The Luv Doc: Dark Days
A full glass of water? Who has time for that?
Dear Luv Doc,
I have been with my girlfriend for three years now, and every year starting around Thanksgiving, she gets depressed. All she wants to do is sit around the house and watch TV or shop for clothes online that she ends up giving away. I try to get her to snap out of it by asking her to go to shows, or parties, or to dinner, but she says she doesn't feel like it. When I ask her if she's depressed, she says she's feeling "low key." It's hard to argue with her, but I am not exactly sure what "low key" means. I am wondering if I should try to get her to see a therapist or something, because after a few weeks of this, I start getting depressed myself. Any suggestions on how to get her to stop moping around?
– Semi-Sad Boyfriend
I am semi-sad for you, Semi-Sad Boyfriend. The weather has been gorgeous since Thanksgiving. I'm pretty sure the sun has even been sporting one of those ridiculously adorable Teletubby baby smile overlays. This is the season in Austin that I like to call "sprall." You get about two to three weeks where it feels like you live in L.A., except, of course, the traffic is a lot worse, the cocktails and real estate are more expensive, and you have to stay doped to the gills on allergy medications because of ragweed and cedar. Still, if you can somehow chemically staunch that embarrassing flow of mucus enough to venture out in public without looking like the human equivalent of a smallpox blanket, you can take advantage of things like outdoor seating at restaurants, unsweaty electric rental scooter rides, awestruck bat/grackle viewing, or a parking garage top-floor view of one of Austin's trademark "violet crowns" if you look westward around sunset. In other words, seasonal affective disorder in August? I totally get that shit, but the Thanksgiving to Christmas run in Austin is pretty much the tits, weatherwise. In fact the only better two weeks of weather occur in March and are fully owned by South by Southwest and its subsidiaries.
That said, mopers gonna mope regardless of the seven-day forecast. There is a reason that Zoloft is the 12th-most prescribed medication in the U.S. – I mean, other than a well-funded marketing campaign by Pfizer, who I think we can all agree has people's best interest in mind ... as long as those people are shareholders. Besides, counseling takes a lot of time, energy, and expense, and the outcome isn't necessarily guaranteed. Americans prefer an easy fix – especially one you can wash down with half a glass of water, even when a full glass is recommended. I mean, a full glass of water? Who has time for that? I am sure there are plenty of people out there who can raw dog a Zoloft, no problem – maybe even tag-team it with an Ozempic. The point is, Americans are way less scared of swallowing chemicals than they are of taking a 30-minute Zoom call with an empathetic-looking mental health professional in a conservatively colored cardigan.
You might think suggesting counseling will come off as a bit extreme, but you don't want to be the boyfriend who didn't take due diligence just because the conversation was awkward. Depression is real. Your girlfriend might not have it, but it won't hurt to have her check in with a qualified professional just in case. In the meantime, there are some ... life hacks, if you will ... you can suggest to get her out of her seasonal funk. Exercise has been proven to increase serotonin function in the brain. However, exercise seems like a lot of work and requires motivation, which is a bit problematic for depressed people. It can be boring. It's time-consuming. So, start small. Short walks. Bike rides. Games are great if she's competitive. Anything outdoors is best. Also – and this is even better than exercise – get her involved in taking care of something: a plant, a pet, but even more effectively, people. Maybe ask her to volunteer with you for something like the food bank ... or Habitat for Humanity. That worked for the Carters. They never sat around thinking about themselves. They were always too busy planting peanuts and building houses. Helping others is a great way to help yourself, even and especially on dark days.