It might seem very strange to focus on help for depression in summer, when summer itself is supposed to help lift depression.
But here’s the thing: for many people–it doesn’t.
In our culture, we hold up the icon of summer as a time of playful hedonism, typified by this classic song by Mungo Jerry:
1. Summer Doesn’t Actually Make Everything O.K.
But for some who struggle with depression, the high summer can actually make things worse. Season affective disorder, known as SAD, is common knowledge nowadays. Canadians tend to associate it with the cold and short days of winter. However, as the Mayo Clinic notes, and as research from India shows, SAD can be associated with oppressive summer heat.
That school is out can also contribute to depression for parental figures who find themselves at home with kids for whole days, day after day. Also, teachers and college professors can find themselves subject to depression when, after a busy, demanding year, they suddenly find themselves at home with large expanses of time.
2. The Symbol of the Burning Sun
For depth psychotherapy, another aspect of summer depression involves the symbolism of the summer sun at its most intense. When the summer sun is at its most direct, and sweltering, it can make everything seem stark, bleak and lifeless.
The ancients used to refer to the experience of the sun in this bleak, piercing way as the “sol niger” — Latin for the “black sun”. Below is an example of how they might typically have portrayed or symbolized it.
Sometimes, for modern people, too, the hot sweltering high summer sun can symbolize or highlight experiences of bleakness, starkness or joylessness in our lives.
Could it be that the intensity of the sweltering sun symbolizes or highlights aspects of our lives that we might experience as bleak? Could it reveal our over-thinking, over-driveness, workaholism, excessive win-at-all costs intensity; or obsessiveness?
3. Other Summer Stressors
There are other stressors not directly related to the weather that can find us out in summer.
Summer can be a time of particular financial stress. Activities such as vacations can take a great deal of money. We can easily find ourselves in financial crunches related to summer plans — and sometimes, when we stop and ask ourselves, “Do I even really want to be doing this stuff?”, a surprising answer may come back: “No! I actually don’t!”
There’s a tide of collective sentiment that a certain way of spending the summer is what we really need to do if we want life to be fulfilling. We may even end up saying ”I’m Supposed to be Having Fun, dammit! What’s wrong with me?”
But it may well be that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with me, and that, at the deepest level, I just want to live life in accord with my own nature.
Acceptance of the true self is a key part of the journey towards wholeness, and of genuine help for depression through meaningful individual therapy.