Category Archives: seasonal affective disorder

Doubts about Being in the North

I am increasingly of the thought for some reason that I ought to head south, urgently. Obviously I expect down the line to be living in Afrika, and possibly Latin America too, for at least a few years, probably when I’m in my thirties. For now I am a student in NYC, where I’ve mostly been all my life except for half a year in West Afrika, including a semester at U of Ghana and time in my ancestral, embattled, yet beautiful homeland, the Niger Delta. My line of thought of late has been one of general concern that winters truly aren’t for me. And if I could I wouldn’t deal with one more of them in this life.

Interestingly, I don’t do bad in cold weather per se. I actually do much better than most people of any skin color. And I’m a very lean and very very dark skinned Afrikan brotha. Dark like any of the most deeply West Afrikan indigenes which is what I am, 100% Kalabari-Ijaw, supremely black and natively equatorial. I like humid weather which I get here in the region of NY Harbor, a characteristic which is climatically very similar to southern and especially southeast (AKA “south-south”) Nigeria. If not for massive urbanization these climes support a historic dense woodland, a tiny fragment of which is preserved in a little forest down my Jersey street. Even Manhattan (Manahatta) was once all woods, not just parts of Central or Inwood Hill Parks. So I am happy with regular precipitation throughout the year.

But I wonder if I’m built for this latitude. Obviously I can withstand it, 40 degrees and change North of the equator, that wonderful band near where all dark skinned peoples evolved to deflect excess UV radiation and enjoy proper sunlight levels to stimulate vitamin D production and stay functional and beautiful. But as I move into an even more intense and dedicated level of raw veganism/ fruitarianism (I’ve been 100% vegan since summer 1999, 80% raw since Oct. ’07, and 100% raw for a year now, and at this point I’m ditching nuts, strictly eating fresh organic fruits and green vegetables only, and I take no supplements whatsoever for anything) I worry of not getting enough sun in these NYC winters.

When I went to Ghana in ’07, I completely skipped winter for that year. I came back to NYC in the summer and went almost a year with mild to hot weather and plenty of sunshine. I now realize that I REALLY LIKED THAT. My body liked that move supremely. I was outdoors all the time in Ghana, even more than some Ghanaians who thought I was a little strange for insistently walking everywhere, even under equatorial noon sun. That equatorial hot 90 degree F noon sun, I increasingly am accepting truly, must be correct for me.

Last winter I didn’t think about this issue that much, but now it’s really on my mind. Almost half of Afrikans living in North America are Vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D is responsible for proper bone growth, immune function, metabolism, mineral utilization, and so much more. A recent resurgence in rickets in the US struck Afrikan children almost exclusively. The colon cancer epidemic among Afrikan males in the US is at least partly related to vitamin D deficiency. And I know that, although I do not and never have suffered from seasonal affective disorder, my direct experience of almost a year of summer was awesome – on a physiological level and possibly even on a psychological one.

Our melanin across indigenous human populations has adapted over tens of millennia to the amount of UV radiation exposure based on distance from the equator, where all the most deeply pigmented populations are indigenous. I am beginning to intuit in my innermost consciousness that the truth is, I am up to 40 degrees from home. I am really thinking about moving to the tropics ASAP – Florida? – at least until I’m ready, after completing certain studies and preparing myself economically, to dwell south of the border long-term. In the meantime, I am also putting myself on the lookout for serious UV sunlamps/ full spectrum vitamin D-stimulating lamps which, at their expense, will be costly for this young student of modest means.

Ideally though, I ought to be spending mad time outdoors in the tropics in the sun exercising and sunbathing and doing other activities on a daily basis, as nature intended, away from the trappings of these computers and other pulls of indoor life, including winters and cold springs and autumns which I am not physiologically indigenous to. I am way too black for winters. And NYC’s winters are admittedly rather mild compared to the icy lunacy Afrikans go through in Chicago or Detroit.

But I still would prefer at least to be on the tropical edge of North America, if not right up in an equator-straddling country. I hear really ridiculous things about Florida though. For intellectual and sensitive people in North America, it seems the Northeast, from Washington to Boston, is king. And NYC is right in the heart of that. And the history of amazing Afrikan struggles and accomplishments in this part of the continent is astounding. And Afrikan communities here are of immense potential to be organized in a revolutionary fashion (my MA thesis was on New York as a Pan-Afrikan City, after all).

Yet I think I will easily leave this behind once I am ready. I know I almost surely never want to visit Europe again – even summers are barely mild in some spots there. Same goes increasingly for the northern latitudes of the United Snakes. I want that hot sun! Humid, sticky, boiling, searing! It’s good for my jet-black skin and my brown eyes. And to get out of the urban jungle would be a much appreciated bonus, as important perhaps for psychological well-being as going where it’s sunnier.

To think that, where I currently live, amidst a large South Asian/ desi population, all these folks are now in this northern latitude – it’s no wonder that diabetes and cancer are exploding among Asian populations in NYC – it’s not just the adoption of sad American diets and sedentary lifestyles – perhaps it’s distance from the climes of tropical India too!

Meanwhile, let me find an expensive full-spectrum UVB sunlamp to prop up in my corner. But one day soon, I will be ready to settle down in the tropics for good and live seriously naturally – access to big tropical fruits all the time, touching the land and planting trees, outdoors ALL THE TIME, getting hot and staying black.

Don’t get me wrong – one may leave the NJ/NYC, but the NJ/NYC never leaves the person. If/ when I do leave there will be many places and faces missed, like my Kung Fu temple and family, my elders from Newark to  Brooklyn, my young comrades across the urban jungle. Gotham forever!

These have been some thoughts about the Sun. To the mighty mighty Sun I bow.