In real life, and not perpetually in the Game of Thrones, winter is coming. No joke. In Belgium now, in particular, winter is coming. There’s a new chill in the air that makes it too cold to walk around naked in the early mornings, to go pee or whatever it is you go do naked in the mornings.
It’s cold enough here now to have to start layering clothes, before the inevitable winter. I love winter for the cashmere and whipped cream on steaming hot chocolate, and thick down comforters to keep me warm. The pureness of first real snow always brings me back to when I still had all my first teeth, and snow tasted like magic.
For some people I know, the impending winter is dark and something to brace for, instead of welcome. In my own life, I have loved ones who have struggled with mental health. Seasonal Affective Disorder has been diagnosed before in my family. It’s not just the Starks of Winterfell who get intense about winter coming, and the everything that comes along with it. It’s not just winter either, hence “seasonal.”
Not everyone is fond of the holiday season, and not everyone feels snowflake cheer come winter. For a number of different reasons past, present and future, the winter season is scary and dreary. I never took Seasonal Affective Disorder seriously even though it was in my own family. I guess I never took it seriously until something bad happened.
It was right before Christmas in 2001, and I was on uptown 6 train for my morning commute to Citigroup. I was in the second car of the train, and as we barreled into the 42nd Street – Times Square station we hit some bumps and the train came to a halting stop. I thought, no big deal someone pulled the emergency brake how annoying.
The conductor announced we were going out of service and blah blah blah the doors would open momentarily. I needed to get to work, and I was gonna remember this morning to drop some money into the Salvation Army Santa’s bucket. I kept forgetting to that week.
Right before the doors to the 6 train opened, I noticed that people on the platform were pointing at the tracks below me. I sat there inside the subway car clueless that the bumps I’d felt was the train going over a body. A woman had fallen in front of our 6 train as it pulled in, is what they told me once I got on the platform.
Later there was an update, and it was reported on the evening news a suicide. The woman had suffered from depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder. She’d thrown herself into the subway tracks instead of facing the holidays again. The first car of the 6 train had rolled over her. The second car, and the car I’d been sitting in, had rolled over her only half-way before the the brakes were pulled. I’d felt sick to my stomach realizing it was her body that jostled me in my seat. That poor woman…
I went into work, like an idiot, and explained calmly to my boss what had just happened. I was sent home, and I felt jumpy and guilty all day. I’ve never forgotten that slap in the face to remind me that loneliness kills. It could be someone you know, or a complete stranger. It won’t kill us to show patience and kindness if a few seconds our time can be spared.
It could even save a life for the cost of a few seconds.