Dear Cath (and readers!)
Holy schmoly it’s been weeks! I’m so sorry so much time has gone by and I haven’t posted diddly-squoo. And, no, you should not have been posting. As I’ve mentioned in emails, your life is about 15 times (that’s a conservative estimate) more busy and stressful and more social butterfly-full than mine is.
My only excuse is blind panic. My brain has, fairly dramatically, switched into winter-is-coming mode. The sunlight has perceptively shifted and we are on the speedy downward tilt toward winter. Days where the sun barely peeps over the horizon and even then it’s away again in five hours. The darkness is coming. Nooooooo.
I keep trying to deny it, but my brain chemistry won’t be fooled. Already I feel more inclined to huddle under blankets and watch Netflix all day while I bat away those annoying gnats of Darkness, Gloom, Sunlight-is-dead buzzing around my head.
Always my first course of action is denial (aka binge Netflix watching). But this year, Matt and I are trying something new . The Gym.
I know you’re like an amazing working-out-er now, Cath. You wake up at 6am and go to the Y and lift weights. You do like four classes of Jazzercise on the weekend (and work full time and go to school practically full time). So very inspiring!
Before joining The Gym (has to have caps because it feels momentous and still a strange thing) all I did was jump on my mini trampoline (oops, I mean rebounder!) for 10 minutes and then did some downward dogging. I was/am intimidated by The Gym. All those people running and stepping and moving their arms on these clunky, mean looking grey machines.
You know why else I’m intimidated? The playground. Remember how when we were little and didn’t like to share the playground with other kids (we were extremely shy)? That’s how I feel about the gym. I get intimidated by all those people moving in athletic ways and it totally makes me want to retreat to the park bench/corner-by-the-lockers.
But I’ve been pushing myself to do things, even with other kids on the playground, because of the SAD brain. It needs all the help it can get.
Matt sent me this great article from the Nytimes about how exercise helps depression. I know we’ve heard that before but these scientist at a university in Sweden did some studies on mice (poor guys) and tried to tease out what exactly was happening in their brain chemistry.
How do they know when mice are depressed? They give up trying to get out of the cold water maze. They just sit there. That’s me! During a Scottish winter! Getting colder and more depressed.
And apparently, what happens when the rats exercise is they produce an enzyme called PGC-1alpha1 that makes these guards that combat this mean substance called Kynurenine which basically inflames your brain and leads to depression (and is caused by repeated stress). So the no-longer depressed mice fight through the maze and start caring about eating their sugar water again. Happy ending, phew!
So even though I still feel like an alien in the gym, I just keep thinking I’m calling up my PGC-1alpha1 guards. And I do actually think it might be working. “Kill those #%$@ing Kynurenine dead, PGC-1alpha1s!” Its a mouthful of a mantra, but whatever works against the cold water maze of a Scottish winter is good.
And I can tell it must be working because I feel like doing (slightly) more than just watching Netflix during my free time. I’ve even (overly-ambitiously) started five books. Three of which I plan to finish! Maybe. Okay two. One’s our Women in Clothes (aren’t you loving it?!) and I will finish that. Two is a biography on Marx and his wife Jenny (probably won’t make it through that one — I’m a terrible nonfiction reader). Three is The Cornish Coast Mystery which is like a cozy Agatha Christie. There are also some feel-good books by Marianne Williamson and Gary Zukav to help with the 1alphas1 (as yet untested on mice however).
I think there is a good chance that I might retreat to the world of Netflix/toast/blanket/couch hibernation mode by December but if I can stave it off until then, I’ll consider it a job well done.
I hope with all you have going on and even though you feel so very stressed out, that the one upside to being so busy is that your brain doesn’t have time to mess around with winter blues. I do so hope that’s the case.
I miss you so, so very much!
Love you like happy mice like sugar water,