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"How the dark can hold no fear" by Rick Mc

By Chris Wood, 22 November 2016 – 1 comment
Rick Mc

As inevitable as taxes and a politician’s broken promise, the dark nights are on their not so merry way. Although this is a time of year that many people dread, what we, as sufferers of bad mental health need to do is find ways to conquer this fear of the darkness and what it brings.
Quite often a difficult period of your life can be overcome by simply changing your view on it. Yes, the dark nights will soon be here potentially bringing with them added depression and gloom but, looking on the bright side, they will also hide the atrocious weather we in Cumbria have been subjected to this year and travelling salesmen tend to be less prevalent during the dark nights too. The list of positives is almost endless if you set your mind to it.
On a serious note, winter can be a terrible time for many people but there are simple tasks that we can do to combat this dark period.
Something which I have found to be of tremendous use is SAD lights. E-bay, Amazon and many other sites now sell a wide variety of SAD light bulbs; the difference these make for me and a lot of other people is immense. There are a variety of different coloured bulbs but personally I have opted for 100W daylight bulbs. Yes they are more expensive, coming in at around £5 per bulb but in my opinion it is money well spent.
At night the dull yellow glow given off by the standard bulb can only add to the gloom that is already present whereas the brilliant whiteness coming from my SAD lights almost tricks me into believing that the night isn’t really that bad.
What I have done is to replace all of my bulbs bar one. The reason behind this is that as humans we soon forget any good changes that we have made once we become accustomed to them. By leaving one standard bulb in my bathroom, I am permanently reminded of the dull yellow glow I once suffered and it is a refreshing boost every time I step into the warming light of the rest of my flat.


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It is many years, too many years, since I’ve managed to hold down a permanent job but this doesn’t mean that I can’t still work. When I am going through some of my better periods I do voluntary work. Throughout my working career I was never able to do the jobs I wanted to because of lack of qualifications and experience; this is not the case in the voluntary sector. Quite often all the experience you need is to have suffered from one ailment or another; here, I am nearly over-qualified.
As a volunteer, your employer is more than aware that some days you simply cannot get to work. Throughout my long voluntary career I have only had a few periods off but knowing that the option was readily, and freely, available has made things a lot easier. The satisfaction that voluntary work brings can be a tremendous boost for your ego and help ease you through the long nights.
Being a volunteer is an extremely rewarding experience. Generally it is organised through charities but it can also be recreated by simply knocking on a lonely neighbours door and having a cup of tea with them or collecting some shopping that they’re unable to get. This selfless act will give you a nice warm glow to brighten any dark night.


During the times when I have been too unwell to even consider working I’ve changed my mind-set and made my new job one of looking after myself. Generally the first thing that goes out of the window during times of hardship is personal care; doing my new job properly during these stages prevents that unnecessary suffering.

One counsellor I went to asked me to list ten things that would make me feel better during my bad days. Top of the list was being showered, shaved and having clean clothes on each day. Now, whatever the weather I am always dressed and ready for the nine o’clock bell. Sometimes the simple things are the most important.

Another part of my job is that I regularly make myself a sumptuous meal that can take most of the day to prepare and cook. Whilst I am aware that not everyone is a good cook, neither was I at the start. I made it part of my job to learn how to cook meals that would make me happy because after all, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
Sorry to sound like a politician but a good balanced diet is also essential to make your journey through to springtime less demanding. Like most people in autumn and winter I tend to head straight towards root vegetables and the inevitable stews. Whilst this can be a warming, comforting meal it can also become a boring and seemingly endless chore eating it week after week. Given the availability of fresh vegetables all year round, there is no reason whatsoever to suffer this boring routine. Just because convention says that salad is only to be eaten in the summer, it doesn’t mean that it is the law.


Nature can also be a boost to your flagging mood levels. I am fortunate enough to live way out in the sticks where the darkness brings with it families of deer searching for food. Whilst I appreciate that this is a sight you may not see ambling down your local high street, there are other gifts of nature heading your way.
This is a time of year when the birds are desperate for added food and nutrition. You may not have room for a bird table but a feeder is simple to make from an empty drink bottle. For the princely sum of £1 you can get enough seed to feed your ever hungry birds for nigh on a month. It’s surprisingly pleasing to watch them fight for access rights to the feeder and they’ll soon get brave enough to tap on your window and let you know that they want more.


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These days there are a remarkable amount of groups available that cater for virtually every taste. Whether it’s a knitting circle, a yoga group or talking therapies that interest you, you can be sure that there’s one available somewhere. Whilst I’m fully aware that group settings can be a daunting prospect, they can also be extremely rewarding if you persevere. Here you will meet like-minded souls that share your interests and it may even lead to friendships beyond the group.
Hobbies are also a good way of passing those long dark hours. Until recently I’d never had a hobby beyond complaining that there was never anything for me to do. When I was a young boy I used to love making models with my uncle at Christmas time; it’s a fond memory that still brings a smile to my face. Being a grown man, although there’s doubt that men ever grow up, I didn’t want to recreate my Airfix days so I decided to move up a technical level. Accordingly I now spend many a happy hour engrossed in my new hobby of matchstick modelling. This has also become something more than a hobby as a few of my friends and relatives will testify at Christmas and birthday times.


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You may have tried some of these strategies previously and they mightn’t have had any effect on your mood but that is not to say that they won’t work now. Whilst I am only too aware that they will not cure you of your depression or dread of the long dark nights, they may just make it a wee bit more tolerable.

1 comment

  • Debra Koseoglu

    22 November 2016, 7.52pm

    Good advice that even feels like it is purveyed in a cheerful tone.

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