Thursday, February 23, 2006

Seasonal Affective Disorder

I was planning to return to one of my recurring themes today, Self-Loathing, because I experienced it in waves all day. But thinking about that led me to contemplate depression (specifically, how it is less painful than garden-variety self-loathing), and that led me to Seasonal Affective Disorder, and I decided to go with that instead.

Here's my S.A.D. story.

When I was nineteen years old, I spent part of my winter break from college hiking in Shenandoah National Park. I took the bus from Boston to DC, then to Front Royal, Virginia. I backpacked from Front Royal to Waynesboro, basically the length of the park, on the Appalachian Trail. It was cold, and I didn't see many people. I was alone with my thoughts for hours, days, more than a week. I observed myself, how I thought and what my personality was like, with no people around to influence it. I started to notice a pattern, and it was like this: I'd be hiking along, and feeling gloomy and pessimistic. My inner voice would be saying, "This was a stupid idea. What was I thinking. This is boring. This is hard. It's cold. I don't have enough food. I'm tired." For a long time I would just be slogging and barely motivated to put one foot in front of another. And then ... ! ... The Sun Would Come Out. And I would instantly recover--my mood would swing dramatically and I would be happy, relieved, cheerful and optimistic--and I would realize that all the negativity was just a result of the lack of sunshine. A few hours later, it would happen again, and take me by surprise again. But eventually I started to understand it and when I would start feeling negative I would take note of the cloud cover and tell myself, it's okay, the sun will come out in a while and you'll feel better.

That's how I discovered that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, or at least a version of it, a sensitivity to sunlight that affects my mood dramatically. It fully explained the clinical depression symptoms I experienced when I was living in Boston, which disappeared instantly and completely when I moved to south Florida.

I haven't done much research on it; apparently there are special lights you can buy, but from my observations of my own symptoms, sunshine is the best remedy and after that any bright light is good. If I had to have some kind of disorder, I'm glad it's one that can be treated without money or doctors or medicine!

4 comments:

sharnetha said...

Hi, my name is sharn and I am an independent author suffering from mood disorder and SAD as well. I can relate to the way you feel because THIS IS MY LIFE ALL DAY every DAY.

sharnetha said...

great thoughts

yellojkt said...

My wife has a mild variety of SAD. She can just be gloomy all winter. Moving back to Florida is not an option because we moved away due to her allergies to the many critters that live year round down there.

Anonymous said...

From the Autumnal equinox to the Winter solstice is the peak season for growing sadness; the crop of dismal days wanes slowly after the solstice to the Vernal equinox when hope again springs eternal in the full bloom of life. Sun, as Karen has pointed out, is the key element of cure; but artificial light - a greenhouse cure - is also possible. Let there be light, and there is light. It has also been my experience that indulging depression in dirge like music, somber paintings, mournful tunes, etc., in some mysterious way sublimates it - or perhaps just makes it appear ridiculous and the humor cure takes over. "To every thing there is a season....A time to weep and a time to laugh;" Ecclesiastes 3:1-8