This is the time of year when everyone in the Midwest tries to figure out whether they have Seasonal Affective Disorder — S.A.D. for short.
S.A.D. is a condition that is associated with the winter. The symptoms will sound familiar to anyone who has experienced a Midwest winter: weight gain, depression, increased sleep, lack of energy, withdrawal from social activities, and feeling sluggish and irritable. They think that S.A.D. may be caused by a lack of ambient light and changes in body temperature. Given these symptoms and causes, how in the world do they distinguish people who have S.A.D. from people who just hate the winter and grimly plug ahead through the cold, and the wet, and endless sunless days? How many people out there love icy blasts and revel in the overwhelming greyness of a Midwestern winter? Are there people who are actually excited about a day when the overcast sky is battleship grey rather than slate grey or platinum?
I sometimes wonder about the “discovery” of these new emotional conditions. After all, people were dealing with winter for millennia before somebody decided there was a condition called S.A.D. Centuries ago, when native Americans toughed it out during the harsh Midwestern winters, were braves and squaws afflicted with S.A.D.? If so, how did the chief react when Brave Eagle overslept and wasn’t able to take down a deer or buffalo because he felt sluggish? And did the tribes perform some kind of traditional S.A.D. dance to try to convince the Great Spirit that it was high time to bring an end to the dim, frigid days?