Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Is it a S.A.D. season?

Tasmania and Iceland have a lot in common, I've always thought (the small matter of volcanoes aside). I've often read things about SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder, a mood disorder also known as winter depression or winter blues. Most SAD sufferers experience normal mental health throughout most of the year, but experience depressive symptoms in the winter.

(The Icelandic word is "skammdegisthunglyndi". "Skamm" means short, "degi" is day, "thung" is heavy and "lyndi" means mood ; it appeared in print as long ago as the late 1800's, according to Wikipedia.)

Being an Australian male, I usually have little time for these sorts of psycho-babble afflictions, but this winter has hit me harder than most. For one thing, it's the first really cold winter we've had since my diabetes was diagnosed. My doctor advised me to get a flu shot, but I came down with a virus before I could get it done.

Ever since then I've snuffled and sneezed my way through most days, groping my way out of bed each morning like a groundhog emerging from hibernation. During the afternoon I've started drinking three cups of coffee in a row, something I usually never do; it's as though my body is seeking extra energy from somewhere.

I was thinking about this on Sunday, which has been a particularly difficult day in recent weeks. I think this is because I'm sitting in my pew in church before I've even seen the sun. This is one of the classic SAD problems.

Probably things will improve when the days begin to lengthen. I certainly hope so.


It's twelve weeks since I became entangled with the bureaucracy of the Centrelink department. I've been through the job-seeker training sessions and the job interviews and all that and now it had come round to my return visit to Centrelink.

I won't pretend I wasn't nervous. I had a folder with all the papers I might possibly need and I spent the last 24 hours doing everything I could to prepare.

Then when I was standing in line at their office, all the possible excuses and explanations that had been running through my head were just too much. I switched into job-seeker mode, following the job-seeking videos they kept showing me. Be attentive and responsive, but don't talk too much or volunteer information.

I wasn't even thrown off track by the fact that the woman who was interviewing me had some sort of Continental accent and was very softly spoken. She whispered her way through the interview and I sat there and watched her black-painted fingernails wander around the desk and her keyboard.

She tapped away at the computer and then told me in a murmur she didn't need any more information.

Her lips moved again. " " she said.


"One hundred and fifty" she whispered softly.

"I'm sorry? What about it?"

"$150. That's how much we'll pay into your bank account tomorrow."

"Oh. Right." I picked up my little booklet. "I've filled my Job Seeker Diary. Do I need to get another one?"

"No," she mouthed almost silently and I left, carrying the folder of documents which I hadn't even opened while I'd been in the office.

It was an odd sort of experience, but not as unsettling as I had been expecting.

I remember a saying that my father was fond of. "We can't change the past and the future doesn't belong to us." I guess he was right: today is the only day that we can do anything about.

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