the smell of my desperation has become a stench

From my courageous friend to those of you who need it

When Marlo and I returned from visiting friends in Southern California a few weeks ago, Dane picked us up at the airport and gave both of us a wide embrace. I asked him about the dogs because either he or Tyrant take care of them when I travel, and after catching up on everything else he asked me out of nowhere if I had a distinct tightness in my chest. Oddly, I had been experiencing that tightness for about a week and had written it off to the stress of school starting up for both girls and making sure I had everything in place.

“Remember what time of year it is?” he asked.

“Oh my god,” I said with recognition. “Here you are reminding me that it’s normal when I was the one who told you about this phenomenon in the first place. Thank you.”

We are very quickly approaching the autumnal equinox, a time of year that can be a little more difficult for those of us prone to depression or anxiety. I try to write something about it every year just as a reminder to anyone who might benefit from knowing that things will get better.

This year I asked Dane if he’d like to write about his experience with this seasonal occurrence because I’ve witnessed the difference it made in his life when he could finally pin a reason to what he feels every year in March and September. He very graciously agreed, and this is yet another reminder to you that you are not alone.


Hello world.

This is my first post to such a large audience, and it is a pleasure to share a story of mine as we enter the fall equinox. Some of you have seen me on this website outside with Marlo barefoot, or have heard about me playing jokes on Heather. As a quick introduction, my name is Dane and I am a student at the University of Utah. Whole Foods is my second home, and when I am not in class, studying, interning, or working, I am usually out raising hell in Salt Lake with my friends.


Like Heather and some of you, I have a sensitivity to the change of seasons. Fall and spring bring about a fire inside my chest that is often hard to bear.

During my first three years of college I was living in the dorms at the university, navigating my way through our huge campus and the new experience of being away from home. Spring was really hard to get through, and at the time I had no idea why. I figured fall was tough because it was the start of school and thus a significant transition every year, and spring was the end of the school year and I had to figure out what I was going to do for summer. That’s all I could come up with.

I can remember way back to elementary school and feeling the extra stress of fall and spring. As each school year started it seemed I had a harder time adjusting than my peers, and I remember getting super anxious as the end of each school year approached.

It was in March of 2012 when I was granted partial freedom in life. I was sitting at the table eating lunch with Heather and Tyrant during the blooming of spring, and she was talking about the equinoxes. She explained how difficult it is for many people, including herself, to cope with the transition of spring and fall, and how the beds at the University Neuropsychiatric Institute have had waiting lists from the influx of people both times of year.

And that was it.

The realization at that moment freed me from the dark world I once lived in—like I was taken out of a maze and shown the path from above. I suddenly knew why I had felt so uncomfortable twice a year for the entirety of my life, and realized It would go away as time would pass after each of the two equinoxes.

With the help of those close to me, I began my search to lessen the effects of my seasonal sensitivity. At the time I learned about the equinoxes, I had been on campus living off a sad diet of Pringles, Fire Cheetos, Sour Patch Kids, and Dr. Pepper (my roommate’s favorite). The effects of having such junk in my system were horrendous for my mental health. Heather has always said to me, “Do whatever works for you. If changing your diet helps, great. If going to church helps, do it. If taking medication works for you, awesome.”

Food was my answer.

I became intensely interested in healthy foods; in part due to my dad being super health conscious, in part due to Tyrant’s guidance, and in part due to my personal interest in getting better. I started going to Whole Foods on a regular basis and fell in love with the atmosphere and how I began to feel after eating such amazing sustenance every day. I could not get enough of the place. Whole Foods (or Whole Fruits as Marlo calls it) and the whole foods I was eating provided me my medicine—my mental freedom.

Looking back at the roller coaster of emotions and stress I’ve gone through over the years has taught me how to better identify and control what I’m feeling, and has brought me to a place of understanding most people do not have. I am stronger now not because the feeling is any less intense than it was years ago, but because I understand it. Now I know why. I know it will go away and that alone has saved me.

Now when something comes up in my life that tests my emotional state, whether it be stress, excitement, or sadness, I feel I am better equipped to get through those challenges. And those who are not affected by this cannot possibly know what it feels like to go through twice a year, and how it changes your lifestyle.

My purpose is to share my experience with those who resonate with my story, and to teach those who want to understand more about this phenomenon. For those who want to say, “I am so glad you have feelings…here’s a gold star,” or, “Oh no, not another one who belongs in a loony bin,” take yourself elsewhere, for no one asked your opinion on the matter. The truth is, everyone has a limitation of some sort—some people have poor eyesight as an inherent limitation and wear glasses, some take medication for an immune disorder or depression. Some limitations are more extreme than others, and some are treated, tolerated, or accepted more than others. But to discount another for their unique sensitivity to the world is an illness of its own.

Despite the increased attention and understanding of mental illness (I personally don’t like this phrase) in our culture, I am still careful who I talk about this topic with. For those who do not understand, they often react as if I am—we are—less capable than they. As if this one thing renders me unstable and not to be trusted. Too often people with similar symptoms are clinically labeled as defective human beings and declared by their friends as unfit members of society.

Maybe it will be one of our next social movements—to make it known and acceptable to have these limitations, whether it be minor and isolated or more intense and complicated.

So I am coming out for the second time in my life: My name is Dane and the change of seasons is hard for me to cope with. I experience the world in a way most don’t, but many do. It is every part of who I am as it is being tall, liking avocados and not coffee, enjoying a night of dancing over one in a movie theater, or having the urge to cry as I stare across the valley at a beautiful thunderstorm refreshing the land below.

The Feeling. The fire inside, the constant burning in my chest, will always be with me—at least during the rough times of year. It reminds me that I am alive on this beautiful planet. This fall and its equinox period may be the most chaotic I have ever experienced, but this is the best fall of my life.

Bring It.

  • casey dunne

    2014/09/18 at 3:29 pm

    Truly true courage. Thank you, Dane. And keep raising hell; it’s good for you.

  • Susan Johnson

    2014/09/18 at 3:31 pm

    What *IS* about this blog that is bringing about the best in me?

  • crooked teeth

    2014/09/18 at 3:32 pm

    September blows.

  • Beth Rich

    2014/09/18 at 3:44 pm

    “Bring it.” Amen, my unknown friend. For me instead of tightness in my chest, it’s in the pit of my stomach.

  • lizandrsn

    2014/09/18 at 3:46 pm

    No wonder Heather surrounds herself and her family with wonderful people like Dane (and Tyrant). I am envious on many levels.

  • Lorrian Ippoliti

    2014/09/18 at 3:54 pm

    Bravo!!!!! Thank you for sharing your Dane-ness with the world. We are better for it. <3

  • Megan

    2014/09/18 at 4:00 pm

    Thank you! I’ve always known I hate, hate, hate fall, but I could never quite figure out why spring made my heart heart, despite desperately wanting to bask in its gathering warmth. Although I am rather dismayed that my plan to move somewhere warmer to avoid fall probably won’t help as much as I’d like it to, I am sure it’s significantly less dismayed than if I had moved and it still sucked.

  • Lindsay Schwarz

    2014/09/18 at 4:04 pm

    This was so well articulated, especially your thoughts towards the end regarding the (unfair) stigma of mental disorders. I am a neuroscientist, and in recent months, my research has led me in a new direction towards studying the brain circuits underlying stress disorders, such as anxiety and depression. I can’t emphasize enough that these disorders have just as much biological relevance as something like cancer or Alzheimer’s, and should be taken just as seriously.

  • Jeanie

    2014/09/18 at 4:04 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Dane. Good luck to you.

  • Kate

    2014/09/18 at 4:08 pm

    Well said, Dane. Bravo!

  • KristenfromMA

    2014/09/18 at 4:09 pm


  • Krista

    2014/09/18 at 4:32 pm

    I have never commented on this site, but I have been reading it for years. And I am commenting now because my experience was somewhat similar to Dane’s. While I don’t know you personally, Heather, it is very possible you saved my life. In retrospect I have been suffering depression since puberty, but when it got really really bad a few years ago, I think the fact that I had been reading this site played a large part in me seeking help rather than jumping off a bridge – something I was fairly certain I would do if I didn’t seek help. I went home to my parents and started therapy and meds, and while I too have equinox issues and still struggle from time to time, I know it will always pass. Even when I desperately want to escape from my own life, I get through it, talk to my therapist, and adjust my meds. It gets better. Thank you so much for giving me the information and courage to survive, Heather. You deserve to know how much you have helped me, and I am sure I am far from alone in that regard.

  • PhotoCoyote

    2014/09/18 at 4:35 pm

    Consider me a sister in sensitivity. It’s so awesomely great to hear from you, Dane, and equally great just knowing you’re here on the planet. Best wishes from a fellow season-sensor.

  • Susie Hobby Helton

    2014/09/18 at 4:38 pm

    so very eloquently written, Dane…thank you.

  • Trudy Gaytan

    2014/09/18 at 4:56 pm

    So very well expressed. Thanks for sharing Dane with us.

  • KimberlyDi

    2014/09/18 at 5:22 pm

    I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety all my adult life but consider myself lucky not to be afflicted by the equinox. Summer is such a long oppressive season here in Texas that Fall is welcomed with open arms. I’ll just consider myself fortunate. Thanks for your contribution and I hope you get the positive feedback that any quality young adult deserves. This reply is free from sarcasm and any incorrect phrasing or terminology would be a mistake on my part.

  • Onthegomom

    2014/09/18 at 5:22 pm

    I am the opposite. I have severe summer disorder. I LOVE the fall and autumn equinox. It makes me feel invigorated. The change in weather. Change in time. Change in schedules. I feel like a layer of myself is peeled off and I am new again. The summer though… That gets me every year. I try to start off telling myself it will be great. By August though I’m drudging through it. Thanks for sharing your story and making all of us feel like we are a little piece of normal.

  • Sarah Franklin

    2014/09/18 at 6:09 pm

    Oh man. I was sitting on the bus this very morning, looking out at the most beautiful Sydney spring day blooming around me and wondering why on earth it makes me want to cry so bloody much. My birthday is in autumn so I’ve always attributed the oppressive anxiety and listlessness I feel then to some kind of mysterious brooding identity crisis. But why, in the glory of spring and the lead up to my favourite time of year, do I feel this deep, heavy melancholy mixed in with the glee? I wondered to myself if I just feel the changing seasons too much. Is that even I thing? Or am I just being ridiculous?
    And then I checked in with Dooce. And here it all is. And once again I’m really grateful for what I find when I swing by.

  • Michael Mathews

    2014/09/18 at 6:13 pm

    Thank you for sharing, Dane, and keep on keeping on.

    I am going to take your comments about food to heart, as I know that is a weak spot for me, and I have been feeling the effects of my choices lately.

    I was also mentally reviewing the times I have had mini health crises, and they often seem to fall in March and September. Never made any connection to seasonal changes before.

  • Tasha Batsford

    2014/09/18 at 6:23 pm

    I had forgotten all about this, but yes, YES, to the chest tightness! Thanks for sharing Dane and Heather

  • dc

    2014/09/18 at 6:27 pm

    thank you. i cried from start to finish.

  • Lauren3

    2014/09/18 at 6:33 pm

    Me too, dc. Christ Amy Poehler Almighty, me too. Thank you, Dane and Heather.

  • Donnag

    2014/09/18 at 6:52 pm

    Perfectly written! I loved every bit of it!! Be a part of this blog more!

  • kara_v

    2014/09/18 at 7:02 pm

    Thank you for this. Not enough words to say how grateful I am to read this today.

  • Teal

    2014/09/18 at 7:38 pm

    “To discount another for their unique sensitivity to this world is an illness all its own.” This is fantastic. I have never heard it said like that before. It makes so much sense. We are alive on this beautiful planet, and that’s enough, even when we feel like we can’t do anything more than just…be alive.

  • Litenarata

    2014/09/18 at 8:19 pm

    I’m curious to know if anyone who is affected by this has moved to a location on the equator where the seasons don’t change like they do farther north/south. Not the cheapest solution, of course. 🙂

  • Momma Margie

    2014/09/18 at 11:28 pm

    I’m so grateful for this reminder today. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life. I’m medicated but that does not completely solve the problem. I’ve been struggling more than usual. Just today I was driving at lunch and saw a water retention pond in Ogden. I had the conscious thought that I could drive my car in there and end it all right now and make it look like an “accident”. This is a good reminder that it will pass, just breathe. Big Loves to you all!

  • Vanessa

    2014/09/19 at 12:05 am

    Thank god for Heather and her post on this a few years back. It completely opened my eyes. September you fucking bitch. Also PMS. Love being a girl! (never)

  • Googhie

    2014/09/19 at 12:41 am

    Thank you, Dane. I hope you saved a life tonight.

  • americanrecluse

    2014/09/19 at 5:58 am

    One of us. One of us. One of us.

    (It’s creepier if you imagine it chanted by small children.)

  • MallyMon

    2014/09/19 at 6:43 am

    Thank you, Dane, for sharing your life. I’ve often heard people say “you are what you eat” and I am only now coming around to believing it. Sometimes of course life experiences do affect us all and it’s natural to feel very sad and low for a while. But sometimes people do suffer from depression for no apparent ‘reason’ (I suffered greatly between the ages of 48 and 52 when I often felt that I could just end things and nobody would notice). But if we can try to adapt our diets slowly, maybe we can start to feel better about the bigger world, and our own smaller worlds. I have lived in Australia and South Africa, and of course the sunshine and lack of snow and freezing weather does help but one can still feel depressed in warmer climates. It’s taken me a long time (I’m 64 now) to understand that happiness starts from within, and if I am what I eat, then maybe I could start experimenting with what goes in my mouth. Back living in the UK, our winter weather is gloomy and depressing and I’m not looking forward to it but I do know now that running away to live in warmer countries (which I still kind of want to do. . .) isn’t the answer. It’s really difficult to know that it’s all down to me because that’s a really big responsibility. I am aware that more people than we know are affected by SAD – and that they are either really good at hiding it, or they hibernate during winter but I do think it’s more the norm than most of us realise. Which raises another question of ‘what exactly IS normal’ – but that’s for another day!

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/09/19 at 6:45 am

    You are loved, Momma Margie. This will pass. Big love to you!

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/09/19 at 6:46 am

    “Christ Amy Poehler Almighty” is now the soundtrack in my head. I love it.

  • MallyMon

    2014/09/19 at 6:46 am

    I have tried moving to hotter, warmer, sunnier countries. It doesn’t work. And, as you say, it isn’t cheap. The solution has to come from within, and that is REALLY difficult! 🙂

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/09/19 at 6:48 am

    Thank you for not jumping off a bridge. This comment means the world to me. I am holding you in my heart, Krista. Thank you so much for getting help. Thank you.

  • Sarah

    2014/09/19 at 6:59 am

    Who else here thinks that Dane should do a weekly “Whole Fruits” post and share recipes and healthy eating tips???

  • Jean

    2014/09/19 at 7:05 am

    OMG, yes please!!!

  • Jean

    2014/09/19 at 7:09 am

    It still boggles my mind and makes me sad to the center of my core that other people do not understand or recognize “Mental illness” (I hate that description too Dane) as something real. My heart applauds everyone who has struggled through it, who has come out on the other side, who is still suffering and for those who sadly lost their battle – my heart weeps for you and I hope you are at peace now. Thank you Heather and Dane for always bringing this issue to the forefront, to keep reminding people that kindness and love are the ways to reach out to others…not through judgement.

  • Jen

    2014/09/19 at 7:12 am

    I have been following your blog for many years and posts like this one always take me by surprise in the most lovely way. I have been dealing with major depression and anxiety since my teens, it is woven into the fabric of who I am. It so fundamental to my personality that I honestly forget that my dark periods are a real “thing” that others experience too, not just a huge, hopelessly deep shadow that is personal to me. Right now, I am sitting at the bottom of the black well that is depression and Dane’s post slid back the cover just a bit, letting in a shaft of light, reminding me that yes, this happens several times a year, and yes, it seems to be worse in the Fall, and most importantly, YES. IT. WILL. PASS. Thank you, Heather and Dane for the light.

  • Litenarata

    2014/09/19 at 7:24 am

    I don’t mean hotter and brighter, I mean places where there is no discernible season-changing.

  • K

    2014/09/19 at 7:30 am

    “But to discount another for their unique sensitivity to the world is an illness of its own.”
    It’s called AssHat Syndrome and those people should be quarantined!

    Beautifully written Dane. Thank you for sharing a piece of who you are to help others who are discovering who they are.

  • Carey H

    2014/09/19 at 9:07 am

    I’ve never heard of this, but it makes SO MUCH SENSE. My sweet 10 year old daughter goes through this, though I never understood that’s what is going on. Thank you both so much for sharing this.

  • jennysue

    2014/09/19 at 9:15 am

    Dane rocks!

  • Rose Marie B

    2014/09/19 at 9:57 am

    I knew it as a kid, but couldn’t name it. I recognized it as an adult, but hid it. This week especially, I’ve felt inexplicably, extra shitty…I forgot it until reading your post, thanks Dane! In my case, springtime is more about flightiness and distraction. It’s like I’m in love and can’t focus on anything. The fall is all about harsh judgement, impatience, intolerance and wanting to isolate myself.You’re so right…some people have no idea what we’re talking about and that’s okay. I finally got to the point of honoring myself enough not to care what others think and I just do my best to cope until the feelings pass. Thanks again Heather, for sharing your life and the players in it, who bring us all so much enlightenment. 🙂

  • Danielle S

    2014/09/19 at 10:42 am

    I shit you not, Heather, my husband and I were literally discussing last night my cycles of anxiety. I said to him that I haven’t been sleeping well this week and have been waking up with intense anxiety in the middle of the night. I told him, “It’s really hard for me to explain. I wake up with the sense that I’m about to start to lose my breath. That I’m going to have an insane freak out. I feel like my body is very heavy, but my heart racing is telling me to move, but I can’t. I don’t know…it may have to do with the fact I know winter is approaching.”

    Last winter was the most intense/worst winter of my life in regards to seasonal depression. I grew up with a mother who was not only a manic depressive, but bipolar, and a severe hoarder. I knew winters only has horrible, aching months to get through to get to a happier Mom in the summer (even though her happiness wasn’t by much in those months, either ) I ended up having to enter into therapy after spending numerous days on the bathroom floor screaming and crying for this crazy and painful internal haze to go away. I’m better now and more equipped to get through this next winter. I’m still fearing it and still getting very anxious over the gloom I know will come. But I feel stronger to get through it.

    This pretty much explains that feeling I get in the middle of the night. My jaw dropped when I started reading this. Couldn’t believe this is what you posted today after what I was just discussing with my husband last night. Thank you again, Heather for what you bring to this world. I just sent this link to my husband.

  • Ruth

    2014/09/19 at 10:43 am

    So glad I read this. I have always wondered why I would be so sad when summer ended. By sad, I mean depressed. Never knew an equinox could affect someone. Thank you.

  • Marie McDowell

    2014/09/19 at 11:20 am

    Yes! Like your favorite finds there and things like that!!!

  • Courtney

    2014/09/19 at 11:35 am

    Such a perfect articulation of what I have been feeling lately. Just yesterday I spent most of the day crying or fighting back the tears. I started a new job about a month ago and attributed my sadness to the stress of that change, but reading this was an epiphony of sorts. Fall is my favorite time of year, but it’s always been Ocotober specifically, and definitely not September. Likewise March has been my least favorite month for as long as I can remember. I never put it all together until now though. And I certainly never thought of myself as “mentally ill” but have been told so so many times that I was being “too sensitive” or “don’t take it so personally.” Thank you Dane for your honesty. I don’t have the words to express how relieved I felt after reading this. I feel so much less alone because of you, my invisible internet friend.

  • Stephanie Ezzell

    2014/09/19 at 12:00 pm

    OH YES. Yes.

  • Mary

    2014/09/19 at 12:00 pm

    While I have never been diagnosed with this by a doctor, my mother suffered silently with autumn/winter depression and I do too. I purchased one of those lights with a timer that I use right after the clocks change in the fall and at half an hour a day, it helps. However, diet and exercise does help. I realized at the end of last winter, that I had not used my light once even though I had a lot more stress in my life. But I had started eating better and exercising so maybe that helped. Some people think it’s a load of rubbish but I know it’s real. It is the worst feeling in the world when you cannot pinpoint why you feel the way you do and when I think it’s because of the seasons and light, I want to kick myself because it seems so stupid. But I know what causes it, I am prepared for it, and I know how to feel better. Thanks, Heather and Dane, for sharing your experiences. It helps.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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