Weather is a common trigger for mental health problems, but usually it's bad weather that brings on the blues. I explain why I start to feel anxious when the sun comes out...
It's Friday, a beautiful bright day. The weather is going to be sunny and warm over the weekend. Everyone is getting ready to have a bbq, open a few beers, and relax in the park.
You'd think that for someone who suffers from depression, a bit of sunshine after all of the rain would offer some relief, something to look forward to and a chance to heal.
For some that may be the case, but for me, it is quite the opposite.
It's known that the cold, dark, wet weather and shorter days result in higher cases of depression ...
But for me, that kind of day is a welcome opportunity to hide away when I am feeling low, and not feel bad about retiring to bed early when I am exhausted from trying to appear normal and function well like everyone else around me.
Cold, dark days mean I feel less exposed when I go out because there are fewer people around and I can hide away underneath my hat, a scarf, and a big coat and feel invisible.
I think I am at my most relaxed in the autumn and wintertime. I can feel like myself.
When the weather changes from being cold, wet, and grim to warm, bright and sunny, I start to feel very, very anxious.
I don't think living in a big city like London helps. The sun appears and everyone comes out to play, except me.
I sit at home trying to convince myself that I'll enjoy my walk with the dog once I get out there, and I probably will if I stick to the backstreets and avoid the parks.
The whole point of walking the dog when the weather is nice though is to go to the park.
And because I have a dog, I have to go to the park, every single day, otherwise, I feel even more guilty and down on myself for being such an unsociable weirdo and making my dog depressed too!
Yesterday I was in the park watching my dog play with someone else's dog, and the dog's owner ambled up to me and said " Oh isn't it lovely?" She was referring to the sunshine.
"Yes," I replied with a big smile on my face especially for her, "It really is lovely." And I wasn't lying, it was beautiful and I was enjoying the warmth of the sun on my back.
What I kept to myself was the fact that it had taken me two hours to convince myself to take my dog to the park that morning ...
And that I had planned a route that would ensure I had to pass as few people as possible ...
And that I fervently hoped she would go away and leave me alone to enjoy the sun when I worked so hard to get myself out into it!
It was different when I lived outside of London in the countryside and by the sea. The summer was so beautiful, and I looked forward to my walks with my dog.
I could go on a long three-hour hike in the woods, across fields, past farmland, along the top of a clifftop looking out to sea, and we might not even pass a single human being.
Or if we did we could maintain a comfortable distance. It was absolute bliss.
Living in London, and on the main road, means that every single time I step out of my house I am confronted by people.
People stand at the bus stop across the road and see me as I walk out of my front gate ...
People try to make eye contact as I walk past them on the street ...
People watch me from their cars when they are stuck in traffic ...
The builders down the road see me pass by every single day ...
The people in the corner shop talk to me when I go to buy milk.
What's worse is that people interact with me more because I have the cutest dog in the world.
My dog wants to be everybody's friend, and that makes people think that I want to be their friend too. They smile at me and say hello, or comment on how lovely my dog is, which I appreciate, but really I just want them not to notice me at all.
And when the weather improves, like this weekend, all of this social activity increases in intensity because suddenly everyone is in a good mood.
To top it off everyone looks amazing, and they flaunt their mental wellness, as they strut about in their sunglasses and summer outfits.
I don't want to pull anyone down with me. In fact, I am not even feeling that low today. But I am still dreading my afternoon walk with the dog.
The park will be full of picnics and my dog will be targeting anyone with food, which means that I will have to interact with people in order to apologise when she tries to steal their sandwiches.
Everyone will be out with their dogs, and while I do love to see my dog being sociable and enjoying herself, that doesn't mean I want to be sociable too.
You can't escape people in the summertime though. Anxiety and depression are ever-present for people like me (if there are indeed other people like me, I'm pretty weird).
And just when I am starting to get used to it all, the weather will change back, and the healing warmth I've just started to enjoy will be gone.
I feel like I might be the only person in the world who feels like this about the weather, because I hear so many people talking about it the other way around.
I'm the kind of person who looks ahead at the weather forecast to see when it is going to be hot, not because I am looking forward to it, but because I need time to mentally prepare myself for the stress.
Is there anyone else out there who experiences something similar? Please tell me I'm not the only one.