Mental Hibernation

It is March and I am slowly emerging from my mental hibernation. That’s what I’m calling it “mental hibernation”. For years I have expressed that I wished that I could literally hibernate during the winter months. Just disappear and not see anyone, not go outside, just stay in and eat comfort food. Of course, it would be impossible for me to physically hibernate -- I got bills. That doesn’t change the fact that winters are hard for me and as a result I involuntarily mentally hibernate. This winter was particularly difficult due to the “mystery symptoms” that I experienced which forced me to have several doctor’s appointments and tests run. It’s still a mystery, however, the worst has been ruled out.

A mental hibernation, for me, means that I escape into myself. As an introvert I already do that but, in the winter, it seems to be magnified. I lose interest in almost everything. I don’t exercise as much; my appetite decreases so I’m not cooking as much. It’s just a blah time.

I concluded that I suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and that may very well be the case. Dealing with the cold and the lack of sunshine because of the shorter days is almost unbearable. However, during a session my therapist suggested that I may have suffered some kind of trauma in the past during the winter months and every year, my body is reliving that trauma. She suggested that I read more about this in the book, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk

I have yet to purchase the book (it is on my Amazon wish list) but the way she explained it to me, it makes sense. Our minds can push a trauma to the back burner for so long that it can be forgotten, but the body never forgets. I was able to pinpoint what the trauma was and I’m working on the healing process, unfortunately that does not mean that next winter I won’t mentally hibernate again. What it means is that since I know that it is coming, I can prepare for it.

The hibernation period wasn’t all bad. Admittedly, I felt depressed most of the time, but I was able to do a lot of journaling and meditating and praying to get through it and in the process, I made some interesting discoveries:

  • Historically, I have always had to answer the question, “What’s next?” I wasn’t happy unless there was something I was working toward. It is perfectly okay to not know what is next. It is perfectly okay to be in a season of rest.

  • I was beating myself up because I realized I don’t (or can’t) physically do the things I did 10 (or even 5) years ago. I am learning to be kinder to myself. I’m 55. I’m not using that as an excuse, but I have a 55-year old body and this body functions differently than a body that is 45 or 50. And that is perfectly fine.

  • I spent so much time thinking about the future (what’s next?) and bemoaning the fact that I’m not who I once was that I wasn’t spending any time enjoying the present moment. That stops now.

  • Being in a space of gratitude is so powerful when working to heal from past trauma.

I’m grateful that I can feel the fog lifting and my mental state is improving. Winter is almost over and I can feel my mood shifting. I recognize that doesn’t mean that everyday will be roses and sunshine. However, I feel that I am better equipped to handle tough times when they come. The key is to access the same tools that I’m using now get back to a positive space.

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