By Melody Park and Chelsey Sanchez
Her footsteps are slow as they shuffle across the familiar hospital floor tiles. The emergency room is not as busy as it’s been for the past few nights she was here. She slowly makes her way to the desk, encountering the nurse who she has become acquainted with. Everyone working this shift knows her by now. Her arrival is not only natural, but also expected. December 1, it was leg pains. December 2, it was a migraine. December 3, it was back sores. However, she wasn’t the first of any of these nurses’ patients to arrive here under a transparent guise; they all saw through it. The nurse smiled at her politely, bracing herself for her next grievance.
Nurses of the emergency room call this time the “December Blues.” Scientifically, this period is also known as “Seasonal Affective Disorder” (SAD). The “December blues” begin in early winter and end in spring. If Jack Frost nipping at your nose isn’t enough, apparently, loneliness can nip at you too.
Our nameless protagonist is, tragically, a common occurrence in emergency rooms across the nation, especially during this time of year. People who cannot bear their loneliness alone sometimes seek some sort of comfort or refuge in emergency rooms, where help cannot be denied them. But 3:00 a.m. trips to the emergency room, unfortunately, cannot permanently solve this crisis.
So, what makes December, a month usually attributed to holiday festivities and celebrations, so blue?
According to a survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 64% of people with mental illness claim that the holiday season makes their conditions worsen. Many of the people from that survey link these “blues” to the unrealistic expectations set by the holiday mood, which tend to draw light upon problems such as financial burdens and the inability to spend time with loved ones.
The days are shorter and the weather is colder. The sun, a vital source of serotonin, which essentially monitors our biological happiness, rises much later and sets much earlier. With the lack of sunlight, we are losing the critical component that regulates our emotions.
The season may also leave us feeling emptier as we continue to grieve lost friends or family members. Grandparents or relatives with whom we used to share giggles and hugs on Christmas morning now only survive as distant memories, pushing depression even further.
The holidays are supposed to be filled with love, laughter, and family, so we have been told. When we think about what makes the holiday season, we almost always remember the tangible characteristics: decorative lights on homes, Santas in shopping malls, Christmas music on the radio. Maybe these environmental shifts trigger a part of our brains into thinking winter is supposed to resemble a fantasyland. However, this often poses a stark contrast to reality.
Even more, our friends’ social media activity may extrapolate depression rates. Unaware of the presence they hold online and the capacity to judge and be judged, many people crave superficial gain by sharing their lives a little too closely on Facebook and Twitter.
Even though their motives aren’t there to make others feel negatively about their huge family gathering or girls’ night out, the effects are still there. It’s fine that we want to share parts of our lives online with people we care about, but it’s perhaps more important that we do so in a thoughtful way, keeping mindful of those that might suffer from the the “Holiday Blues.”
The girl in the emergency room is one of many, and her trek doesn’t end at the threshold of the hospital entrance. But, as we all know, seasons are temporary, winter will pass, and hopefully, so will her December blues.