I want to preface this by saying I love California. I really do. I’ve enjoyed it a ton so far, though I haven’t been here that long and my experiences have been somewhat hampered by real life intruding on all of the awesome things I’d rather be doing. That said…
Though I’ve only been in this area for a year now, I’ve been assured that the weather I’ve seen is essentially the pattern to expect– warm, dry summers, and mild, rainy winters (or would be, were it not for the superdrought). I have yet to experience a full-on rainstorm here like I did in New York and Delaware, but I know I have definitely become much more sensitive to subtle changes in barometric pressure.
I know this because cloudy weather makes me want to cry and throw things.
It didn’t always, and it was a frightening thing when it began to. Then, after I was diagnosed with idiopathic intracranial hypertension and began doing my homework, I started to read the stories of other people who were experiencing the same fucked-up mental health symptoms I was. I’m very lucky not to have it nearly as bad as many other people do, and even luckier that the drug of choice for treating the condition works well for me.
But when the pressure drops, shit gets real.
The way things have been explained to me, those with IIH suffer more at high altitudes and during times of low barometric pressure. This is because those are optimal conditions to allow cerebrospinal fluid pressure to increase inside the skull, leading to more headaches, pain, vision problems, mood swings, and other physical and mental health symptoms people experience when their brains and optic nerves are under increased fluid pressure. For me, the worst part is the change in my mood.
In relatively little time, I can go to feeling like Zeus birthing a fully-grown Athena through his forehead while really kind of wanting to throw shoes at the next person who looks at me sideways. And then maybe be terrified for awhile.
It’s pretty hinge on my productivity until the weather improves, but I slog through it the best I can.
In a way, though it’s a transient feeling that goes away once the weather improves, it’s more frightening than times I have genuinely experienced anxiety, depression, or anger. This isn’t to say that the feelings one experiences during times like this aren’t genuine– there’s just a world of difference between feeling terrified, numb, or enraged with a cause I could point to, and suddenly feeling the crushing weight of all of those things at once for absolutely no discernible reason.
Every time the barometer gets a little too low.
I ended up speaking to an old friend of mine about it. He worked with a crisis line before, and told me that these lines weren’t just for people ready to take their lives. I said I knew that, but it seemed like an enormous waste of everyone’s time and energy if I called them because the weather was making me feel a bit crazier than usual.
Then he told me that didn’t matter. The line was for people who needed it regularly, too– even seasonally– and there was no shame in calling just to have someone to talk things through even though I might feel more inclined to “tough it out” out of embarrassment.
The real irony here? The things he was telling me were the same things I’d told others in the past: friends, friends of friends, even clients.
So, to everyone else out there who struggles with moods because of IIH, anxiety disorders, depression, or any other reason– remember that what you’re feeling is temporary. Even if you don’t want to call (and I can understand that. I have had panic attacks that left me unable to speak in the past) and speak to a hotline, there are other resources there to help you maintain your strength:
- IMAlive — An online crisis network that allows you to chat now with one of their caring, trained volunteers.
- The Crisis Call Center — An online resource and phone help line that also assists with reporting child abuse, elder abuse, substance abuse cases, and suicide prevention.
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — They offer a phone number to call and allow you to chat now with a trained counselor.
While I know from experience that sometimes it seems like no amount of wishing, positive thinking, or self-help strategies can cut through what you’re experiencing, know that help is available. What is happening is temporary, and has no bearing on your worth as a person.
And for everyone who has read through this post despite not having experienced any of the things I described, here are some kittens to lighten the mood:
P.S. — If you have any questions, comments, or anything else you’d like to say, but don’t feel comfortable emailing or posting your words in the comments section, feel free to use this instead: