Mental illnesses are persistent — they don’t just “turn off” because the weather is getting warmer or because you have a vacation planned. For many people struggling with mental illness, this persistence can make it hard to enjoy what many deem to be a “happier” or “more exciting” time of year.
That is why we asked our Mighty mental health community to share with us some reasons summer can be hard for them as someone living with a mental illness. So if you feel overwhelmed by the expectations of summer, please remember you’re not alone.
Here’s what our community had to say:
1. The Expectation That Summer Is Fun
“I struggle as I see everyone enjoying themselves in the heat, socializing and generally having fun while I observe from my own mind prison, feeling lonely and beyond miserable.” — Douglas A.
“Feeling like I’m letting others down constantly. We have a pool, but I never want to go out there with the kids. We have family in town and I know they expect us to invite them to cookout and swim, but hosting other people is overwhelming. And then I feel guilty because it feels like I’m this big obstacle keeping others from enjoying their summer.” — Mary-Catherine M.
2. It’s Harder to Understand Why Someone “Could Be Depressed” During the Summer
“Everyone accepts depression in the winter — it’s hard with the holidays and the cold and lack of sun. You hold out hope that once the sun is out and it’s warmer, you’ll feel better; but then summer comes and nothing’s changed in your mind. And people without depression don’t always understand how you can be depressed in the summer.” — Amanda M.
“Everybody tells me to just get some sun, it’ll make you forget your problems. No, it won’t. In fact, just by you saying that makes me feel inferior because I can’t go out like ‘normal’ people, which just makes my depression worse. It’s all a vicious cycle.” — Jenny S.
3. The Heat
“The heat makes me uncomfortable. Also I feel like I am expected to go out and do things when I don’t necessarily want to.” — Jazmine V.
“The heat. It literally kills me. There are times where I just sleep an entire weekend during the summer in my freezing cold bedroom because the thought of even being in sunlight like that petrifies me. And summer is a ‘social’ time — which I would rather not be most days!” — Courtney M.
“I shut down — mentally and physically — when I get too hot. In the summer, I am pressured to be social and appear happy. I would rather be a hermit in an air conditioned room. It isn’t uncommon for me to sleep all day to avoid the heat. I profusely sweat from my hairline, even if I am not exerting myself. It is embarrassing to go places and my hair looks dirty and soaking wet with sweat pouring into my eyes and down my face. It is hard to want to get dressed up for things when I always end up looking like I ran a marathon. It keeps me seeing all my flaws and pulling away from people.” — Samantha S.
4. Lack of Routine
“My routine disappears. I’m a teacher, so my day goes from being highly structured to very little structure at all. This is problematic for my struggles with binge/emotional eating, depression and napping, isolating due to the heat, not wanting to go outside and impulsive spending. It takes very intentional planning and self-discipline to not completely derail during the summer.” — Kara D.
“My kids are often the reason I force myself out of bed in the morning; by waking them up for school I ensure that I make it to work on time. In the summer that routine is disrupted, and having a routine is important to keep me functioning during a depressive episode.” — Mary-Catherine M.
“Not having a set school schedule and working varied hours due to part-time work makes my week very unbalanced. If I don’t have constant plans I find myself sinking into a depressive state more often.” — Kira M.
“I have borderline personality disorder (BPD) and depression, and summer is usually a really hard time (understatement) for me because of the sudden loss of structure. I am a college student, and I’m used to being on a set schedule, seeing people daily, people to talk to, having stuff to do, etc. When this suddenly changes, I can easily drop into a pattern of isolation and oversleeping. I feel lonely, and I start to feel worthless and rethink everything. People with BPD can have a really hard time with structure loss and feeling alone and isolated, and it hits me super hard each break.” — Kellyann N.
5. Experiencing “Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder”
“I know my disorders, but I feel like I have reverse SAD (seasonal affective disorder) in the summer. (This is not a diagnosis, just what it feels like.) I get more depressed in the summer if that’s even possible. My suicidal ideations usually become plans. I struggle to get out of bed and to feed myself. The heat is just so extreme I feel like I’m dying from heat stroke. I’m one of those odd balls who prefers the winter because my symptoms aren’t as bad.” — Brianna P.
“I have ‘backwards seasonal depression.’ This means I become more depressed when it gets hotter outside. Really the only time I enjoy summer is at the beach. Other than that it’s just so sticky and hot — triggers migraines off and makes me feel horrible.” — Miranda W.
6. Showing Your Self-Harm Scars
“Going outside while being overweight and battling body dysmorphia and anxiety. Always afraid of what people think. Hiding scars from self-harm, but I covered them up with tattoos. Going to eat ice cream with my daughter and being paranoid that everyone looks at me and hates to see me because I am so hideous. The long days are too much while fighting depression.” — Mandy D.
“Scars. I had the majority of them covered with tattoos so I could have my arms out in the hot weather. But I now have some on my upper arm and I’m back to covering up after three years. I shouldn’t feel like I have to cover them for the sake of others. It’s my body. But that’s just me I guess.” — Amy W.
“People staring and asking me about my self-harm scars. I can understand people looking at them, but when people are rude about it, it can make me uncomfortable. I don’t feel like I should suffer and overheat by wearing sleeves in the heat, but on some days when I’m already struggling, the staring gets a bit much. “ — Lucy L.
7. Feeling Trapped at Home
“Having a mixture of depression and social anxiety, I feel trapped. I don’t have any friends, so I don’t get to really do any kind of fun summer activities. It’s hard seeing everyone else having fun when you feel completely trapped inside not only your head, but your house, too.” — Gina G.
8. Missing Your Childhood
“Summer is hard for me because I want to be a kid again and just enjoy it with no worries, then reality sets in and I realize I’m grown up, then mood swings start. It becomes a vicious cycle of reality versus wanderlust.” — Elizabeth P.
9. Wearing Summer Clothes
“The expectation of having to wear summer clothes when I want to hide behind longer clothes. I’ve even heard one of my husband’s family members comment on me wearing full-length jeans to a backyard barbecue in the summer instead of shorts.” — Jeneane M.
10. Pressure to Be Social
“I have anxiety and people always want to hangout and do stuff. I hate the heat and it’s hard for me to be outside too long. Being around people, especially people I don’t know, for too long wears me out. Plus there’s the guilt for declining invitations to do stuff. Like, it’s not that I don’t like you, it’s just that doing things like that is hard for me.” — Megan M.
“Having to socialize with people is so hard. I feel like you are obligated to go out and talk and make friends, but I just want to hide in my house and be alone. The anxiety I get from just thinking about it is huge. I can’t control it.” — Priscilla U.
“Sometimes it’s the constant struggle of wanting to be social and yet not social. Worrying about what my body looks like to people and if my medicine is going to make my blood pressure low while trying to maintain the mindset that it’s summer and to have fun, even though my head is constantly racing with thoughts.” — Tyler A
11. Pressure to Spend Time Outside
“My family wants me to hang outside with them when all I want is to be inside. Like today, while they are out enjoying the pool, I’m inside trying to will myself to straighten up my home. The fact that it’s warmer and there are more outside activities makes it harder for me to know my kids are struggling through me by me not wanting any part of it.” — Sherrie L.
12. Less Contact With Your Support System
“Not being able to see people that mean the most to me very much because of vacations, varying work schedules and so forth. Depression can get the best of me sometimes. Even though I am an introvert and need my alone time, being around certain favored people to not succumb to the terrors of depression is vital — both in summer and all year long.” — Ashlyn B.
“During the summer I am home from school. I have no friends nearby and have to live at home with a family who doesn’t understand my struggles. Instead of having people who support me when my symptoms show up, they get angry and frustrated with me. I end up feeling very isolated and helpless.” — Sharayah W.
13. Increased Isolation
“Summer becomes one of the loneliest times for me. Everybody travels or goes out, but I usually stay inside because I don’t feel like doing any activity. Going out and feeling the sun only makes me feel down and blue. It is a hard time.” — Bna R.
“I struggle because it’s usually a season of isolation for me. People are going places and doing things like going to the beach. I don’t have the energy to keep up most of the time, so I’ve spent my summer months alone in bed, away from everyone. It blows” — Danielle N.
“I tend to isolate — whenever I have idle time is when my mind gets bad. During the summer I’m alone a lot and have time to myself most of the time. My arms and legs are covered in scars and every time I leave the house I change into a long-sleeve shirt despite the 95 degrees weather. The people staring or the question asking makes me uncomfortable.” — Maya S.
14. The Pressure to Have a “Summer Body”
“Experiencing summer in the midst of battling anorexia is very difficult. I become very obsessed with achieving a ‘summer/bikini goal weight” but end up taking it to an extreme. If I’m in a bathing suit or shorts in public, all I can think is ‘everyone is looking at your gross body,’ ‘everyone is absolutely disgusted with you,’ ‘you’re not skinny enough to pull that off yet,’ ‘take it off and lose some weight so you can.’ Going to summer barbecues/parties full of food and snacks is just hell. Summer is beautiful, but it’s also very hard on my eating disorder, and it can be really hard to find any beauty in it at all at the end of the day. [I] really hope I can learn to manage this thing. I miss loving summer.” — Carson A.
“It’s so difficult to enjoy myself when I am so entirely consumed with my body image. It’s harder to enjoy myself when I see people with fit or slimmer bodies, especially when I see myself as a heavier person. Not being comfortable in my body, but essentially being forced to to wear less covering clothing because it is so warm. Body image issues in summer are the true struggle.” — Hannah M.
15. Feeling Guilty for Staying In Bed
“I’m often fighting the urge to stay in bed all day because of my mental illnesses. In the summer this just makes me feel so guilty because I live somewhere that’s often cold and grey, so I don’t want to take nice sunny days for granted. But I can see everyone enjoying the nice weather and I want to be too, but a lot of the time I’m too sad to go outside. It’s difficult to dress for summer because I’m overweight with an eating disorder and if I’m at the beach or wearing summer clothes people stare at me. And I guess it doesn’t help that I have noticeable scars from self-harm that people also look at.” —Molly S.
“I struggle in the summer because I want to take full advantage of the sun, mountains, being outside etc. — but with my anxiety I end up staying in bed and in my house way too often. I always let my plans fall through. In the winter I always think: ‘Summer will be better because I can get outside.’ And then when I’m not mentally able to, I’m really hard on myself and I feel like I can’t do anything.” — Chelsea W.
Originally published on The Mighty