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Becky Mairi Farrell: Summertime and My Mental Health

Long summer days are many people’s perfect time of the year, however Becky explains why it’s not the season for her.

Sunflowers on a sunny day

As the days lengthen and the temperatures rise, most people seem to be happy about the arrival of summer. Not me. I’ve never been a fan of the season because of its impact on my mental health. Give me drizzle or a crisp autumn morning any day!

So, what’s not to like about summer? It’s hot and sunny (for the UK) and there’s just so much light about! Actually, I do love the bright early mornings and evenings, although the excess of light can give me eye strain due to my visual impairment. Really, it’s the hot and sunny that I don’t like.

Suddenly there are people hanging about everywhere. No more heads down rushing through icy showers, everyone’s out and about and lingering on street corners. I feel so exposed and open to scrutiny. This is increased by the need for summer clothes. I can’t bundle myself up in jumpers and big coats. In summer our bodies are that much more on show, and I’d really rather that mine wasn’t. Partly this is because of my long-held wish to be invisible – isn’t the internet great for that?! – and partly it’s because my scars are so prominent. OK, I could choose to wear long sleeves, and sometimes I do to avoid people’s gaze. Sometimes, though, it’s just too hot.

The other issue I have with summer is that some of my meds make me photosensitive. On a sunny day I can sunburn in 5 minutes and it’s a horrible itchy kind of sunburn. I’ve even been known to get sunburnt on grey and cloudy summer days! Even with factor 50 on I’m not immune to the rays. This year I got fed up with an itchy sunburnt scalp – I refuse to put sun block on my hair! – so I’ve bought a couple of hats. I have to say that these have made quite a difference to my ability to smile at the sun, even if it is through gritted teeth.

Bring on autumn. When everyone is moaning about the darker evenings and misty mornings. I’ll be out and about in my jumpers and coats, soaking up the drizzle and smiling at the rain. I will reclaim my locality from those summer strollers and let them leave me to meander outside as they rush to get back into the warm and dry. My solitary walks will be so lovely and … solitary. I will stop feeling so vulnerable and exposed. Like autumn leaves, I will shine all the more brightly as the heat recedes.

Becky Farrell

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