Thursday, April 23, 2009

Reverse SAD

The other day we were at Costco, walking down one of the aisles with seasonal merchandise. In Tucson, that means outdoor patio sets, huge bags of pool chemicals, crates of alcohol, and large pull-down sun shades, as you see here:

On this particular mid-April day, it was something like 90 degrees outside, blazingly sunny without a cloud in the sky, with a steady lukewarm wind that made it feel like someone was just constantly breathing on you. I turned to Jeremy and I said, "I need one of those sun shades to just follow me around outside, at all times."

That's how I know I have Reverse Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder.

I grew up in Oregon where regular SAD is so common that we have lessons in church about recognizing the symptoms of it. So I know it when I see it. Except here in Tucson, with Reverse SAD, I find myself dreading the inevitable onslaught of summer even when it's only February and "only" 80 degrees outside. I seriously cannot enjoy the mild winters here because all I can think about is, "If it's this hot in December, just think about what it will be like in May..." and it's all I can do not to throw up.

This, despite having never spent an actual entire summer in Tucson since we've been here. But I've experienced a few snippets of August and a couple of weeks in May, and that's been bad enough for me.

I realize that some people love the desert and its accompanying summers of death. But I am not one of those people. Opinion aside, however, let's get some of our facts straight. These are some things I hear all the time from people who don't live here, telling me how great I have it.

Myth: You are sooooooo lucky not to have to freeze all winter and pay ridiculously high heating bills!
Rebuttal: Talk to me in May (or heck, APRIL), and ask me how much I'm paying for AC.

Myth: Yeah, but at least you can play with your kids out of doors!
Rebuttal: Except when I can't, for example from June to September when it's 115 degrees outside.

Myth: The desert may not be green, but it is beautiful!
Rebuttal: Only if you go north of River Rd or all the way over to Saguaro National Park. Otherwise, the "desert landscape" consists of dirt, rocks, and weeds. What I would give for some grass for my baby to sit on at the park so she can eat healthy greens instead of sand, twigs, and pigeon poo.

Myth: Don't you just feel so connected to the land, though, all natural and earthy, living in the desert?
Rebuttal: Not really. I don't know that there is anything more artificial than going from air-conditioned house to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned business, and then back again. Even with all the AC, I can't forget that it's more than 100 degrees outside because the car steering wheel remains too hot to touch for five full minutes, and the buckles on my kids' carseats give them 2nd-degree burns.

Myth: But I knew someone from Tucson, and they showed me pictures of their house, and it was beautiful, and they loved it!
Rebuttal: This person, whoever they are, did not live in Tucson. They lived in Marana, Oro Valley, the Foothills, or Sahuarita. That is not the same thing as Tucson, and if you try to tell me that it is, I will smack you. A good rule of thumb for trying to determine if someone actually lives in Tucson is to ask yourself the following questions: Is there an artificial lake? Sidewalks? A complete absence of registered sex offenders? In public places, is the chatter of those around you primarily in English? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then it's not Tucson.

Myth: But at least you can go swimming all the time.
Rebuttal: Well, there is that.

The good thing is that, much like a SAD-afflicted person fleeing Oregon for sunnier skies in California, I will be removing my Reverse SAD self to a land with four seasons soon enough. Upstate New York, here I come!

It's going to be cold. It's going to be gray. And I'm going to love it.

PS - If you thought this was bitter, read this (PG for language) and you'll see that I'm actually restraining myself quite a bit in this blog post.


Crys said...

I spent the first 17 years of my life in Arizona and have absolutely no desire to go back. And can I just say I personally think Tuscon is like ten times worse then Phoenix in the ugly joke :) Here are things I don't miss.

1)We never played outside in the summer between the hours of 10-4. We would read or watch TV. It was just to hot.
2)I always burned the soles of my feet at least once a summer, the day I realized it was now to hot to walk barefoot to the mail.
3)I always burned my arm on the side of my window and I used to keep oven mits in my car so I could touch my steering wheel.
4) There is no humidity but running even at night in the summer can be oppressive.

That being said I live in Illinois where there are times when it is so cold and the wind chill is so strong that it literally hurts every part of you to be outside, even just running to the car. There are also weeks when I would do anything to see the sun. I definitely understand snow birds :)

Karen said...

I was born and raised in Phoenix (in the ugliest part, arguably) and agree completely with your assessment of the heat. I still have 3 siblings in the Phoenix area, and I practically refuse to go visit them between April and October!

Stephanie said...

Oh my goodness! Your post has me laughing. The sad part is it is so very true. Crys and I are opposites in locations of residence. I moved from Illinois to Arizona last August. I live south of Tucson, and yes, there is a lake (even though it is man made). I know we can technically swim all of the time, but I freeze my behind off whenever I get out of the pool. With the lack of humidity, any water left of the body after swimming quickly evaporates giving a very chilly cooling effect.

Jennifer said...

I'm amazed you have put up Arizona heat with so little complaints (well, vocalized complaints here on your blog). Jeff lived in Mesa for a summer and loved it--I tell him he is crazy. TOO HOT!! It was 97 here over the weekend and I wanted to die. Thankfully, it only lasted 3 days. We really are Oregonians at heart, aren't we?

American Muslima Writer said...

Ohh this was too funny. I lived in Tucson all my life to 18 before moving to Lebanon and I know you can relate that going from a land of NO humidity to HIGH humidity is aweful. Everytime I sepped outside in Lebanon's summers I wanted to breathe through a paper bag cause the air was so thick with moisture. I craved my lil Tucson. I'm a desert girl. So now in UAE where it's waaaay hotter than Tucson and Phoenix I'm dreaming of the milder summers there. At least you can "make-do" with a swamp cooler there. Here if you don't have an AC, YOU.WILL.DIE. I literally get sunburned if I go outside for less than a minute without sunscreen. Luckily I was raised in desert environment and can counter-act the heat with fluids, sunscreen, and staying inside from 12-5.
Yes I know what you mean about the AC to AC life. It has it's downside. In Lebanon you can walk everywhere and no guaruntee of AC anywhere in a market but in UAE it's imperitive.
My Mother in Law hates AC and thinks it gives people sicknesses but she was all gung-ho about ACs staying on when she visited UAE and saw the good they bring.
Awww your posts always make me miss home (Tucson).

Mikael said...

True dat!!! You are so right about the desert... I lived in vegas for 4 months (9 months prego) and me and my hubby vowed to never live in a place like that again. So we picked the rainy capitol of the world! but we love it :)
Awesome about NY! Can't wait to read about it :)

justin and jess said...

Here in Minnesota we live with the opposite. Bitterly freezing cold for a good portion of the year. But it is a great place and there are actual seasons here. The winter may be brutal, but at least it is temporary and we have a spring, summer, and fall. We were very close to moving to Phoenix for school and I am glad that we didn't. I don't know if I could handle that much heat. But then again, I can say that now since it is fairly nice outside. Ask me again come January and I will be cursing that fact that we are here and not in Arizona.

Nancy said...

I grew up in Vancouver, but I didn't really get SAD until I moved to Alberta. Let's talk about snow and ice and cold for months on end--being dark when you get to school and twilight as you're walking home.

Ever since living there I can't stand winter. Like, serious depression sets in. My grades drop (well, they did when I was in school), I can't get out of bed, blah, blah, blah. And winter in Utah is not that bad, I promise. sucks.

But I'm kind of understanding the whole reverse SAD now, being pregnant and living in Egypt. It was over 100 degrees yesterday. I was just thinking how I'm going to survive the summer and I really can't think of a good answer.

JackJen said...

And THIS, my friend, is why we laughed Joe's Tucson job offer out of town. (Also, because 2 1/2 years ago, you essentially sent me this most in email form). =)

I CANNOT WAIT to welcome you to the Northeast with OPEN ARMS.

(And I, too, had many a church lesson mentioning SAD growing up...and I, too, am convinced that I have the opposite....It's been pouring rain for 3 days and I couldn't be happier).

Liz Johnson said...

Hahahahahahahahahahaha that's AWESOME. Bridget, you crack me up. I especially love the 'I will smack you' piece. And as much as I complain about the winter, I would take it TEN TIMES before moving somewhere like Tucson. I HATE THE BLISTERING HEAT.

I'm so excited for you guys to move to New York. :)

Lindsay said...

Ahhh, Tucson. I have a love/ hate relationship with it. I do enjoy the fact that we can go swimming in January. But, I am feeling pretty awesome that I don't have to be here this summer. It will be great to take my kids to the park sometime after 7 a.m. and not have to worry about 3rd degree burns from the playground equipment.

Natchel said...

AMEN. To all of the above. Amen.

Julie said...

Bridget, I am the total opposite of you. It probably has to do with the fact that I grew up in Tucson (well, Marana by your definition). We're leaving in a few hours to go visit Tucson and I CAN NOT WAIT to bask in the warmth of the 100 degree weather! I only wish we could stay longer.

It probably helps that winter isn't totally over here in Denver- we just suffered through another snow storm a few days ago. Ahhh, how I would love to be winterless.....

Jill said...

So funny. I am with you all the way and so happy that we will NOT be in Tucson for the summer!

Bridget said...

Crys, I hear you.

Karen, that is the right policy to have. I would institute the same if I were going to visit me.

Stephanie, we literally don't use towels when we swim here. We are dry by the time we get back in the house/car. So convenient.

Jennifer & Mikael, we are all definitely Oregonians at heart.

AMW, you are right about Lebanon. Beirut in August is an aberration.

Justin&Jess, maybe you should aspire to be snowbirds now, while you're young.

Nancy and Julie, I am glad that some people like to live in hot places because I guess somebody's got to do it.

Jen, Liz, Lindsay, and Rachel, thank you for your solidarity. In this post, I wasn't trying to say everyone else is WRONG, but they kind of are, huh.

Just kidding! Lili, where are you? I was sure you would jump all over me on this one. I even wrote it with you in mind, trying not to push you over the edge into disowning me as your friend. :)

Shannan said...

I so have reverse SAD and I LIVE in Oregon. I think it originates growing up on SLC in a house without A/C - I hate the heat and I refuse to live anywhere where the average daily temp is above 70. Give me 60 degrees anyday. But I do love Oregon.

EmmySue said...

Oh how I love this post. I remember moving from Central Coast of California to YUMA of all places. I've heard stories of parents telling their kids they were going to Disneyland only to end up in Yuma, but they had to get their kids in the car somehow. I wish we were moving somewhere with seasons... but jobs just haven't panned out that way. We'll be moving to Phoenix, but at least it isn't as ugly as Tucson. I HATE TUCSON! It may be the horrible experieces we've had here... but I'm sure things would have been different living North of River Rd. Very true about Tucson vs. Foothills and Marana. VERY different places.
I already told David that my first request was a remote start on the car so I can get the AC running before we even get in. Enjoy the seasons... I am so envious!

Jason W. said...

I'm here! Like you said, someone's gotta live here and I will gladly accept! I LOVE the desert!!

I'd like to state also that I think it's great that there are people that actually love living in the East/Northeast or will enjoy living there! :-)

And to explain myself: Growing up in Salt Lake City, I always envied those that lived in St. George because they didn't have to deal with snow (at least not very often) and the cold winters. But I did enjoy the four seasons and loved that there was little humidity to go along with it all. But bottom line? I love the sunshine. I don't think I ever realized how much I loved the sunshine until it rarely graced my life when I was living in Washington, DC. (At least in SLC the bad weather didn't stay for too long and the sun always poked through after a few hours of storming.)

While living in Washington, DC, when the weather started to get nice and the sun started to shine, we got about a month of the welcomed sunshine... and then the humidity hit and it was unbearable to be outside! It was all you could do to get from one air conditioned place to the next because the air was so thick and moist. One lousy month is all we got! Then, once the unbearable summer was over, we got about a month of pleasant fall...and overnight - winter hit us like a bad slap in the face. Wind chills, ice storms and the freezing-to-your-bones-no-matter-what-you're-wearing cold set in and we were left to suffer until that month of spring came again. Hooray! We don't have to wear ten layers and four pairs of socks to go outside! And then before we knew it, spring was gone and summer hits again and we are back in misery.

I just can't say it enough: Three months (or less) of nice weather just doesn't cut it for me! And don't get me started on the wretched humidity!! I think I'd shoot myself if I had to go back to that!!! UNLESS it was Hawaii. I think I could handle that.

I'd rather have burning hands then have my hands suffer frost bite from scraping off ice and or snow from my car.

I'd rather go from AC to AC then hacking my lungs out due to the freezing cold air (which is what happens to me when it's cold...I get serious asthma.)

I'd rather see the sun everyday instead of seeing gloomy skies for months. I don't know how you Northwesterners do it! DC was horrible like that. Just terrible weather for months at a time. I would definitely suffer from SAD if I lived in the NW again!

I love that I can wear flip flops everyday of the year here. I love that because I hate wearing socks. Hate it! Love my flip flops.

And I think Tucson is pretty. Call me crazy? I love the desert scape. Now of course, there are unattractive areas of Tucson...but I think that the foothills are breathtaking. I love the sunsets and the monsoons. So, so cool.

So, I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with Bridget here. I'm sad that you've hated it here so much. But I'm glad you're going someplace that you anticipate loving! I guess you feel about Tucson the way I felt about Washington, DC. So I get it. It's all about preference.

But don't say you didn't meet some pretty awesome people here...and that you might have enjoyed SOME things about Tucson while living here these past five years! :-) You may not miss Tucson, but Tucson will definitely miss you!

Lilianne said...

That last post was from me - Lili! Sorry, didn't know i was signed in as Jason!

Bridget said...

Lili, thanks for weighing in. This post wouldn't have been complete without you speaking up for Tucson :).

Just to clarify, though, I haven't hated my time here. I've hated some things - many aspects of the weather, obviously, and some of the less desirable elements of this city. Tucson is just not for me. We are only here because the U of A is here, which we knew from the beginning. We didn't choose to live here, and knew we'd only be here for a few years, which means that perhaps I never felt obligated to give Tucson much of a chance.

But I certainly haven't hated my existence here. There's a fine line, but it's there, and I just wanted you and everyone to know that when we do move, I will be sad for some reasons. We live here, I deal with it, I find some things to like, but I make no excuses for being happy to move on to somewhere else.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

I love the desert--grew up basically in the Mojave desert. But I couldn't live there now--can't take the heat in my old age. Coming to Tucson or the Mojave for a visit though is refreshing in a way--clear skies, endless vistas. Unlike some, I like Tucson way better than Phoenix which is just endless freeways & traffic.

Now I'm used to Oregon weather & love the cool, clean freshness there. Some of our California family seem afraid of going out in rain but life goes on, & rain never stops us from doing anything.

Kristen said...

This was really funny. And yes, I am at least this far behind on your blog. Have been out of it, let's just say. Anyway, you refer to Reverse SAD as a joke, right? Because of course Seasonal Affective Disorder is more serious than just hating the weather and/or being uncomfortable in it.

Bridget said...

Kristen, it's kind of a joke but it's kind of not. I realize SAD is more than just hating the weather. However, obviously I more than just hate the weather in Tucson. It is a source of stress and concern for me even during the months when it is not so hot outside.

So I would never make fun of SAD, per se, and I refer to Reverse SAD somewhat facetiously in this post.

On the other hand, if there were such a thing as Reverse SAD, I think it would be something like what I described in this post.

Kristen said...

Oh man, I'm sorry. I hesitated to leave a comment at all, because I didn't intend to downplay your particular situation. I think I've been personally experiencing some depressive emotions, and so it just struck a chord with me at the time. Clearly I don't understand how the seasons affect you; my impression from the post itself was that your main concern was with discomfort in severe heat and displeasure with lack of vegetation. I do apologize for jumping to an inaccurate conclusion. Blame my own emotional hypersensitivity. PS: Thank you for the adorable photo of the girls! So beautiful.

Saskia said...

Hi there, you actually have something called Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder (Summer SAD), different from Reverse SAD.

Reverse SAD is more of a hypomanic state, while Summer SAD is a depression during the summer (boy, do I know how that feels!!).


Santa Monica, CA

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Helen said...

I live in New Mexico, and at least we have something like a winter, but I've also lived down in Las Cruces where it's more similar to Arizona weather wise (115, they had that). Since I was a child my sleeping patterns completely flip in the summer and I become nocturnal, even at the expense of repeatedly losing sleep (last summer I had insomnia from July to late August straight. I wish I was joking). I've also noticed in retrospect that, though my entire life, whatever major emotional and anxiety attacks I've ever had have been in the middle of summer.
I've heard people say even here that they could spend all day sitting in the sun. In my opinion, the desert was made for the red and purple colors of sunset and sunrise, not the drab, blinding, migrane inducing mid-day sun.


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