Itâ€™s about that time of the year, or, perhaps, way past that moment when Fall darkness sets in. I get home from class and work in the dark, I study and write in the dark, I socialize in the dark, and during the day (which is usually dark because Michigan) Iâ€™m kept inside tiny rooms within more rooms within more rooms. Life in winter is kafkaesque. Work seems to pile up around me and Iâ€™m overwhelmed. But there is something else going on entirely under my skin.
I used to romanticize the winter melancholia that would set in every year. I would feel terrible and love it. Wear moody clothing, quote Kierkegaard and Sartre about existential dread, and drink pots and pots of coffee so I could be not only be sad but also be ecstatically sad, performatively sad. My grades always seemed to suffer only a bit near the end of Fall semesters, which I attributed to the end of term finish line haze of terror; I usually ended up not exactly in fights but friendships always had more tension; and I would leave most social events angry. And then Iâ€™d be alone. And then angrier. I would look at my work and realize that I had no motivation to muster and that motivation seemed to exist only outside, in the leaves freshly fallen, decaying.
Last weekend, in particular, I felt I had to internalize â€œI had funâ€ so that when people asked me â€œHow was your weekend?â€ I wouldnâ€™t reply â€œreal shitty.â€ People respond poorly to negative things, or I find that people build on the negativity, and I didnâ€™t need more bad reactions. Little things got in the way, moments that were unexpected set me off into a chain of dizzying apathy, I began to really sink into the sadness and â€œthriveâ€ there (aka more of me convincing that Iâ€™m fine). And then after watching Scandal on Saturday (which is a whole other thing that needs to be unpacked) I realized that I was NOT okay.
Now I had been to CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) before. After two semi-failed attempts at having therapy sessions, â€œWhy do you feel this way?â€ â€œWell Heidegger in Being and Time Â says this . . . and then Nietzsche really compliments this by . . . and the existential void, no? THE VOID.â€ In the end all of my problems seemed to come up philosophy (which is partially beautiful I have to say). But another factor that cropped up was the time of the year. Fall-into-Winter and Winter were dreadful to live through and then Spring and Summer were pretty much fantastic.
Adventuring to CAPS for different reasons also helped me be aware of the Wellness Zone, which, I have to say, is currently saving my happiness.
SUN SQUARES. These (roughly) two feet by two feet fluorescent-but-not faux sunlight containers that flood your body and eyes with an impenetrable light seem a bit terrifying. The Wellness Zone, in general, has soft mood lighting that is pretty much stomped out by this (amazing) light box. I feel like Iâ€™m a flower, or some weird vegetation, or some creature of the future.
I have heard of SAD (seasonal affective disorder) before this moment, but I was not only angered at the passive aggressiveness of the name, â€œoh youâ€™re sad, aw itâ€™s the season *pinches cheek and shines a flashlight on you*.â€ And I have an aversion to a lot of mental health diagnoses that is due to, in part, the medical-industrial complex, corporatization and pathologization of health, etc. So, while I may not technically be diagnosed with anything, these sun boxes are extinguishing my autumntime/wintertime/no-sunlight-time overwhelming, life crippling, perpetual state of mourning.
But I wouldnâ€™t be a humanities senior if I didn’t stare into, or just slightly off of, these boxes without imagining them framed in a museum, or put in hallways, or dorms, or classrooms. All of health I have problems with, especially mental health, because most services or areas of help are tucked away (3rd floor union, Wellness Zone in the back) out of reach/sight and they arenâ€™t often advertised (well or enough). What if we could hang these modern art pieces, because to me thatâ€™s partially what they are, all around campus during the winter and flood everyone (albeit this is problematic) with artificial sunlight. A bit much, no? maybe not?
What does it mean for a square of designed stuff to cause happiness? Or destroy sadness? I mean, I partially donâ€™t believe it still– but it works. So whatâ€™s to say? â€œWell this artwork affects me so much that I just have an overwhelming sense of OK.â€ If I were an artist, this would be my art.
When talking with friends, however, when they ask me how Iâ€™m doing this week, Iâ€™ve replied, â€œTHESE SUNLIGHT BOXES OF JOY.â€ It gets people thinking and many have reached out for more information. When I feel this way its a problem, but when all of my friends act this way and try to unpack their feelings, its overwhelming, problematic, and we need the sun to come back.
This experience for me has been life-changing. Every morning I go to CAPS on the third floor of the union, next to where I work (Spectrum Center), and read or write (like now) in front of a light box. Everyday I leave a bit giggly (sunlight always makes me WAY happy) to live my life.
Itâ€™s important to talk about success. Itâ€™s important to share success.
And my success is feeling amazing.