Save this one for a rainy day (though you may need to laminate it).
A screening test for dementia is the Mini Mental Status Exam (MMSE) in which short-term memory and orientation are assessed. One question is, “What is the season?” My patients rarely get clues looking out the window; a grey, rainy day could be any time of the year in Vancouver.
Our wet spring has been depressing to many people, particularly those affected by floods and leaks. Most of us are just weary of the wet weather and long for the sun.
3 to 5% of Canadian adults suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression triggered by insufficient sunlight and associated with carbohydrate-craving and increased eating and sleeping. The diagnostic criteria include a seasonal pattern of symptoms over at least two years with the onset in the fall or winter with complete remission in the spring.
The incidence is understandably higher on the West Coast with our long rainy season. If you suspect that you have SAD, check canmat.org (Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments) and consult your family doctor. A therapeutic light box may be prescribed.
For the rest of us with the rainy day blues, we can learn to be happy in the rain. Born and raised in Greater Vancouver, I’ve had plenty of practice. I have warm preschool memories of a basement flood. I sat with my sister in the kitchen eating fresh buttered bread as my aunts and uncles bailed in to help my parents.
I would later spend many hours looking out the window of my parents’ Burnaby home as the rain poured down. I wondered how things could ever dry up. As a student at UBC, I lost track of the number of umbrellas left behind in the rush to the next class.
Our overcast days give us the contrast to appreciate the impact of brighter moments. There is beauty in those darker days, not unlike film noir; I call reality, film gris (grey).
When the sun beams through the clouds, I liken the effect to the moment in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy opens the door to Munchinkinland – the black & white opening of the film gives way to brilliant technicolour.
Two hours later, Dorothy just wants to go home – back to black & white Kansas. Although we appreciate our Munchkin moments and adventures in Oz, we will always return home to the grey zone.
We have to remember that beyond the clouds, shines the sun if not a rainbow, and it’s the abundance of rain that keeps our cities green. When I’ve returned from a trip and feel the cool drops of rain upon my face, I’m reminded that I’m alive and at home in Vancouver.
Vancouverites should have their own rain festival with puddle jumping, dancing and singing in the rain. We could celebrate at any time of the year, and we won’t be too disappointed if it gets cancelled due to the sun.
Embrace what life presents you. Last Saturday, I enjoyed the sound of rain peppering the roof of my car and the swish of tires on the wet road. With caution and attentiveness, we can still enjoy traveling through the rain.
Cycling through the park that afternoon, I discovered new swamps and lagoons where none had been the week before. Sometimes you just have to ride through the puddles; you might as well enjoy them. Everything eventually dries.