‘Tis the season: Depression and seasonal-affective disorder
For those of you with depression who live in areas that are expecting life-threatening cold weather this week, I am not going to say “I feel your pain.” I don’t and I won’t insult you by saying it.
Although I have felt your pain in my lifetime, I do not feel your pain now because I live in Florida. I also won’t insult you by telling you what the weather is like in West Palm Beach right now.
I was born and raised in northwest Wisconsin and southwest Michigan. Phrases like “wind chill,” “lake effect,” “black ice” and “sub-zero” were part of my daily vocabulary for about five months of the year.
The only thing worse than the temperature was the sky – so uniformally gray that it looked like someone had painted it one solid color. There were no clouds per se – just one massive, flat gray cloud that covered the entire sky for as far as you could see. Nine hours separated sunrise and sunset but it would be months before you would ever see the sun again so it didn’t really matter if it was day or night.
My seasonal-affective disorder hit in January and by the end of March, I was despondent. The dirty snow on the side of the roads, the salt-stained cars and icy cold puddles exhausted my mental health. I am an outdoor person and I managed to keep up my daily runs through most of the winter. But I hated running in the layers of clothing, with a bandanna tied over my nose and mouth to protect my lungs from the frigid air.
The worst days were those that you folks up north are about to experience. Sub-zero temperatures that can kill you. The coldest I have experienced is a wind-chill of 60-degrees below zero. In these kinds of temperatures you don’t go outside unless you absolutely must. Our dogs wouldn’t even go outside to go to the bathroom when it was that cold.
We used to tape plastic over our windows to stop any drafts. When it was mind-numbingly cold the plastic would balloon out from the window so far I thought it would pop. I remember weekends where I would get home from work on Friday and not go outside again until I left for work Monday morning. I was trapped indoors all weekend.
God, just thinking and writing about it now is bringing me down. My heart just breaks for you up there and what you’re about to go through – not just this week’s frigid temps but the next three months of ugly gray.
I have read that there are now lamps you can sit in front of that help and I have heard supplements – such as Vitamin B-(methyl not the cheap cyano) and SAMe may also offer some relief, along with antidepressants. My suggestion: Get the hell out. I mean it. Move. Life it too short to spend 1/3 of every year in an environment that makes you miserable.
I know this sounds drastic. It is. Depression is drastic.
I moved to Florida and although I have still suffered bouts of depression, January through April are now my favorite months of the year. The weather is glorious. The sun is out nearly everyday. I can go outside whenever I want.
There is no scraping ice off the windshield or letting the car warm up for 15 minutes. My fingers are not cracked and bleeding. In the morning I scamper down the driveway in my bare feet to get the newspaper.
If you cannot move, please try to get out for a little while. If you don’t have the time or money to take a vacation to the tropics this winter, try to find somewhere where the sun shines more than where you are. And when the sun does shine, get out in it. Stop what you are doing and go out into the sunlight. Tell your boss it’s medically necessary. It really is.
My heart breaks for those of you suffering seasonal-affective disorder. The season is just getting started. You have a long three months ahead of you.
If I could wave a wand and make the sun come out and raise the temperature above zero – I would. I really would.
Stapleton, C. (2014). ‘Tis the season: Depression and seasonal-affective disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 4, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/depression/2014/01/tis-the-season-depression-and-seasonal-affective-disorder/