Back in 1992 I drove across this big old country of ours, leaving a little village in Maine that had been my home for 13 years. Idyllic, nestled between a chain of pristine lakes, loons calling all summer long, sailboats down at the Yacht Club and friends so dear to me, I thought I’d die without them. Why in God’s name would anyone leave that? Only one thing could have sent me packing to California…light. Or, in this case, the lack of it. Seems my body wasn’t thriving there any more as days got shorter, nights longer and snows that lasted for 6 months made Donna a SAD woman. Seasonal Affective Disorder left me no choice, so in early October I headed to Berkeley.
A friend was my marathon man. He drove us 700 miles a day while I slipped into an exhausted coma. I’d wake just long enough to see the sun rising in Kansas out the front window while the moon was still high in the midwestern sky out the rear window. The salt flats of Utah as we drove down the “World’s Loneliest Highway” created mirages. They were right. It was truly lonely but I couldn’t trust that a semi wasn’t coming ’round the corner when I really needed to pee and there wasn’t as much as a tumbleweed to squat behind.
We made it in 5 days and my driver hero turned right around and headed back home leaving me standing in my friends’ driveway, happy to be in warm sunshine but already overwhelmed by this huge change in my life. Cars creeping along jammed freeways. Where were the loons and peace I had so treasured? What had I done!?
I’d like to say within a week I was sipping lattes and wearing tye-dyed tees. Seems I had traded SAD for sad. I struggled to find work in a place with different priorities and values than New England. My work was less relevant and, a single parent of a fifth grader, I had to earn a living. Things looked very dark, even with the sun shining every day.
I knew I needed help. Truly depressed, so much so that I did the unthinkable (for me). I went to see a psychiatrist and left with a prescription for an antidepressant which I carefully folded up and put in my wallet. Knowing I can hardly tolerate Tylenol, the idea of any meds were terrifying. I had to do it another way and the only thing that had always worked was acupuncture. How I found this particular acupuncturist I can’t recall. Let’s call it a miracle.
Picking my chin up off the floor, I found my way to her office in the trendy, “very Berkeley”area named after trees. Her office was upstairs over the famous Gaia Books and though I had read most every self help book in there, I knew this sadness was beyond me. Finally in the treatment room, she asked me what was going on in my life and all I could do was cry. I told her I’d moved from a beautiful little village of 800 people, 1500 in the five weeks of Maine summer and I was frozen now not from winter, but because of freeways, traffic, noise and the absence of loons and my sweet friends. She smiled and told me something I have never forgotten and that I use to this day when overwhelmed by life. “Just make your world smaller”, she offered.
Jenny was like an emotional Sherpa on my journey from transition-induced depression to finding peace and joy in a new home. She said, “Find a place you love to have coffee each day and just go there. Then, find a park up in the hills with trails you like and just hike those. Go to the same grocery store near your home. Live your life without ever getting on the freeway. Use city streets. Find your places, your people, your favorite sandwich shop and movie theatre. Just make your world very small for now.”
So, as we change our clocks today, let it be a reminder that when in periods of great transition and feeling like we are pulling a refrigerator behind us everywhere we go, we can feel so alone. overwhelmed and sad. I hope you’ll remember what Jenny said to me.When you are feeling powerless, hopeless, fearful and don’t know how you’re going to deal with it all...”just make your world smaller”. Last night I fell asleep, not counting sheep, but one by one saying the names of all the people in my life who love me. It worked for me and perhaps, tonight if you’re struggling, it will work for you.
Feeling the loneliness of the holiday season, and are ready to get yourself out there to find someone to share this next amazing chapter of your life, give me a call at 510-817-4242. I would love to be your guide to finding love again.
May the light grow brighter each day!
Donna Bailey, MS
Coach, Speaker, Writer and Expert in Dating and Relationships for “Grown-ups”
Donna’s Big RED Chair