I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It manifests itself as anxiety and depression over the winter months, kicking in as the clocks change and easing of its own accord as the first signs of spring appear.
Judging by the number of light boxes, dawn simulators, and similar products on sale online, I am not the only one. It seems to be a big market, especially in Scotland and places with similarly dull and grey winter weather.
Some people take anti depressants. I don’t, but not because of any moral objection or anything – I avoid medication where possible only because I am stupidly over-sensitive to many meds and the side effects I have had in the past were, quite frankly, horrible.
Other people take vitamin D, the vitamin we normally make ourselves upon exposure to daylight. Its supposed to help but I have never used it myself.
I am trying to manage my SAD using daylight simulation, lots of fresh air, and vigorous exercise. A long walk on some of the many muddy, hilly paths around our village works wonders, as long as I walk fast enough to build up a sweat, and walk often enough that I can maintain the benefits. Add to that a very good light box and one might wonder why I suffer at all.
The truth is that I can be lazy, and I don’t always have the motivation to keep going. Its kind of a vicious circle – I feel better, so I go do something else, which means I miss my walk, daylight and exercise, which makes me feel worse again. And then when I feel bad and in a low mood my motivation goes bye-bye and I need someone – like my husband or our very good and very wise GP – to make me get moving again.
It is one of those contrary things I have noticed when trying to combat SAD – when I carve time out of a busy schedule to go for a walk, exercise, and use the light box, I usually find that I seem to have more time for everything else, not, as logic suggests, less. In the grip of SAD-fuelled depression I do not make good use of my time at all. But when fighting SAD I use the whole day, not just a tiny bit of it.
If you have SAD, or know someone who does, there are things that help. Firstly, daylight – the real kind. Even if its pouring down or freezing cold, spend some time outside during daylight hours. There is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing. Second, take some exercise, whatever it takes to get you sweaty and breathless. Third, have daylight simulation – light boxes or whatever, to use during the dark morning and evening hours. And fourth, get help from an understanding friend, partner, and/or doctor, who will help you find ways to combat it.
So yes, I have SAD. But there is no way in hell SAD is having me. I am fighting back, all the way to spring!
Who’s with me?