For a long time, I never talked about my conditions. There is still a lot of stigma around mental health issues so when I was growing up in the 80s and 90s, it wasn’t something you talked about.
It took until my early 30s before I actually started to admit to people what I was going through. I’ve even written pieces about suffering from anxiety (Have you met my friend, Anxiety and How I live with my roommate, Anxiety).
Since yesterday was World Mental Health Day, I thought it would be a good time to write this post. I believe talking about and sharing personal experiences is important and raise awareness about mental health issues.
So, let me tell you about coping with SAD.
What is SAD Syndrome?
SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder and is a form of depression that can come on following seasonal patterns.
Often the symptoms are more severe during the winter months, easing during the summer months, though in a few cases people will suffer SAD during the summer months and then those symptoms will lift in winter.
Currently, this condition is considered linked to reduced exposure to sunlight, which is why during the winter months the symptoms are oftemn more intense.
The current working theory is that reduction in sunlight may stop the hypothalamus in the brain from working properly. Things like serotonin and melatonin levels may be affected by lack of sunlight and can have a greater effect in some people.
How I’ve Been Feeling
You may have noticed I’ve not been around much. Yes the blog is ticking along and things appear on my social media (thank heaven’s for Buffer), but interactions have been limited.
That is due to SAD. It’s taken quite a grip on me recently. Creating is one thing, connecting is another and I’ve struggled to do the latter.
Since SAD is a type of depression so many of the symptoms are what you would expect when suffering general depression. Some of the symptoms are:
- constant low moods
- loss of pleasure or interest in everyday activities and even hobbies
- feelings of despair, guilt and apathy.
Unfortunately, I’ve been suffering quite badly from SAD syndrome for the last few weeks to the point it became hard to function. (Thank goodness for my planning otherwise everything from this blog, to my social media would have ground to a halt).
I’ve had pockets of what I call “level moods”, often around noon before I’ve crashed quite hard throughout the rest of the day.
Like any type of depression, when it hits, it can be hard to get through the day and just doing the bare minimum, like feeding yourself, becomes a chore.
What I do to Help
There are things you can do to help treat this, and since I am not big on medication since I often have reactions, we tried some non-medication solutions.
Apparently I’ve been so bad that my partner went straight out and got me a Light Box. I used to have an alarm clock that mimicked daylight, so I know light therapy works.
I now have a Lumie Light Box on my desk that simulates sunlight. I use it twice a day and it’s already made a big difference.
My crashes don’t happen until much later in the day and I’m building up to using the Light Box for longer periods. It has been the main thing that allowed me to keep working recently.
Most of my work is done indoors and so I’ve been making sure to get out more. I now take my mother-in-law’s dog for a walk every day.
So not only am I exercising regularly (they live on a hill so there’s a lot of inclines) but I’m spending more time in natural daylight.
Another treatment is talking therapy in the way of counselling or CBT (cognitive Behavioural Therapy), since my anxiety isn’t big on that, I’m currently not doing it but I know the option’s there.
I make sure to talk with my partner, being open and honest about how I’m doing and use a rating system so he can understand where I am in my head. I also ask for help when I need it.
Acknowledge the issue
Shockingly, sometimes just reminding myself why I’m suddenly crashing has been a big help. Since I suffer from severe anxiety as well, when I crash, my anxiety will often kick in.
Nothing like getting that a burst of adrenaline and no where for it to go. I simply remind myself why I’m feeling this way, and take a few moments to calm down.
At the beginning, I just got swept away with it. Taking that little bit of control has made a world of difference.
It doesn’t stop the depressive episodes, but it does ease the anxiety and helps me remember those episodes won’t last forever.
Now, I will have good days and bad days. All I ask is that you are patient with me and if I vanish suddenly, it’s probably because I need to take some personal time away from everything to help me cope.
I may be slow to reply to comments, emails and/or requests and I may turn things down I normally accept.
Finally, if you or someone you know is suffering from SAD syndrome (or any other mental health issue), do reach out and look at the different treatments that can help. Don’t suffer alone.