When poets refer to the “dark night of the soul,” or gasp “more light!” with their dying breath, I know exactly how they feel. As a person with Seasonal Affective Disorder, my personal objective each winter is:
Just get through it.
So it will probably not surprise anyone that today, the Winter Solstice, is my favorite holiday. Last night was the longest night (and shortest day) of the year. Starting today, each span of daylight gets a little bit longer for the next 6 months. There is another month or more of chilly weather ahead, but I made it through the bottom of the year, a very heartening milestone.
Winter with SAD is an endless round of rediscovering, when I notice that I have become snappish and utterly unmotivated, that I need to tend to my light therapy, get my sleep cycle back on a reasonable schedule, and/or spend more time outdoors. I don’t even try to curb my carbohydrate consumption. With the limited energies of the season, I have to pick my battles.
What would it be like to live on the equator, with 12 hour days and 12 hour nights year round? The consistency would be a relief, but I’d sure miss the 16 hour days at the other end of the year.
I have tried to calculate what shape and orbit and tilt would be required for a planet with my ideal weather (58-72 degrees, 365 sunny days a year and rain only at night), but my limited knowledge of astronomy fails me. And honestly, if it’s impossible, I don’t want to know. We all need our winter dreams.
You may not have noticed if your weather is anything like mine, but the Winter Solstice passed about an hour ago. This means the longest night, the bottom of the year to people with SAD, is behind us, and daylight tomorrow will last longer than today. Hang in there.
About those other things that have been going on with me lately? One of them is the weather. We just had a nasty heat wave, and I have Seasonal Affective Disorder.
A SAD State of Affairs
SAD, or, as it is officially (but inaccurately) known, Major Depression with Seasonal Pattern, is clinical depression in response to factors in the physical environment.
Winter SAD, which you may have heard of, results from insufficient exposure to light. It was first observed as a winter-related phenomenon, since sunlight is weaker, days are shorter, and clouds are more common during winter in many climates.
However, SAD can also be found year-round in people who work at night and sleep during the day, or even those who live in sunny places but spend very little time outdoors. That makes the name misleading, and the official diagnostic criteria just plain wrong in far too many cases.
Summer SAD, which you probably haven’t heard of, is major depression triggered by heat, usually in conjunction with humidity (I’m fine in the desert). It also is not necessarily seasonal, but can occur wherever someone is exposed to hot and humid summer-like conditions, whether natural or artificial.
I have both types of SAD. Continue reading
There’s a drought where I live. Drought is a terrible thing for wild animals, farmers, and lawns. But for me, endless sunny days are a dream come true. My name is – well, never mind – and I have Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Don’t let anybody tell you there’s no winter in coastal California, because there is. I admit, it’s a kinder, gentler winter, but in an average year, 4 inches of rain a month for 4 consecutive months results in significant solar inhibition. That’s when I hunker down in front of the light box, cancel my expectations, and hope life doesn’t throw me any curves for the duration.
I used to live in a place with 300 cloudy days a year. Continue reading
Recently, a fellow HSP blogger raised the question of whether knowing one is an HSP might make depression a little easier to handle. In other words, could knowing you are an HSP help you to take a step back and become conscious of your own reactions and needs, instead of automatically acting them out? Continue reading
If my last post sounded a little blue, put it down to a cold which arrived before Christmas, rendered me voiceless for 4 days, and then departed, except for an annoying and unproductive cough. And I was fine for a week. But now it’s back, like a viral boomerang. No fair! I have antibodies!
But that’s the least of my problems, rationally speaking. My economic situation is dire. I’m counting and budgeting every cent, walking miles to work (when I’m not running a fever) to save bus fare, reducing my breakfast eggs from 2 to 1 and slicing the bread thicker.
I’m finding myself curiously calm about this. I’m doing everything I can think of to do, and I’ll just have to deal with whatever comes. It’s not like me. My motto has always been “hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” I was the woman with the backup plan. And even so, anxiety was my middle name.
Now I’ve been thrown on the mercies of near-strangers who never struck me as empathetic, and who are not responsible for me in any way. And they have been altruistic beyond all bounds of logic or self-interest. I’ve also received a number of random and very timely gifts from completely unexpected sources. The unthinkable has happened, and I’m not only alive and kicking, I’m grateful.
I’ve never been a devotee of gratitude as a practice. Too many people have tried to shove it down everyone’s throats as a cure for “negative” feelings, like anger. Most therapists will tell you that healthy, constructively-expressed anger is a normal and necessary thing which does not need to be cured. Discomfort is a spur to action. It isn’t supposed to be pleasant. If it was easy-peasy to examine feelings you’d rather not have, stand up to that bully, protest that injustice, you would already have done it. Continue reading