Cabin Fever

snowbound3Cabin fever is defined as boredom, restlessness or irritability that results from a lack of environmental stimulation, according to the American Heritage Dictionary. The name first surfaced in the west in the 1800’s when people were more likely to spend whole winters in a remote cabin  isolated. Wikipedia describes it as a claustrophobic reaction to being shut in a small space with nothing to do for an extended period. When experiencing this, a person may tend to sleep more and have distrust of anyone they are with, accompanied by an urge to go outside even in the rain, snow, dark or hail.  It eerily goes on to say that the character Jack Torrance suffers from cabin fever in the movie The Shining. As if this is some sort of precautionary warning?

I don’t know about Wikipedia’s message intent, but let’s just say I have been feeling bored and perhaps a little irritable lately.  Could I have cabin fever in this day and age of instant connections with people on Facebook, Twitter and constant access to cell phones and texting?  How could I be feeling as isolated as those people in the 1800’s in remote cabins?  Could it be due to the extremes in weather we’ve experienced in the Midwest? I realized it also might be the fact that I don’t have a car right now due to a suspiciously out of the blue engine failure of someone’s car in my family. This cabin fever was made worse by my decision to leave my place of employment two weeks ago and embark in unchartered territory, searching for a more suitable profession that I can pursue with passion.

Items on my to-do list have been checked off. Bills to pay, office to organize, house to clean, laundry to get caught up on  check. Cooking new recipes, baking cookies  check. Reading that deep philosophical book I told myself I would finally read. …I am getting to it as soon as my sock drawer is organized. Yes, I forgot  check.

So I sit in front of my computer plotting and prodding myself forward. No one is there to tell me not to take a nap. The couch looks so comfortable and soft staring at me from the table where I sit writing. What else can I do with my time in the remote cabin of my imaginings?  I start to feel a kindred bond with my 1800’s relatives in those cabins creeping into my psyche. The snow keeps coming down, the winds howl, the temperatures drop to negatives.  Not even Facebook can keep me from claustrophobic feelings in this weather.

Since leaving my job, there have been days I haven’t left my house. To stave off those restless feelings of boredom and sleepiness, I am trying to keep busy and get out once a day. At the very least, until the weather breaks, I will slough my way to the mailbox in the snow and dark of night, if needed.  I will breathe in the frigid air, or be doomed to stir restlessly until the wee hours of the morning, rummaging through the cupboard looking for chamomile tea.

And so with some fresh arctic air in my lungs and my sloughing exercises finished, I sat down the other night with a bowl of popcorn and decided to watch a movie  as I scanned through the listings on my TV  I came to the S’s. The Shining appeared on my screen.

I decided to take a pass on movie night and started looking for that book….

How are you handling this long winter?

-Diane Hiller


About Diane Hiller

Diane has lived in the suburbs of Chicago for twenty-five years. While raising her three children with husband Jon, she has served as village president and now supports historic preservation with the Clarendon Hills Historical Society. Diane’s blog “Pleasant Valley Sunday” appears on and
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2 Responses to Cabin Fever

  1. CTW says:

    Hey Diane! It was nice to see this post in my email inbox! I hope your “one small step” is working out.

    I have a part-time job, so I do leave the house occasionally. But otherwise I handle cabin fever by hunkering down sometimes with a book or a movie, and a hot drink, or doing goofy things with friends from Church — Trivia Night, last Saturday a superhero themed “host-a-murder” party.

    Working on lots of writing projects, too.

    • Diane Hiller says:

      Thanks for getting in touch again. I have been out of the loop while working full time. I am still getting adjusted to being home, looking forward to reading your work. I miss our classes but I have signed up for an online workshop for novel writing. I’m hoping to start that project next. Good luck to you on your projects too!

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