I suffer from a strange variety of season affective disorder that is both subtle and insidious. Instead of developing a generalized sadness and exhibiting mild depressive symptoms, my poor, malfunctioning brain reacts poorly with the chemical processes of my body and I withdraw into a bizarre, misdirected, obsessive malaise. After a few months I emerge confused, frustrated, and fat, like a grotesque butterfly.
The core of this transformation is a fixation one particular occupation to the exclusion of all else, being weirdly compelled by some gremlin of procrastination to follow that one task to well beyond its natural end. I shower less, eat poorly if at all, miss deadlines, blow off social events, and generally fail to interact with the world in a meaningful way until I have exhausted myself on whatever obsession takes me, no matter how trivial.
The winter I worked as a financial assistant I inexplicably reactivated my World of Warcraft account – idle for five years – power-leveled my Dwarf Warrior (Hail Khazad, fury of Anvilmar!) from level one to level eighty-five, became disgusted with myself and quit forever.
When I was trapped in my parent’s house in Colorado, adrift and purposeless, I watched every single episode of Stargate SG-1, plus the two made-for-TV movies, outtakes, promotional materials, and whatever commentary was on the disc, no matter how tedious it might be. I made it to two episodes from the end of Stargate: Atlantis and turned off the television in horror.
This winter I thought I finally had the presence of mind, self-awareness, and proper medication to avoid a months-long nerd consumption frenzy, but I still found myself in January with a bunch of unfinished projects and hundreds of hours spent dying colorfully in Dark Souls.
This is of course, ridiculous. My aversion to the existential misery of the dim dreariness of winter is so deeply ingrained, so powerfully lodged in my subconscious, that I will continue to sink inexorably into the depression on my couch, mechanically and joylessly slaughtering dragons in Skyrim until the wee hours of the morning rather than move to eat, drink, sleep, work, or otherwise come to terms with the seasonal representation of human frailty and mortality.
In normal periods of daylight, time-wasting pursuits are a necessary function of my chemically imbalanced ADD brain, allowing me to shut off the insistent nine-year old who obsessively investigates everything that appears mildly interesting. In the winter, that defense mechanism becomes a prison, locking me into whatever Sisyphean diversion I can obtain for myself. I can’t do anything productive, because I might conceivably finish such a task, and then I might be forced to deal with grim, looming reality.
This winter is a wash, but I have resolved that next year I will meet the shortening of the days with a SAD readiness kit: vitamin D pills, brutal exercise regimens, and a set of insurmountable but productive tasks to shield me from existential dread. Perhaps this will be the year I am victorious.
And yet, Dark Souls 2 awaits…