SAD

During the months of October/November and again in the soul suck that is January/February, I get a lot of questions about Seasonal Affective Disorder. I don’t know why I have never written anything comprehensive about my experience with SAD. (How sad, really!). So here I sit in front of my sun lamp with an FAQ list just for you, or anyone who gives a toot.

Here I sit in front of my sunlamp.

So, how were you, like, diagnosed with SAD?
I saw a psychologist during my senior year of high school when a lot of ish was going down for me. I continued to meet with this therapist on breaks in college. On one such break, she said that she had noticed a pattern of when I would slip into a depression. She noted it was always around the time that the days got shorter, and then it would seem to lift around the time that daylight savings ended. Yeah, was a super sleuth. She suggested that I get a sun lamp and just see what happens. She herself used one in the winter whenever she got home from work to motivate her to do her notes.

So I bought one on the intranets for $200. This was 1999 when I was a sophomore in college. I had a single room so I could sit in front of the lamp whenever I wanted. I didn’t really know what I was doing but I noticed almost immediately that sitting in front of the lamp every day for 15-30 minutes right as the sun was setting helped me to feel more energized and positive. I noticed that I was more focused after light treatments, and that I didn’t eat three solid meals of ice cream and cereal. Woohoo!

Where did you buy your sun lamp?

I purchased it from The Sun Box Co. in Gaithersburg MD. It is about 14″ and sits on my desk. The model that I use is what they call the Sunlight Jr. I have never had to replace the bulbs–they have lasted ten eleven years!

How did you learn how to use it?

I had the opportunity to participate in a study through Brigham & Women’s Hospital when I was in Boston. When I moved to Boston, I struggled the most with SAD since I had always lived on the other side of Eastern Standard Time Zone. Boston is obviously at the far end of the time zone, so the sun was setting in the winter as early as 3:30 p.m. Chances were often good for me that I would not even see the sun, working in a vacuum of an office building. So I joined this study hoping that I could learn something. The lead psychiatrist on the study said that I should attempt to sit in front of the sunlamp every morning and every afternoon for 30 minutes, with the lamp 6-8″ away from my face. I think there are benefits to just sitting in front of the lamp for even a smaller window of time, but this was the “prescription” and I would not dispute it.

What about meds?

I’m obviously not a prescriber, but I have experienced many winters when I was unmedicated and plenty of winters where I was taking an anti-depressant. Relative to the sun lamp, I would say that it is still worth it to use light treatments to help treat winter depression. It’s cancer free sunshine. Or you could just move to Bali.

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Chasing Away the Winter Blahs

This weekend marks the half-way mark.

Friends, we are mid-way through the soul suck that is January! January is still such a hard month to endure, my SADness always feels so much more magnified, the wintry weather always swirls of endless gray, and jumpstarting a whole new crop of students for spring semester takes everything I’ve got. Spring Break seems an interminably long time off, as do any other holidays of note. Ergo, God knew what He was doing in giving me a daughter in January. There’s more to which I can look forward in this month when I can focus on celebrating the blessings that she has brought to our family. As I toast my daughter this month, I’ll also try to share a few other things that I’m doing to make festive during these first 31derful days of the year.

Stocked up…
To avoid a critical shortage, I purchased a ridiculous quantity of Cinnamon Gummy Hearts, Cherry Hearts and Strawshmallows.
Photo 54

His banner over me is love…
This bunting was handcrafted by the talented artist Jenny at BlueMoonStudios. The quality is excellent and this little banner is surprisingly impactful! I recommend her work!
bunting

More Comfort Food
I can attest that Laura’s Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal is what gets me out of bed on the wintry freeze your tochis off morning.

(To Be Continued)

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Fallout

I have recently been battling a few things that have crept up to the emotional surface.  I made out their forms beneath the murky waters of obsessiveness and doubt, I saw their heads rise and I was ready with my harpoon.  I tried to conquer them. But the battles were exhausting, and kept compromising my sleep.

Until I realized that those forms in the water would always be there, would always keep rising to the surface.  And they weren’t mine to battle.

***

I went through a very low time this past summer.  I scared my daughter.  I scared my husband.  I scared myself.  My fears about our finances and the what-ifs of placing Baby Girl in day care absolutely consumed me.  I slept very little in the month of June, and even less in July.  I would lash out about everything.  By early August, I had to take a four-hour roundtrip flight with Baby Girl and on the way home, I remember thinking that if the plane went down, I would actually be relieved because then I wouldn’t have to deal with everything that was burdening me at that time.  I came home and cried and cried {I am not a big crier} and felt terrified of what I was capable.  Loverpants asked me pointblank if I thought I needed to be hospitalized. He was ready to take me that night.
***

It’s hard to think back to that time.  It seems like it happened a long, long time ago, to another woman, in another season of life.
***

I started therapy.  I started an anti-anxiety medication.  It turns out that it’s not normal, it’s not just the parasitic stress of new motherhood that prompts a total-body panic – about nothing in particular – while driving in the car, on roads you’ve driven before, on perfectly sunny days with no place to be in a hurry.

***
I won’t say the healing was instantaneous, but it was expedited by the meds, a visit from my mother, and by the encouragement I received from Baby Girl’s childcare provider that all would be well.  These forces, along with my employment going exceptionally well, seemed to fast-track me on the path to mental wellness again.

***
The other souvenir that I take from this time is something that my therapist {and believe me when I say, I know how v. pretentious starting anything with “My Therapist says…” sounds} is that I do a lot of judging of myself, judging my thoughts, judging my reactions, judging my own judgment. Therapist said I should try to acknowledge…and move on.  I should say, “Ah, I’m having a moment of irrational fear about this.  I’m acknowledging it, and …I’m over it.”  Corny, but helpful.

***

I tear a page out of Dooce’s playbook in saying that I know many who read this will think I am being a complete First World Ween about this whole thing, that I should have prayed more or done more yoga or gone pescatarian and all of my problems would have melted away.  And that’s fine.  They can think that.

But I have found something that works and I feel happy most days and capable of taking care of my family and myself.  If anything, my faith has been strengthened in the last six months because the excessive doubt and fear no longer plagues my every thought; I can concentrate on Him, His goodness and care. My prayer is that anyone who is feeling in the pits of despair might also receive the same good care as I have received.  And that no one would worry about any judgment.  You can be sure it’s not coming from me; I’m too busy trying not to judge myself.

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