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Finding hope in the changing of the seasons

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But spring does come. No matter how dark and deep January gets, eventually March and April roll around. The snow melts, the green grass returns and the flowers grow.

Karen
Osborne

Winter is rough. Sometimes, even a coat can't protect you from the wind. The sleet soaks your boots. The sky is often overcast, with dark clouds crowding out the warmth and sunshine. While you're outside, all you think about is how to get back inside. What's worse, it feels as if it will always be this way.

On really bad winter days, it's easy to lose hope, thinking that spring will never come.

During Christmas, we can look around and take comfort in the beautiful lights and the warm, fuzzy holiday music. Once January hits and the lights are taken down, it's just a long, hard, cold slog until springtime.

Compared to previous generations, we have it easy. We have heated seats in our cars and industrial boilers in our schools. We have snow tires and responsibility-free snow days to enjoy. Our ancestors starved to death if they didn't grow enough food for winter. They froze if they didn't cut enough wood for fire.

It still doesn't make me feel any less cold when I'm scraping my windshield. It still makes me wonder if I'll ever feel warm again.

Depression is a lot like winter. It settles into the crags of your heart like a cutting wind, making you feel chilly, making your world overcast and cloudy. It buries your hope and your happiness in drifts of snow.

Depression feels like living in a permanent mid-January, away from all the twinkling lights like the world, forever cold, is forever lost in a snowdrift. Depression makes you feel as if spring will never come.

That's the lie it tells.

But spring does come. No matter how dark and deep January gets, eventually March and April roll around. The snow melts, the green grass returns and the flowers grow. Just like clockwork, people don the shorts and the flip-flops, the sunscreen and the sunglasses, and the world becomes warm and wonderful again.

Spring will come. You will feel better.

If you're feeling down, broken or depressed, come in from the cold. There are many ways to do this. Often, the first step to feeling better is to admit that you might need some help finding a warm place to be. Talk to a friend, a trusted teacher or a counselor at school.

Just as communities banded together in the past to fight winter, know that you don't have to fight depression alone. Even though you might feel lonely and out in the cold, there are always people who would jump at the chance to help you.

If you're feeling down, don't give up on the things that make you happy. Depression wants to keep you in bed, away from the world and away from the things that you used to love. It's a temptation to stop seeing friends, to stop from going to after-school clubs you're involved with or heading out to parties and sports games. "It's too cold," you say, and decide it's best to stay inside.

Those things, however, signify hope -- they're the sparkling Christmas lights in the blizzard, the fire on a dark night. They're going to remind you that hope exists and that spring isn't long off. If you feel sad, don't hide away from the world.

Circle that first day of spring on your calendar. Know that it is coming. Yes, winter is tough, but it'll be over soon. That's a fact!

KAREN OSBORNE IS A COLUMNIST WITH THE CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE.

Karen Osborne is a columnist for Catholic News Service

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