To the light box …

There’s SAD. And then there’s sad.


I’m seasonally affected and dysthymic, if not depressed.

I’ve been on psychiatric drugs since 1997 and don’t remember what it’s like to be sober. Luvox was a straitjacket. Paxil made me panic; the haze is thick. I liked Ativan so much the doctor didn’t trust me. Antipsychotics helped. An anticonvulsant helps. Serzone is good, but as we speak it may be killing my liver. Today I’ll take six pills, seven if it’s bad, and I’ll tell anyone I need them all because I do. What happens when I miss a dose, on purpose or not, is not worth it.

I’ve had enough diagnoses to keep the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders next to the Merriam-Webster. My meds list, the ones I’ve had over the years, is longer than Bradley Cooper’s and Jennifer Lawrence’s lists in Silver Linings Playbook. I’ve never called myself mentally ill, never stayed for the 72-hour observation, but I will say I’ve been sick. Once, I carried a box cutter in my pocket for eight days straight. I’ve kept a kitchen knife in the nightstand. Sometimes I used to close my eyes while driving. 

I wish Seasonal Affective Disorder were just sad. On top of any kind of depression it’s way more phlegmatic than melancholy. Even in Florida, winter, for me, often means catatonia — some non-specific, nondescript feeling — until the confusion of where did that tear come from settles in with its spike of anxiety.

Chronic on chronic. The buzz on the bass of a blown-out speaker.

Too bad my light box isn’t more like Lite-Brite. Remember that Hasbro toy with the small colored pegs? I could stare at that thing for hours. You could shape the lights into butterflies or six-point stars. Now sometimes laughing at Pfizer’s ridiculous Zoloft commercials is all the fun there is. You’ve got the anthropomorphized smiley face creeping underneath the rain cloud, the bluebird pacing behind like, hey, just fucking chirp. It looks like an ’80s Atari game.

And that new Latuda commercial (why they thought Latuda was a good name I don’t know): the one with the light streaming through the blinds onto a woman’s face, light that stays on her face in her cubicle, in a restaurant, on the street with her dog?

Fuck that shit.

Sylvia Plath gassed herself with her oven. John Berryman threw himself off a bridge in Minnesota. The depressed writer is as cliché as the alcoholic one. I know: shine, whine. Whimper. Whine.

Shutting up doesn’t make depression any less loud.

We’re springing ahead toward March. The sun is out and the air’s not colder than Mars. It bites: we don’t have weather advisories keeping us in when it’s time to get up.

I’ve been reading Longfellow’s poem, “Afternoon in February,” all kinds of pissed off that nothing’s frozen: The day is ending, the night descending, the marsh is frozen, and river dead. Not here. And probably not in February, either. But if it’s like past winters, the February days will seem the shortest, even shorter than they did in November when it got dark way too soon.

Apparently George Vernon Hudson designed Daylight Saving Time, with its advancing clocks and its gain-an-hour/lose-an-hour, to give evenings more apparent daylight, to exploit the sun, as if light is ever not apparent, as if we can pimp it out and get something in return. It’s not ours to salvage. It doesn’t need saving, even if I need a reprieve.

There it is. Twenty-four hours. Today’s sunrise at 7:22. A 5:50 sunset. 

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