Watch your internal weather system

Nurturing

LIGHT AND DARK Blue skies and sunshine do not cancel out depression.

Mental Health
Jannah Walshe

“People don’t fake depression, they fake being okay.”
I recently saw the above quote getting shared across social media. This happened to be just after a conversation I’d had with someone about the pressure they feel to have to pretend to be in a good mood when the sun is shining outside.
We’ve had some beautiful weather during summer, and fingers crossed we might get a few more days of sunshine in September yet, and October can be lovely. The weather outside is an external event that does indeed have the potential to affect our internal mood. So when the sun is shining, we often feel a bit better. But this is not always the case – it is not guaranteed.
Someone recently told me about The Depression Project, which was set up by two brothers as a practical resource to – as they put it – guide you through the storm of depression to the sun. That metaphor, and the earlier conversation, got me thinking about our ‘internal weather system’.
What if the internal weather is still dark, stormy and bleak, despite sunshine and blue skies? What if our internal weather is stronger than the external weather, and the sun outside the window doesn’t even get a look in?
The fact is, no matter how good the weather is, depression is an internal storm that can happen at any or all times of the year. The take home message is that blue skies and sunshine do not cancel out depression.
There are a few things about sunny days that can make it even harder than it is already to be depressed.
Firstly, the good mood of everyone around can make the depression stand out even more. Especially if they ask you how you can possibly be feeling bad.
Also, there seems to be much more to do when the weather’s good – especially social activities. Invites from others to barbecues, the beach, walks and picnics are much more common. They’re well-meaning, but to someone feeling depressed it can be an added pressure.
It can feel inappropriate to be depressed in summer or autumn sunshine, so many people will be reluctant to reach out for help or be honest about how they really feel. Therefore they are not getting the support they need.
One thing that we can be sure of is that we have no control over the weather outside. The only thing we can change is how we feel about it, respond to it and work with it. If it’s raining and cold, we will stay indoors. If we’re going outside, we will wear a jacket or bring an umbrella. We will protect ourselves from the worst of the weather.
The same principles can be applied to our internal weather. If it’s not looking good, look at how you can protect yourself from the worst of it.
The first step is to accept that this is how you feel today. Secondly, respond by protecting yourself in any way you need to by working with how you feel. Look for things to do that suit your mood. Practice extreme self-care. Have boundaries around what you can and cannot do.
No matter the approach you take, remember to always keep an eye on your internal weather as well as the weather outside.

Jannah Walshe is a fully accredited psychotherapist, course facilitator and mental-health speaker based in Co Mayo. More information about Jannah can be found at www.jannahwalshe.ie.