Ok, what I am about to say might very well be considered sacrilegious – I hate summer! There I said it, I have admitted it. Let the tar and feathering begin!
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things about summer that I love. Summer is a time of flip flops, longer days, no heavy coats and outdoor BBQ’s. These are all great things, and things that I look forward to as I trudge my way through winter. However, summer for me is also a time for allergies, humidity and increased anxiety.
Earlier this week, the weather started to get a little warmer. It wasn’t incredibly warm, but there were a few days where the temperature got up to the high 20s with humidity. Everyone around me was so happy, and was even celebrating the arrival of sun and warmth. I, however, started to feel a little dread and a lot more anxious. When the weather broke, and the temperatures plummeted, everyone around me was complaining and I was secretly cheering.
I haven’t always been this way. I use to celebrate and adore summer the way most Canadians do. I am not a fan of winter either, and much prefer weather like we had yesterday – the sun was shining, but the temperature hovered around the mid teens. However, if you had asked me 10 years ago, I would have been one of the first whining and complaining that it was too cold and asking “where the heck is our summer?!?”. Today, however, I have a real intolerance to the heat, and as the temperature inches upwards, so do my anxiety levels.
I googled to see if this is a common thing, and it turns out that it actually is quite common among people who suffer from my particular form of anxiety – health anxiety. There are several possible reasons for it. The first is something that is pretty rare, and that not many people are aware of, which is Season Affective Disorder – Summer variety. Most people have heard of the winter version of Season Affective Disorder, where a person gets depressed due to a lack of sunshine. Apparently, there is a summer variety where people get depressed from too much heat. Weird, I know, but it is true. Of course, me being the hypochondriac that I am, I immediately decided this was what was wrong me. However this form of SAD is very rare, something like 1% of winter SAD sufferers will suffer from this as well, so I highly doubt that is what causes my anxiety.
The more likely culprit is the anxiety about the panic. Believe it or not, this is actually a thing. Once you have suffered a panic attack, you are more likely to have increased anxiety about the possibility of having another panic attack. When you find yourself in similar conditions to those that caused the original panic attack, you will feel increased fear and anxiety over it happening again. This is what happens to me, which is why summer causes increased anxiety levels for me. My first panic attack happened 7 years ago, right around this time. It was actually exactly 7 years ago on the Victoria Day long weekend. I spent the friday night of that particular long weekend in the emergency room, feeling like I had absolutely lost my mind. So, the combination of it being a little bit warmer, and the long weekend, triggered the memory of that night and set off a series of mini anxiety attacks all this week.
Also, last summer was not a particularly fun summer thanks mostly to my really bad anxiety and my neck and back problems. This past Wednesday, I woke up with a really bad kink in my neck. Not only were the muscles tight, but I could also feel that my joints were jammed out of place. In addition to causing me a fair amount of pain and discomfort, it also triggered the memory of last summer. The fear of going back to that place, where I could barely function out of pain, dizziness and numbness, triggered even more anxiety.
Finally, and this is really the big one, the main reason I do not enjoy summer. One of my biggest fears, that triggers the most anxiety in me, is that I am not going to be able to breathe. It is the reason why I don’t like small, confined spaces – such as elevators, airplanes, subways and rooms without windows. With summer comes increased pollens in the air, and I suffer pretty bad with allergies in the summer. Also, I am fat, out of shape and a smoker. So, as the heat goes up so does the humidity and smog levels. I just have to move and I overheat and get winded. This immediately makes my mind jump “oh my god I can’t breathe, I am going to die!” And yes, I do see the irony in a person who is afraid she is going to stop breathing continuing to smoke. Trust me, I recognize the insanity in that every time I light up a cigarette in the summer.
So, you can see, summer and I don’t have a really great track record the last few years. Which makes why my anxiety levels go up in summer completely understandable. However, I do not want another summer like last year. Thankfully, the Farmer’s Almanac says that while we are going to have a warm summer, with temperatures about as high as last year, it is going to be broken up with many more days of cooler more manageable heat. This will go a long way to help control my anxiety levels. However, I also recognize that I need to do some work myself. One of the things that helped this week, was researching and understanding why my anxiety got so bad this week. Recognizing that I was actually suffering from anxiety over the anxiety/panic attack returning, helped me to calm myself down and recognize that I was over thinking again.
Talking about it helps a lot as well. So, I am going to make a real effort to reach out either here, to my friends or DBF when I feel my anxiety rearing it’s ugly head. I am also going to start doing more cardio. I recognize that if I start doing more cardio, I won’t feel so winded when walking or exercising, which will help stop the “oh my god I can’t breathe” bullshit that my brain starts spouting. I know the big one, the one that will help with that the most, is quitting smoking. But, quite frankly, I am just not ready for that one yet. Just the idea of it triggers a whole other litany of anxieties, mostly around the idea of gaining even more weight. I know that is just my addiction looking for reasons not to quit, but it is something that I am just not ready to tackle yet.
So, here is to a better summer then I have had in 7 years. I believe that if I can make this summer a good summer, it will go a long way to help diminish the negative triggers I associate with summer. Because, quite frankly, I miss the carefree, happy feeling that comes with loving and enjoying our oh-so-short summer season!