Dealing With Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder diagnosis on patients paper

October 15, 2021

Dealing With Seasonal Affective Disorder

In South Platte Counseling’s ongoing blog series, “Mental Health and Me,” we invite one of our clients to write openly and anonymously about their mental health journey on a topic they’ve personally experienced.  

We are showcasing this series to help de-stigmatize the conversation around mental health.  We want to let people know mental health is an individual journey and a ubiquitous life experience.  

With that being said, let’s read about one person’s experience with this week’s topic: struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mood disorder characterized by depression that occurs at the same time every year.  S.A.D. occurs in climates where there is less sunlight at certain times of the year.  Symptoms include fatigue, depression, hopelessness, and social withdrawal.

Person suffering from seasonal affective disorder

 

Ah, fall.  That beautiful time of the year before the crazy holidays start, and I’m not yet freezing my face off in the snowy Colorado winter.  It’s time for a cute wardrobe change to layers, scarves, and boots that have been gathering dust in my closet for months.  And let’s not forget, pumpkin spice everything (yes, I totally realize how basic I am).  The break in the weather, the leaves changing, I love almost everything about this cozy season.  

Almost.

Tis’ the season: Seasonal Affective Disorder is upon us.  

Or on me, rather.

Seasonal Depression is like that annoying person who shows up at the party but was never invited, that nobody wants there, and is the last to leave.  

Although the time hasn’t changed just yet – leading to longer nights, I know what’s coming.  I’ve dealt with Seasonal Affective Disorder for years, and it’s that looming dread and anxiety that leads up to the impending depression I know is heading my way that makes it all the worst.  

I am not an anxious person by nature, but I can’t help but have an ominous and disquieting feeling in the back of my mind about what my winter will be like.  I’ve been on this yearly mental carousel for quite a while, and I can’t seem to avoid that pre-depression anxiety—I kind of hate myself for knowing me so well about this.  

After the time change, and I get accustomed to the long nights, that cautious anxiety does wane.  I’m not relentlessly plagued about what’s coming because I know it’s already seeping in.

But, hey, at least I’m not anxious anymore.

My seasonal depression, even though I know it’s coming, sneaks up on me every time.  No matter how much I keep my guard up and say, “I’m ready for you,” it creeps in gradually a little at a time – like a water faucet that slowly yet incessantly drips no matter how tightly you turn the handle.  

It is unhurried yet unwavering.  Small behavioral changes here and there.  Not being bothered to make dinner one night, going to bed early another, and before you know it, I am ensnared in its dispassionate and lethargic clutches.  I am drowning in listless indifference.

The worst part is, I know it.  

Is knowing not half the battle?  I do what I can to manage this melancholic passenger of mine.  I mean, I am fully aware it’s there.  Talking about my seasonal emotional health struggles with my therapist has helped.  Sharing and knowing other people grapple with this (like, a lot of other people) has helped me feel not so alone.  It’s through shared vulnerability that I feel hopeful.  Also, knowing there’s a (literal) light at the end of the tunnel is very helpful.  This is just seasonal, and I won’t feel like this forever.  I take the cold, dark winter months a day at a time, and I take refuge in knowing the warm sun will shine on me once again. 

 

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