Tag Archives: SAD

Depressed – or just SAD? From guest blogger Aloysius

11 Feb

Sunset

SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – is often downplayed. After all, those with normal mental health only experience it for a limited time – usually during the cold, dark days of Northern hemisphere Winters. Hence we give it a label – “the Winter blues”– and dismiss it as a mild form of low mood.

For me, it is more than that and a succession of SAD days can lead to more severe depression. Today typifies an average SAD day for me. Despite it being a bright, ‘early Spring’ morning and the fact that ordinarily I am a ‘morning person’ I could hardly wake up. My body felt as if it had not slept at all. I could not open my eyes. My stomach felt sick and my head nauseous. I was producing saliva and mucous in quantities I would normally associate with having a virus. If I did not know better I would have said I had the flu. All I wanted to do was sleep on, or more accurately to bury my head under the covers despite the news bulletins reminding me every half-hour that the day was passing. The thought of opening my eyes, swinging my legs out of bed, walking towards the bathroom was literally a step too far.

It’s not just a ‘have a lie in on Saturday’ feeling. When I did eventually get up it manifested itself in over eating, the craving for a big, high-carb breakfast, and later in the day some junk food – but without the expected energy burst. It turned to boredom, the inability to concentrate on anything or to completing normal tasks, even simple ones like washing up, reading or listening to the radio. I wanted to be left alone, to withdraw from my family, ignore my friends, and even a reluctance to undertake ordinary social activities like shopping. And after a few days of this it leads to pessimistic feelings of hopelessness, a lack of any pleasure and depression with its many side effects: heavy sleeps followed by insomnia, anxiety, irritation, stressed-out feelings.

So, how do I counteract it?

Wake up calls: I set myself deadlines for getting up – setting my alarm at different times each day. And I leave a note by the bed to remind me to not just wake up but get up! Saturday and Sundays the deadline is 9:00 am at latest, Monday is an 8:00 am deadline.

What then? I once heard a mental health expert say: “Eyes open, feet to the floor”. It sounds simple, but it works – not thinking, just doing! Getting on, with getting up.

Following the light: SAD is supposedly affected by natural light, so I track the sunrise and sunset during my SAD period – using a phone app that gives me lighting up, dawn, dusk times, etc. When things are really bad I set my alarm for a few minutes before first light, open the blinds and watch the sun – or even just the light – rise. I have tried ‘bright-light’ therapy but it does not work for me. Some respond to artificial bright light therapy, or simulated dawns – personally I have not found these effective.

Taking my vitamins: Vitamins C and D in the form of orange juice and oily fish help.

SSRIs: If the Autumn weather and light are particular bad I anticipate a bad winter. So if the early feelings of a mood disorder are persistent I consult with my GP and usually take a course of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors – fluoxetine-based drugs – in order to increase my levels of serotonin. This takes forward planning as SSRIs can take 2-4 weeks to become effective. Above all, its about not allowing myself to be SAD.

Don’t worry, be happy!