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.

  • REK981

    2014/09/19 at 12:20 pm

    The thought has never occurred to me to live anywhere but where I do. But now…You have the gears in my mind turning. I am going to look into this. Even if just for a test drive. Thank you

  • REK981

    2014/09/19 at 12:23 pm

    Last year I went beyond what I lovingly referred to as my ‘grow light’ and had my husband install a new light fixture in my kitchen with 7 bulbs in it. I then put in 7 natural light halogen bulbs so that I have an entire room dedicated to warmth and light anytime I want, or need it. I have lived with the 4 seasons and all their change my whole life and I have always hated it. Fall is the WORST, it gets so dark and it does squeeze my chest. Spring is misery with this dead light and dead ground. Thank you. I am not alone, you are not alone, we are not alone. The seasons will change and we will make it through to the other side. Thank you

  • Dillon A.

    2014/09/19 at 12:27 pm

    I do not have this problem with seasonal change, however, family members very close to me do. It has been rough in the past watching those so close to you struggle and fight for the happiness that most people take for granted. I am so grateful that Dane has found help in a healthily diet and lifestyle. I think we can all learn from Dane and how he overcame the severity of his “disorder.” Thanks bro.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/09/19 at 12:49 pm

    I will definitely ask him if he’s interested!

  • Christine

    2014/09/19 at 12:55 pm

    I loved hearing from Dane — he seems like such a sweet, caring, honest young man. I hope my boys grow up to be that way. Keep raising hell Dane!!

  • Lisa P.

    2014/09/19 at 1:49 pm

    Oh my goodness, Rose Marie! I feel the absolute same way in spring and in fall. Thank you for putting this into words for me!

  • Jennifer

    2014/09/19 at 2:12 pm

    I detect next month’s masthead quote!!

  • Heidi Payne

    2014/09/19 at 2:14 pm

    Love this idea!

  • Franca Bollo

    2014/09/19 at 2:20 pm

    My battle months are January and February, which is not uncommon, so when they roll around, I make sure I’m on my best self-care behavior: eat well, sleep well, meditate regularly, take my meds, see my therapist, exercise a lot and be very kind to myself. For some of us, it just takes more work. Period.

    I came so late to understanding how powerful the foods I choose to eat affect my moods. Cutting out sugar, dropping wheat entirely and cranking up the protein (I’m a pescatarian) and fat (yes, fat) have made a marked difference in my life. I’ve dropped 10 pounds, have pretty much ended my bouts of mind-f**cking hypoglycemia, no longer fart (thanks to no wheat!), have more energy and just FEEL better (my brain is less of an asshole).

  • Jennifer

    2014/09/19 at 2:22 pm

    Today has been awful. Yesterday was awful. The entire week has been awful, but it all culminated in a horrible clash of anxiety and an extra heavy heart today when I awoke. Right now I am sitting at work, my legs criss-cross-applesauce, sitting on my hands and clenching my toes. A slight shiver ripples through my body, but I’m not cold. My chest is tight and my stomach feels like a brick resides there. I haven’t missed my daily meds because they are my lifeline. My eyelids slightly droop and there is a slight sheen of unshed tears hovering, waiting to break free like a dam. I am so totally, inexplicably sad. And for no fucking reason! Everything is okay in my life right now. I should be happy.

    I had no idea why I was so heavy and anxiety-ridden today. Then I read your blog just now, and I remembered. I don’t know how I ever can forget September, the month I loathe, but it had slipped my mind. I remember now. And I know I get off work early in an hour, and I can go pick up my son, go home, wait for my man to come home, wrap myself in a blanket and weather the rest of this fall equinox emotional storm. I’m gonna be okay, hopefully soon. It’s in these moments that I hate my mental illness the most; I never asked for my brain to be this way. But I won’t stop.

  • tryingtofigureitallout

    2014/09/19 at 2:25 pm

    I had been in a very happy relationship with someone for just short of six months. They were diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency the first few months. Towards the end they pushed me away to protect me and eventually were diagnosed with bipolar after a severe depression. While I have been waiting and hoping for things to improve I have been learning as much as I can about SAD and Bipolar and I am becoming more convinced that at least in their case that the equinox and possibly full moons are a major contributor to the condition. In the past my former partner had mentioned that they were depressed the previous summer and again this past spring/summer is when everything fell apart. I believe that it is no coincidence that the change in their behavior towards the relationship began within days of the spring equinox. Now here we are about to experience the autumn equinox and after 5 months of little or no contact I receive a text out of the blue wishing me well. In addition they have recently returned to a mutual gym we attend after a three month absence and they have started to become slightly friendlier to others and myself. They also work swing shifts which once again I have read can contribute to summer depression. Out of curiosity I looked back to some of the impulsive and unusual behaviors they exhibited during the last year and noticed that many of them happened within 3 days of a full moon. This includes two breakups, restricting, blocking, unblocking, re-blocking on social media and an over all sense of irritability to just name a few. I am wondering if anyone else who seems to experience this seasonal change in mood has perhaps noticed a difference in their sense of well being around the full moons? We met end of August last year but they did not start inter- acting with me until October so I am also really interested to see if there is a marked upswing in their mood come this Monday. Also for those of you who experience seasonal shifts in mood, do you find that the changes take place slowly over a few weeks or do you just wake up feeling like a completely different person? The lack of information on Summer Sad is frustrating to say the least so I am really glad to find this blog and appreciate any light readers can shed on my questions. This is a person I care deeply about and I really want to have a good understanding of what may be happening with them if possible.

  • Ang

    2014/09/19 at 3:01 pm

    So interesting! I’m somehow the opposite, I’ve had a great week because of the change in seasons. I think I would suffer the most where there was no change or where it was hot all the time.

  • Stabbin Robots

    2014/09/19 at 3:22 pm

    I have always gotten super depressed every autumn when I hear geese – it means they’re flying south and it’s almost winter. When I hear them return in spring, I feel a bit better, but it’s a superficial hopefulness. It takes me awhile to be ok.

  • Michelle

    2014/09/20 at 10:13 am

    Regarding the stigma of mental illness. I have never met a single person in my entire life that I would not consider “afflicted” with some sort of condition that would likely be diagnosed as a mental disorder. Everyone – EVERYONE – has at least one. The degree to which a disorder can disrupt a person’s life can vary, but we definitely all have them. The brain is not a clockwork mechanism of perfection that sometimes breaks and needs to be fixed. It’s an organic collection of substances in an ever-adapting balance. As an artist, I envision the mind as a palette of colors. We’re all similar, yet everyone’s palette is different. Our palettes are created by genetics, experiences, aging, injury, environment, etc. That elusive clockwork-perfect mind that for whatever reason is called “normal” does not exist. While some people have disorders that are mild or mostly non-disruptive, the so-called “normal” mind is a complete contrivance. Striving for normality in that sense is futile, and if you think you’re “normal”, you’re mistaken. You just have a different palette of strengths, quirks, and disorders than others. Some are lucky to have a brain palette that for the most part works fine with their lifestyle, others are not as lucky and require special care to find a more compatible balance. I’m bewildered by the social stigma of mental illness. I truly believe stigma causes worse problems than the mental disorders that are stigmatized. It pushes sufferers deeper into denial, isolation, and desperation when they could instead be seeking, discussing, sharing solutions.

    Thanks for sharing, Dane. Great article.

  • Kelli

    2014/09/20 at 11:12 am

    I want to hug Dane so bad right now. <3 <3 <3

  • Desiree myob

    2014/09/20 at 4:59 pm

    Wow I just read the comment under mine. You Heather also saved my life. I was having a nervous breakdown and I remembered you posting how you went to a mental hospital and it saved you. I went and got help and it saved my life. And now again I am helped with your blog. I was wondering why I have been feeling heaviness in my chest and I’m just off and my anxiety is up. Duh! Fall, school equinox. And also very happy that it does go away Just wanted to say thanks..from a person who also doesn’t feel and think like the rest.

  • PrunellaV

    2014/09/20 at 8:28 pm

    Beautiful, Dane.

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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