On Mental Health

Solstice Math and Hope

I’m not the kind of person who has a spiritual relationship with the solstice that involves ceremony or rituals. I don’t want anyone to think I’m trying to appropriate Pagan or Wiccan rites that don’t belong to me. I don’t even know of other cultural or spiritual groups that have ceremonies or rituals around the solstice, I’m sure there are many. And I’m not claiming to have access to any of them as a participant.

My emotional relationship with the Solstice is purely mathematical.

According to TimeandDate.com, today I get one minute less of daylight than I did yesterday. But tomorrow I get one minute more. After months of losing a few minutes of sunlight to darkness every day, today is finally the solstice which is the day we get the least amount of sunlight of the year. Today is the darkest it will be and tomorrow? The light starts to return.

When I’m falling in a downward spiral with my mental health, there’s no knowing how low I will go. I can look in the past and know that the lowest I’ve been was definitely in the years before I understood or treated my mental health. I still, to this day, don’t think I was ever lower than I was in 7th grade when I didn’t even understand words like “anxiety” or “depression” – I only knew that I thought the pain I was feeling was too much and I wished I could put an end to it all.

I had no hope.

And while the years since I’ve learned to understand my mental health have definitely given me tools and resources to slow down spirals into the abyss, there is still never a guarantee I won’t suddenly pass previous limits to my descent into the darkness. When I start falling, I don’t actually know where the end is. It’s not a tunnel with a light you can hope for in the distance, it’s a pit that you hope at some point ends so you can begin to figure out how to climb back up.

But the darkness that grows with the months between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice? That darkness has a definite end point. There is a moment I can look to on the calendar and say: Just make it to December 21st, Kim. Once you get to that day, each new day will bring you more and more light gradually.

(I try not to then think about the impending summer solstice. I can only handle predicted hope, not predicted despair. I know myself well enough to understand that.)

So the winter solstice always is a day where I can finally take a deep breath. It’s the day I rest all of my Winter Blues on because the knowledge that the light will grow again is the hope that gets me through the darkness. Because it’s all based on the math of planetary motion and alignment and that math does not change with the tides of my mental health.

I don’t always know how much of my sadness this time of year is actually related to the loss of daylight. The holidays are hard when your loved ones are gone. And this is my first Christmas without my Mom which is made even harder by the fact that last year was kinda my first Christmas with my Mom. And man…she loved Christmas. And man…because of her terrible money habits I hated that she loved Christmas.

So, yeah, I know that a lot of my depression from this time of year has nothing to do with the tilt of our planet in relationship to the sun, but that doesn’t mean I don’t place every bit of my hope for light onto this day. And honestly? It has yet to fail me. I have always started to feel just a little bit better with the knowledge that the light will grow every day after today. JUST GET THROUGH THE SOLSTICE, KIM…YOU ALWAYS FEEL BETTER AFTER THE SOLSTICE.

Here’s to reaching the bottom of the pit and finally seeing the light at the top so we can climb out and bask in the sunlight of longer days and shorter nights.

Happy Solstice.

3 thoughts on “Solstice Math and Hope”

  1. Before moving to Fairbanks, I never really thought too much about the winter solstice. But living here has made me acutely aware of waiting for the return of the light. It is a milestone. Even though tomorrow will only have a few more seconds of sunlight than today, it will have more.

    I ran across this post on Newgrange a while back, and I love the last paragraph. https://kieranhealy.org/blog/archives/2003/12/21/the-dead-of-winter/

Leave a Reply