Fighting Seasonal Depression in Canada
January 2011, Montreal, Canada:
Heavy snowstorms, freezing temperatures and everlasting cloudy days. If I close my eyes, I can still feel the cold weather crawling under my skin and cramping my small-framed figure. Surprisingly, that didn’t hurt the most; loneliness did.
One month after my arrival to this vibrant, multicultural city, I self-diagnosed with stage one depression. I would overhear my roommate and her friends having fun, and I just wished I had the energy and excitement that they did. I felt numb.
If I didn’t have class on any given day, I would stay in bed, fetal position, and just stare out the big window overlooking Boulevard de Maisonneuve and the endless snowfall.
If I got invited to go out, I would come up with a silly excuse to stay home and spend my nights Skyping with friends back in Mexico. If I didn’t have class on any given day, I would stay in bed, fetal position, and just stare out the big window overlooking Boulevard de Maisonneuve and the endless snowfall, just like any dramatic girl in a cheesy movie. These kinds of feelings and emotions were unknown to me. I had never experienced anything like this before–at least not in my travels.
This was not my first time living abroad. After graduating from high school, I lived for a year in the small village of Tours, France. I learned the language and traveled across Western Europe. This meant being away from any familiarities and ease for the first time.
Nonetheless, I never felt lonely despite being a complete stranger in a foreign country. I recall seeing my friends feeling blue and missing their loved ones. I didn’t feel like that. I must have a heart of steel, I thought.
After that year, I came back home thinking I was immune to solitude and that I was capable of surviving any adversity encountered while traveling.
Three years later, I was fulfilling my dream of living in Canada; the difference was, I felt miserable. I couldn’t understand why, when only a couple of weeks before I was thrilled to finally land my feet in the great white north. I kept trying to convince myself that my depression would fade away just like the snow in spring. I just needed to wait patiently.
March 2011, Montreal, Canada:
Snow began to melt and flower blossoms made their splendid debut. With sunnier days in store, I would tell myself to get up from bed and wander around the city. I began to feel better and somehow Noah and the Whale’s First Day of Spring song, was the soundtrack of my life… “It’s the first day of spring / And my life is starting over again.”
On one of those early spring days, I met a fellow Mexican girl in my French class. We became best friends instantly. She introduced me to another side of the city that didn’t involve any of my university’s international student activities and it changed my outlook.
I met individuals with different backgrounds and with different mindsets. I would engage in conversations I wouldn’t normally have with my friends in Mexico. I started to care about issues bigger than my own. I began to feel comfortable in Montreal, but above all, I recovered my curiosity and appetite for exploration.
Riding the subway, I no longer felt like I was the tourist, but now I was the local irritated by those tourists. I would always find something exciting to do, either with my friends or by myself, and being alone didn’t affect me the way it used to.
Escaping to a new city for a fresh start wasn’t going to fix my problems if I didn’t work on myself first.
Unfortunately this came a little too late. I only had one month left in Montreal and all I could think about was the fact that I let my initial feelings control me. I started to blame seasonal depression–which I hadn’t even believed existed before. Regret was the only thing on my mind.
Living in Montreal changed me like little else has. I had my ups and downs, laughter and tears, fears and realizations. Trying to find an answer as to why I felt the way I did during my first months has been one of my toughest self-explorations.
But the closest I have come to figuring it out is understanding that I moved to Montreal when I was 21. I had already experienced three years of college and all the baggage that came with it. I was running away from my personal problems. Ironically, they chased me and found me in Montreal. Escaping to a new city for a fresh start wasn’t going to fix my problems if I didn’t work on myself first. It took a couple of months of self-loathing, but in the end, it led me to have one of the most amazing experiences in my life yet.
Photos by Alejandra Cid.