The Free Motion Quilting Project: Battling Summer Sad

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Battling Summer Sad

Is there a particular season of the year you just HATE? I've tried ignoring it. I've tried pretending it doesn't exist. I've tried wishing it away.

But the fact is, summer and me don't get along. At all.

Many people understand Seasonal Affect Disorder in relation to winter. If the sky is gray and the weather bitterly cold, it will understandably make you feel sad and moody. But extreme sunlight?? Hot weather? Really?

But it's true. Summertime can be just as debilitating as winter, with anxiety topping the charts during these hot months. Personally I never feel more wigged out, stressed, overworked, and underfed as in the summer. I gain weight, I drink too much, I sleep way too much one day and way too little the next.

Just maintaining my simple summer schedule feels like climbing Mt. Everest every morning. It's tough to stick with, but I have stuck with it simply because without it, I doubt I'd get out of bed at all. There's a side of me that feels completely bewildered and confused by this behavior. Just get to work Leah! Just get over it! Just keep moving! I'm an extremely good self motivator, but I can't deny the very weird feeling that only half my brain is working right now.

This isn't the first year I've dealt with summer sad, though it is the first year I've taken serious note of how much it changes my behavior and attitude. For the last 4 years at least, I've literally hibernated during this time by becoming obsessed and consumed with writing a book, quilting a big quilt, creating a DVD, or in some very stressful years, struggling through all three at once.

One might argue that this is just my creative cycle. The rest of the year I maintain a better balance, but this time of the year I want to dig deep and not come up for air for weeks on end.

That's certainly one way to look at it, but I have to say being on the receiving end of this drive to just mindlessly stitch ALL THE TIME is not very easy. It's also a hard impulse to follow when I really want to have fun with my family and do all the summertime things - camping, fishing, and swimming - that I've missed out on in previous years.

So what am I going to do? I kept asking myself this today as I bounced around the house from task to task. Why can't I settle? Why can't I have fun?

Finally I found an answer: Why don't you just give yourself a break?

Give in and give up. Stop trying so damn hard. Yeah, you're anxious, so BE anxious. Sit with it and feel it and put it to rest. Stop trying to run away from it because it's only going to catch up with you later.

That answer isn't a comfortable one. I know that finding balance during this time of the year will always be difficult, if not downright impossible. The one comfort I have is the knowledge that this is not how I typically am, and that pretty soon this summer will end and this anxious energy will hopefully go with it.

Will I manage to get through this season without hibernating, without disappearing completely from my regular life and schedule? I can't answer that right this second. All I can say is I'm going to try very hard to keep quilting alone in the morning and swimming with the guys in the afternoon. So long as I maintain at least that balance of activities, I will feel that this year is an improvement. It is not a high standard I'm setting, but as I said before, I'm trying to give myself a break!

It's not easy to put all this out here, but it helps in some way to simply be honest. If this season is making you feel crazy, anti-social, and unbalanced, maybe it helps to know you're not alone. For me, talking about this with my dad, who also deals with high anxiety and stress during this time of the year, was very comforting. You are not alone. Yes, it will pass. Yes, you will be okay.




  1. Finally a kindred spirit that "get's it"! There are so many points that you hit on and managed to put words to that I can relate to as well. It started about 6 years ago for me, and at present I'm not seeing an end but maybe one day I can shake the feelings of sadness and enjoy this time of year.

  2. Good luck, sometimes taking oneself off the hook is a very good idea. You'll be fine. Plus, I just read your copyright post, well said you.

  3. Do you do 15 minutes in the sun so your skin can make Vit D? I am sure it is not "the answer" but a partial answer.

  4. When I moved to Southern AZ from Michigan years ago, I realized that I really was going stir crazy from the "every day- blue sky & sunshine" ! When we moved to a 4 season part of the country, I realized that I need to have some dreary, rainy, foggy, snowy, non-sunny days to keep me balanced and happy! Been living in the Midwest for 20 years now where the weather changes constantly & couldn't be happier!!!

  5. I want to thank you for your honest post. I really appreciate when people have the courage to share their humanity and struggles. We all have them, and we learn so much from one another.

    Thank you!

  6. Why don't you just give yourself a break?

    I was gonna ask you the same thing! ;-)

    Sometimes I love Summer - this year I'm really digging it - but I've also had my worst depressive episodes during Summer months. With depression and anxiety the line between internal and external causes gets blurred: if I'm in a bad mood on a cold gray day I can blame the weather, but if it's warm and sunny then what? Mood is a mystery to me.

    As a friend often advised me, "be gentle with yourself."

  7. I totally agree! And it sounds like you have accepted the truth of it and have a plan to move forwards. Good girl!

  8. I so understand you. I also have SAD, the change of seasons from summer to fall and from winter to spring hit me the worst. Unfortunately, or fortunately, whichever way you look at it, I'm also bipolar. The meds I need to keep the bipolar in check do help with the seasonal affective disorder. The meds don't blunt me, they just smooth off the rough edges. It took my parents a long time to understand that SAD is real and that "just getting out and going for a good walk" just doesn't cut it. Do what you need to, to feed your soul and keep yourself healthy until the cloud lifts. You have sisters in this fight. Stay well.

  9. Thank you for sharing this with us. I have never heard of this type of mentally state. You will find a way to cure yourself.

  10. Love your idea of just focusing on two things and at least if you get those done you will have achieved something. It also takes the pressure off feeling like a failure for not achieving more which means if you do get more done then you get that extra feeling of accomplishment. We put so much pressure on ourselves. And something tells me that this periodic slump is as a result of burning too hard during the rest of the year which means our bodies are demanding that rest. So really it isn't a slump but a natural pause to the yearly rythmn you've earned through massive hard work. So enjoy.

  11. Maybe its just so darn hot! I understand depression. sleeping is relaxing to a depressed person. A chance to get away. Good luck, at least you are aware.

  12. I wasn't aware the SAD could be a summer thing. I have a sister who deals with it in the winter. I don't think I have it in the summer, but it is a hard season for me--I don't do heat well, and the added stress of yard and garden work on top of an already full schedule can make me feel overwhelmed.
    I wish you well.

  13. Leah, thank you so much for sharing that. I have had that problem for years, and thought it was just me. Most people look forward to summer, but I get depressed and anxious. I'd heard of SAD but didn't think it could be for summer as well.

    Your post has made me feel better - I'm not the only one.

  14. I have the same problem. Living in Deep South Texas is great in the wintertime, but summer is awful. We've broken heat records this week with the temps almost to 100 degrees. Humidity is terrible because we live next to the Gulf. I keep the blinds drawn, the a/c on and go out after dusk to do chores and shopping. My mood gets dark, too. It is the perfect time to quilt, though!

  15. Thank you! I have suffered (really sufffered!) with Summer SAD for most of my life, and been treated as if I was nuts. Being stuck living in SoCal doesn't help; I really need the 4 seasons for balance, and I need the cooler weather to function. I can't enjoy summer; I can only endure it. Luckily the solstice has turned and once again the daylight hours are shorter, giving me hope for this year.

  16. I have the exact same thing.

  17. I saw this on tumblr

  18. I can't believe there is someone out there who suffers the same as I do every summer. I get lethargic, anxious, unmotivated and just want to hibernate in the fridge till it's all over. Not many people get this, my husband especially. He relishes summer. Soaks up the sun and the heat and becomes energised. Lucky for me, it is winter here at the moment and I am feeling really happy!
    Cath @ Bits 'n Bobs

  19. Amen! And here I thought it was JUST ME....I have friends who get the blues in the winter but that's when I thrive and am my most creative and productive. Southern WV summers are hot...not like some in the south....but hot enough....I just want to crawl in a hole...or back to bed every day. The world is too bright...too hot....too sticky....Thanks for your honesty and transparency...and showing us that vulnerability is ok.

  20. I have a similar thing going on. Not as marked as yours but i get what you are talking about. For me summer has so many expectations in it. I dont know if it stems from being a kid and being told "it is sunny out there get out of the house, go do something. You cant waste a sunny day reading inside" So you feel this pressure in your gut that you are so how "wasting" time with what you are doing. Summer too by its nature is always busier, visiting, camping. company coming, the list is endless really. And there is not always, maybe for stretches any time to create. Which for those of us that it is like breathing it is hard. I dont have really any solution except i am determined not to miss the blessings that are there everyday. I know that i will get time to do those things i love eventually, because that is how it has worked in the passed. I try and not let that inner voice, where ever it comes from, condemn me or make me feel guilty. And i cut myself some slack. I do my best and remember each day is a new beginning. You get to start fresh. I work at smaller projects so i am doing at least something creative. I remind myself it is "good" for me to stretch. (not that it is easy). You are an amazing young woman. So much "with it". Each day is a gift to you and YOU are a gift to each day!

  21. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who dislikes summer. I live in the south and the heat and humidity are opressive. I get my daily allowance of sun and retreat inside.

    Quilt on and know that you inspire those of us intimidated by machine quilting. I often tell people I'm a top maker, not a quilter. With your videos, perhaps that will change.

  22. Hi Leah!

    I too, have this problem in Summer, going into Autumn. My mind is hyped and anxious, and I can't seem to settle to anything, and yes, I want to curl up in a cool dark cave and sleep it off, alternating with periods of frenetic energy that don't seem to allow one to actually FINISH anything.

    A couple of years ago, I found out what it is. It's the need to hit the road, simply put. I have the desire to 'follow the herds for the hunting''. A primitive drive, but a necessary one to acknowledge, for those that have it. Camping and fishing don't help me... I need to get in the car and drive and spend hours just walking in 'pastures new'. Travel is the only thing that relieves it for me.

    Haha, if I can kid my primitive brain into thinking I've been running around foraging for the summer food and winter stores, then I find I can relax all winter and spring. It was actually my very clever doctor that put me onto this. Apparently it affects a lot of creative and arty people. We feel the rythm of the natural world more than the modern world, that's all. Winter is the time when you are snowed in and make beautiful and useful things, there's not so much food to gather.

    You find that you tap into that feeling and connection for a lot of your creativity. It's totally a natural rythm, you just have to name it and trick it!

    Try some short hiking tours with the family, if work allows, it will make a huge difference. After some travelling in early summer, on the cheap, we went fruit picking this year, after the hottest part of the summer was over, and I was exhausted every day. The most relaxed I've been in summer for years.

    Hope this helps!
    Love from sunny OZ,

  23. Thank you for this post. Just like everyone else, summers are the WORST. It isn't even July and I've ground to a halt with everything. Too hot, too much sun, too many mosquitoes... Thankfully tomorrow will be better because thanks to you and all the other posts, I now have hope that I'm not losing it completely!

  24. Just like you and everyone else, I had no idea that "summer" could be the reason for my uncomfortable state of mind. I've ground to a halt with everything! Summer is the WORST - too much heat, too much humidity, too many mosquitoes, and always the guilt for not tending to outside chores. Thank you, everyone. Tomorrow will be better knowing that I am not alone and/or losing it completely.

  25. Thanks for a validating post! I also like summer the least of any season, but at least I am not like another commenter who lives in a year-round summer climate. Yikes that would not work for me. I used to be able to ignore this by staying indoors and sewing all summer (yay for A/C!!) but I have been married to a summer lover for 10 years now and it is just something for us to compromise on. Finally I don't feel apologetic about it )I used to force myself to go along with all the "fun" summer stuff) and now I make sure I have time for my hibernation and this is working pretty well. The other thing is I really dislike how long the days are! I much prefer winter because I feel like it is easier to get to sleep at a reasonable hour and easier to be well-rested at all times.
    I am so glad I am not alone!

  26. I've always been this way. I've attributed it to being heat intolerant and asthma that heat triggers. Consequently, warm, sunny, beautiful days are depressing. Give me a cold day with rough weather, I'm great! Go figure! It is good to hear that others suffer as well.

  27. It is so wonderful to hear others have this!!I am heat intolerant (living in FL) and a sunny, warm day is the pits for me. GIve me stormy cold weather? I'm thrilled. Can't help it!


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