Rain-birding

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 60 , No. 3 , April 2018 , Pages 141 Editorials

By the time this editorial is published I will have survived another winter. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love living in British Columbia and particularly the Lower Mainland. I have called it home since preschool, and love the people and beauty of our province. I can’t imagine residing anywhere else. I have taken care of numerous retirees who disappear around November only to reappear in my office the next April. These snowbirds escape winter by fleeing to warmer destinations. I remember thinking that if I were retired I wouldn’t have a need to go south and would spend my time enjoying all the fabulous local activities. However, over the years I find myself dreading the onset of another Vancouver winter. It’s not that I’m afraid of being wet or cold (I realize we are waterproof and I can always put on more clothes) but find the seemingly endless dreary, wet, and grey days harder to tolerate with each subsequent year. I become less motivated and slightly irritable. My energy plummets and I drag myself around. Previously, when I listened to patients describe seasonal affective disorder, I would think to myself, nope, not me. I certainly don’t remember lying around as a teenager (well, yes, I do, but that is just a side effect of being a teenager) thinking about the rain and hoping it would stop. 

So, what to do? I don’t feel my symptoms merit medication, and sitting in front of a light box would detract from couch surfing and Netflix bingeing. Therefore, I decided to build sun breaks into my winter schedule. Thankfully, I have the financial means to get on an airplane and head to sunnier destinations. I am still working out the details, as all-inclusive vacations to places such as Mexico nurture my inner 300-pound alcoholic who can’t seem to refuse any offered beverage or food item no matter the time of day or night. I return solar satiated but filled with disgust and self-loathing of my gluttony. Looking for an alternative, I attended a cycling camp in sunny California this past February. Daily guided rides offset the evening gorging and calorie fest so I at least returned home weight neutral but not without a few tender areas.

Moving forward I intend to fine tune my winter escape plan as I don’t think my late onset seasonal affective problem is likely to resolve. In fact, I anticipate some worsening as the years go by. 

Lastly, if you think about it, shouldn’t retirees who leave Vancouver from November to April really be called rain-birds?
—DRR

David R. Richardson, MD. Rain-birding. BCMJ, Vol. 60, No. 3, April, 2018, Page(s) 141 - Editorials.



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