Winter Blues: When Our Pleasure Becomes Pain

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It’s hard to hear you’re in and out. I can tell you’re running. Ohh, it never ends…

Kelela – Jupiter

The most ironic part about me is probably the fact that my favorite time of year is the time I’m usually the most miserable. It’s the time of year where the sun sets at 4:30pm, I have to wear three/four layers to make sure I don’t get frostbite, and I often find myself crying on every train I ride in the MTA. Y’know, the little things.

Besides it being the holiday season, I think it’s my favorite time of year because it’s so easy to hide. Whether it’s away from the world or in plain sight. Whether it’s hiding my depression, anxiety, or both. Sure, I’m wearing four layers in freezing weather at 7:00pm, but there are less people around to see my tears after a stressful day at work. Besides, it’s easier for the darkness to keep me warm rather than confront it headfirst.

Then Blues dancing comes in and screws that all up.

To be surrounded by so many loved ones during a bad bout of depression is a blessing, let me not pretend that it’s not. Dancing gets me active and out of my head, and I know Blues as intimately as my grandma’s knitted blanket. Nearly every week I’m in a place where everybody knows my name. I know for a fact this is conductive for my mental health.

At least until lyrics such as “nobody wants you when you’re down and out” enter my ear canal and I’m back in my head. I grow skittish. I feel weak. Check-ins of varying levels of sincerity come in; sometimes compelling me to downplay the severity. I’m sitting out dances for long stretches. I’m usually on the verge of leaving early for the night, hoping for someone to pull me out of my rut. Usually I have enough fortitude to make it through the night but it can be a hassle.

I’m quite the champion for lyrics in the music I listen to, especially Blues. And it irks me when I repeatedly run into people who proudly exclaim they don’t particularly listen for lyrics. These are words that, more often than not, are olive branches from the performer to listeners. When listeners cast those branches aside, I feel slighted on behalf the performer…most times.

Hearing about money woes, relationship trouble, sleeping alone, and the like are all topics that can really wean a person’s self esteem. Even if I do wish others had a deeper appreciation for lyrics, that lack of it probably saves them from added stress during this time of year. It’s why I try to avoid listening to Blues in my spare time since I know what I’d be getting into. That doesn’t take away from the overall enjoyment of the music, especially while dancing. However, it’s a wall I raise so that I can let the darkness keep me warm without having to come to further terms with it.

Obviously this calls for a further examination of Black depression, but I think that’s for another post for another time. All I can say now is that as we approach 2020, I’ve had to drag my feet to go out more than every other year I’ve been dancing. The darkness feels especially warm and cozy this year from all the stress I’ve felt. And considering the post I made around this time last year, I also feel disappointed in myself for not doing enough.

Above all else though, I have the foresight and hindsight to remember that this is mostly the Winter Blues talking. As valid as my feelings are, they may not truly reflect my situation and actual reality. This too shall pass, I’m going to be okay, and all that jazz. Do I believe these affirmations right now? Not really. Can’t deny the fact that I’ve survived the Winter Blues before though.