I’m running on empty by this point. What energy I have is dedicated to just getting through the bare minimum required to be a functional adult.

I’ve written nothing new in weeks and done no work on submitting short stories for publishing. I’m a little disgusted with myself about that. In the last couple of weeks I have managed to work on editing my novel relatively consistently, to the tune of about one chapter a day, and that feels like a miracle. It’s all I can do to maintain even that little bit. I just want to curl up in a blanket and have someone wake me when the temperature is no longer measured with a wind chill factor.

For all the progress I’ve made on being gentle with myself, this is the time of year it’s most difficult. That gentleness takes an active effort on my part – I have to watch my thoughts and notice that I’m being unkind to myself, and then I have to go through the mental exercises to break the spiraling thoughts and work my brain train onto a better track. That’s work for me that takes energy, and I don’t have a lot of that right now.

I know it’s a thing that’s gotten easier and more natural for me over the years, and it takes less energy than it used to. February, however, is a stark reminder that it’s not a perfect process yet. I’ve been working on this writing thing long enough now that I know I’ll get back on track once I get out of the winter blahs, and I do take some comfort in that. It’s nice to trust myself that much at least. But it’s still difficult being in the middle of it and seeing my writing fall to the wayside (not to mention the other things in my life that suffer this time of year too). I envy bears. It would be so much easier to sleep the winter away and not have to do this daily fight.

Sorry for the bit of a downer of a post, but I am trying to be honest about where I am each week. Not every week is the best week ever, or full of exciting things. But getting through the weeks like this are how I’ve learned to trust myself that I’ll get through the next week like this, and that’s something. I know I’m not the only one having a hard time. I’ve got this. You’ve got this. We’re champions, and February can’t last forever.

2 thoughts on “Running On Empty

  1. Rio

    Ah, I feel this. I get S.A.D. this time of year and for me it is March that grinds me to a halt. This year is unique in many big picture ways and I think that has an added effect.
    Even though it is seasonal, it feels like it will never end. At one point in my life I was prepared and would put up “This won’t last forever” above my computer written in big childish letters. It will end. You will feel better.
    For me, the insomnia makes me manic, (more than usual) and is accompanied by worries that I will not be able to repair what I feel are over the top faux pas.
    But I try to remind myself that all writers/artists suffer and and yet still manage to get published posthumously. (a joke)

  2. […] been talking for a while now about the fact that I’ve been struggling. Back in February I wrote about how I was suffering from seasonal depression, and in March I thought it was getting better (and to be fair, I was at that time). I’ve written […]

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