The countdown is on. While most people are ticking off the ten weeks until Christmas Eve I am biding my time until Spring. This is the toughest time of the year for me, when Seasonal Affective Disorder kicks in. For those who do not know, SAD is a type of depression that occurs when the days get shorter and the nights get longer. The lack of sunlight affects a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which subsequently affects production of melatonin and serotonin as well as the body clock.
One in five in the UK suffer from the mild symptoms of SAD, what can be known as the ‘winter blues’. Then there is 3% of the UK population that are estimated to suffer from SAD, I am one of those.
There is very little I can do about SAD. Vitamin D tablets. A SAD lamp to ensure I wake up in light. Trying to spend so much time outside during the day. There is only so much you can do.
As soon as I leave my room I’m swathed in darkness and my mind clouds so I am persistently down. It is hard to describe. Imagine your mind stuffed with cotton wool to the extent that you have to constantly focus to make sense of everything. The effort is exhausting and then you hear a voice telling you you are useless. You consciously tell yourself to think positively while deep down inside you know it is pointless. Dark thoughts find a way in and there is no escape.
I hide myself away, which is probably the worst thing I can do. When I should be surrounding myself with friends I decide I would be better off in the flat. I find myself persuading myself to stay in. When I should be enjoying cooking or watching a film my mind drifts and I fail to think of anything positive about it. That pizza I just made SHOULD taste delicious but doesn’t. That report I just filed SHOULD make sense but every time I read it the words simply fall away.
You begin to dread everything. You convince yourself that your team will lose 5-0. That the film you are about to see will be terrible. That those clouds will burst and you will get soaked. That whatever you say to a girl you like will only push her further away. That you won’t get invited out anyway and even if you did you would be the overweight, fun sucking void in the room.
You start to feel guilty when you have done nothing wrong. Did I say the right thing to that person? Shit, they probably hate me now don’t they. And so the despair cycle rolls on.
You suffer from mood swings. One minute you are bouncing, the next in a slump (apparently it’s called hypomania).
You become anxious and unable to cope with everyday stresses like making your breakfast and getting to work on time. Occasionally these manifest into panic attacks as one mistake and one failure leads into another and another…
You start to feel worthless. That dark voice in your head keeps telling you that you are unattractive, useless and everyone hates you. Part of your daily routine becomes pointless and you question why you should look your best when you leave the house, so why should I bother putting product in my hair? I’ve got a thick skin but at times I just want to hide myself in a room to avoid pissing anyone off or causing myself any trouble.
You start to feel constantly tired. Going to bed early seems like a good idea but you still wake feeling lethargic and no amount of brews will push it back. That is if you manage to get a full nights sleep.
Your appetite shifts and you find yourself comfort eating/snacking to make you feel a little bit better.You put on weight and thus feel even more worthless.
Your libido vanishes, possibly due to the fact that you do not feel as if you want to look your best and head outside. When you feel worthless there is not much point putting yourself out there.
This has been happening for around a decade but I still fail to know how to cope with it. Friends have been told, friends have deserted me when I have needed them. My boss knows but that does not stop me continuing to be in a constant state of irritability at work. I am trying to book in plans to give me things to look forward to and find myself shopping to give me a short sense of pleasure but it is to little avail. Typing this out brings a sense of calm and catharsis but for anyone who reads this please bear my mind in mind.