SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a common phenomenon in Northern New Brunswick (Canada) in the frigid winter months when the mercury drops down below 40C, when the sun rises after you've arrived at work and sets before you've returned home.
You feel tired, lethargic, un-energetic, disinterested. You can't sleep right. You eat more, yet never feel satisfied. Even if you lay in bed all night and on the couch all day, you never feel rested. It's the cold, it's the lack of sun, it's being confined indoors, it's SAD. Every Northerner is familiar with it ... rare is the Northerner who's not experienced it. The winter days are frigid; -40C plus windchill makes for a difficult outdoor adventure, even for the heartiest of Canadians. You stay indoors and you let the energy ebb from you. You are SAD.
You tell yourself you wished you lived in a warm, sunny country where GLAD (Goofy, Loony Affective Disorder) is all anyone has ever known.
You move to the Middle East, where every day is 12 hours long, all year long, and the one day of rain a year is celebrated. You think that finally you've rid yourself of SAD. You'll never be SAD again. You'll be GLAD!
And then you experience July and August in the Middle East. Seven years straight. And every August, you find yourself falling into this deep, dark pit of despair. You find yourself exhausted. It's hard to get out of bed. You find yourself impatient. You find yourself hungry, but you don't know what you want to eat. You find yourself strange ... but you can't really find yourself at all. You find you are SAD.
You tell yourself 40C isn't so bad. It's the opposite of -40C. It's got to be good. No wind, no precipitation. It's got to be good. Yet you are SAD.
You look out your window and you see this:
You try to convince yourself the droplets on the window pane are akin to fresh dew. You try to convince yourself that water is a sign of freshness. You try to convince yourself that the droplets invigorate you. And then you realize you can't convince yourself. This is 42C and 92% humidity. You can't go outside. Once again, you are SAD.
Strange, isn't it? That you could be SAD in the Land of Sand?
What people don't realize is that you get very little sun exposure in the ME. In the winter months, a foggy haze of dust filters the sun and makes vitamin D absorbency close to impossible. In the summer months, it's simply too hot to get outdoors. And so you sit indoors, occasionally venturing to your car, stepping out to get into the mall, but that's about it. And your body cries and aches and begs to be let out of its air-conditioned prison.
And you finally decide you've had enough of being SAD. It's cool enough to try running again. The extreme July temperatures have dropped. You want, you NEED, to get outside again.
You get up at 4:30 one morning in mid-August with Smilin' Vic. You both suit up. T-shirt, sweat pants, runners all at the ready. You head out for a 3.5 km run. It sucks. You get back home, exhausted, drenched, impatient. You check the temp, and you see this:
And for a moment, you are incredibly proud. You realize that you have pushed yourself hard; you have conquered the elements. You've breathed in air. Not 'fresh' air, but at least 'real' outdoor air. Just for this morning, you won. Humidity's a b!t$&, but you still feel great after your pitifully slow run. You are a champion, and you are no longer SAD.
You take two vitamin D tablets, one vitamin B, two ginseng caplets, two Panadol (for the pained ol' bod), and swallow them all down with the watered-down juice of three limes. And tell yourself you've still got it. The spark of cellulite on your left thigh tells one story, but the ache in your right thigh tells another (or is that just the shortened piriformis muscle that has been pinching your sciatic nerve for the last four years?).
You step into a hot shower and tell yourself you'll do it all again tomorrow. You feel so invigorated. You slip on your smartest office trousers and you could swear they already feel looser, you already feel tighter, and all is right with the world.
4:30 a.m. .... the next day .... You click on snooze. The damned alarm keeps on ringing every three minutes. You get up at 4:42. Suit up. Dare Smilin' Vic with your eyes to "say. one. single. word. at. this. f^$!N. God-forsaken. hour." You check your watch. It is literally "Zero past way too stupid to be up".
Go downstairs and have a coffee.
Head out. Do it all over again. Once you're started running, it's really not so bad. And the rest of the day is so much better once you've breathed in some funky Doha morning air. You realize you want to do this every day. It's hard, but it's good.
4:30 a.m. ... one day later ... You click on snooze. It won't stop ringing. Give up. Get up.
Go downstairs and have a coffee. "Zero past dark stupid thirty."
Start to notice it's getting easier. Start to realize the hurdles you've overcome. Start to see the humor in the effort that goes into running in Doha. Decide to take pictures along the way...
Unfortunately, the lovely pedestrian protection sign is smack dab in the middle of the sidewalk. Smilin' Vic cracked his head open on it.
It's ok. We're feeling invigorated. A little blood never scared a soldier, right?
We head a little further ... "Oh, look, Smilin' Vic, they've laid out a hurdle for us about 100 m into our run ... just enough to make us jump and get the blood pumping. How awesome!"
Smilin' Vic fumbles and trips. It's not exhaustion. We are barely 250 m into our run. It's the sidewalk sinkhole. "Ah, well, at least no broken bones or sprained ligaments this time around, eh? All is well!"
"Oh, look! A signboard that dares to hit us smack in the face if we don't notice it first. How cool! What a novel idea. Now that's how marketing geniuses get our attention!" (A little to the left and we get taken out by a madman at the wheel, a little to the right and we sprain our ankle on the rocky surface ... but head on and we HAVE to read the billboard ... BRILLIANT!
"Wow, they've stuck a lamp post smack dab in the middle of the sidewalk every 25 m. Good for lighting, not so great for running..."
"Brilliant guy, He who thought of planting this random desert shrub right in my running path. Yup, I've got a few choice words for him if we ever cross ways ..." But seriously, one could say its splendor does make up for the shattered ankle bone and torn Achille's heel ...
At first I wasn't sure what this sign meant.
But I soon realized I needed to tag it to get the "SUPER BOOST" needed to jump over this huge concrete block placed strategically on the sidewalk. Wow, was I impressed when I realized I could go over or around this 2 km into our first run ...
And then over this bigger bush.
And finally over this gap in sidewalk ...
I can't help but think that "pedestrians are everyone's responsibility" kind of translates to "Every Pedestrian for Themselves!" in Doha ...
Nonetheless, after four weeks of running (obstacle course), I'm not so SAD anymore ... I'm actually GLAD!
Oh, and here was this morning's temp ...