Depression, Mental Health, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

My Brain Chemistry Knew Before I Did

I am currently semi-retired from over thirty-five years in the corporate world. As such, the days tend to (blissfully) run into each other. Friday is no longer the anchor tethering me to sanity and the term “long weekend” means little more than an extra day when family and friends may be available to socialize. As such, I often ask my husband what day of the week it is and have to consult a calendar to learn the exact date.

Having said that, the first day of fall – the actual first day of fall (here in southern Ontario); September 22nd – came and went unnoticed until my brother mentioned it.

And then it clicked!

For several days prior, I had been feeling low… melancholy… yes, depressed. It was like my body already knew – shortened days, grayer skies, more frequent rains, colder temps. While in my semi-retired-induced date oblivion, my brain chemistry discerned the subtle changes in the environment that in my case, lead to those low, melancholy, depressed days/weeks/months of the Canadian winter.

Oh boy. I mean – I knew it was coming… of course, I knew. Winter is coming (shameless Game of Thrones reference) has a whole new meaning when it comes to people with depression. Given I’ve worked full-time for the past 35+ years, I’ve more-or-less been calendar-locked. I knew exactly what the date was and what it could/may mean, and so, in ways, would go about doing my depression-readying “homework” to prepare myself. But this was the first time it snuck up on me, and I find myself more than a little behind the eight ball.

There was one positive that came out of this – it gave the blah feelings I was/am having (for no apparent reason) some credibility. You see, part of the self-stigma attached to depression and anxiety is that you feel you’re faking it. You know better, of course, but still. There’s always that devil on your shoulder screaming “FAKER!” at you.

Ok – so, now for the depression-readying “homework”:

Depression, Menopause, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Surviving Depression – The Dark Months Begin

It’s been about 4 weeks now since the clocks were changed for daylight savings. It’s dark in the morning when I leave my house for work and it’s dark in the evening when I leave work to go home. For a person with depression, knowing that this is just the start of the dark months, is a truly daunting prospect.

I’ve lived a great many Canadian winters. Having just turned 50, I’m facing my 50th winter. As a person with chronic depression, I’ve also been diagnosed with SAD (seasonal affective disorder). It’s all part of the same chronic disorder, if you ask me. Chronic depression is merely heightened during the dark months. I’m also perimenopausal so I’m at an even greater risk of letting the darkness swallow me up. I must be cautious, and very aware of my symptoms. Depression symptoms can come on very quickly. I’ll be doing fine (well, “fine” for me) and then BAM, ignored symptoms will knock me off my feet.

So, I have a dark months checklist:

  1. Take vitamin D.
  2. Use my SAD lamp (see video below).
  3. Avoid oversleeping.
  4. Try (try) to get some exercise.
  5. Practice gratitude at least once a day.
  6. Go easy on myself.

It’s a short list. But so important. Especially that last one.

My husband laughed at me today because when I come downstairs in the morning, I open all the window blinds. He prefers to keep them shut. His reasoning – it’s so grey and ugly outside, why would I want to see that? My response? Simple. I need to see the daylight.