Home from a month on Maui. The dogs greeted us with some reserve, sniffing every article of clothing and every item in our luggage. But they soon returned to familiar habits with their favorite toys and anxious barking about anyone using a bathroom without their assistance. It took us years to discover that my deep melancholy beginning shortly after Christmas might not be entirely due to the heavy holiday schedule. A February break in warm air, warm water and sunshine makes all the difference. We are fortunate to be able to do that. What happens when one can’t.
There was a time when we couldn’t, and the gloomy part of winter became and endurance test for me, but one I always survived. My guess is that over decades and centuries past there were more than a few cases of seasonal mental illness, odd behavior and excessive time in the pub that were attributed to a variety of eccentricities but never understood. Now I have a good excuse for my seasonal mental illness, odd behavior and, no never mind. No doubt the same is true today, except that those of us privileged with discretionary time and money can do something about it. Just the same, Seasonal Affective Disorder appears to have become the disorder du jour among those in the know.
All of this reminds me of allergy fads. It seems that someone is allergic to something every time you turn around and it’s easy to get a bit suspicious about all of that. Not long ago it seemed to be the in thing to be lactose intolerant. No matter where we went or who we were with, all the talk was about lactose intolerance. That really got under my skin because I am one of those for whom a little bit of lactose causes tremendous discomfort, a little more causes tremendous pain, and a little more sends me to the ER, so I didn’t much appreciate having it become the fad allergy of the moment.
I truly do not understand why a disorder of any kind would become a social fad, but there it is. One might reasonably ask why there seems to be so much of this going around. My guess is that there were just as many people legitimately affected by disorders such as these years ago when life expectancies were a good deal less, and many of those who died early died of complications arising from them. Medicine can do something about that now. To be Swiftian about it, maybe it was better back then. The weak and maladaptive died young allowing the stronger and more adaptive of the species to propagate. What do we have to look forward to now? A population of nerdy, disorder prone, medically sustained wimps? The tea party movement is right! What we need are more guns and less health care.