A look into Seasonal Affective Disorder, By Mila Charlebois
From March to October, my state of depression is bearable. During this time the weather is pleasant and tranquil, people are out and about, and the world is full of color.
Springtime fills my nose with cool earthy air, smelling of nature, fresh dewy plants and buds on the trees. As the weather returns to a comfortable temperature the world feels clean and renewed.
Summer brings swimming and fresh fruit off the trees; so sweet they taste like candy. People come alive and the cities never sleep. The waters become warm and enticing, and I can enjoy a break from school for relaxing times with friends.
Autumn is by far my favorite season. In Canada nothing can beat a gentle October rain, with the trees in full color on the mountains. The weather is the perfect kind of cold and creates an ominous atmosphere. I get lost in the rich hues of the trees and the foggy mornings. It is the perfect sweater weather and let’s not forget the heartwarming food. The first three weeks of October are where my heart resides. Once the last week of October comes however, I am faced with a bitter reminder of the harsh winter to come. Once all the leaves have fallen with the first snow, a switch flicks in my mind. Existence itself becomes a chore once again, and most days I find myself ruing every passing moment filled with tasks until it allows me to go back home, go back to bed, and lull myself back into a dream of warmer times when the outside isn’t a hostile opponent.
Every year, again and again for as long as I can remember, winter has been an oppressive enemy. As a person that deals with depression all year round, winter to me, feels like a bully on the playground that enjoys beating down a dead horse. A mischievous spirit sitting on my shoulder, doing its best to make every task just a little bit harder.
According to www.psychiatry.org, seasonal depression, known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), has many of the same symptoms as major depressive disorder such as feelings of extreme prolonged sadness, loss of interest in formerly engaging activities that were once enjoyed, changes in appetite (usually more and craving carbohydrates), loss of energy and fatigue, increase in purposeless physical activity (such as inability to sit still and pacing in a severe enough capacity to be noticeable to others), feelings of worthlessness and guilt, difficulty thinking and thoughts of death and/or suicide.
This year, I’ve decided to be more proactive and I am moving into a much larger (and much more expensive) apartment just before winter. On one hand, I am counting on the extra space to save me from the oppressive confinement of winter. On the other hand, I am terrified that I won’t be mentally strong enough to shoulder the responsibility. I am terrified of having a burnout that leaves me bed-bound, unkempt and in misery, unable to work enough to pay my rent. It would not be the first time.
"I need to do this for my future self"
Knowing this, I have decided to take the risk, accepting that I need to do this for my future self and to be kind to myself in the process. Every day with depression is an exercise to practice choice and discipline. Will I do my work, my school, my exercises, clean my space and care for myself or will I sink back into my depression room, hair unbrushed adding another day to the compounding weight of unattended responsibilities? Alas, I'd probably find a balance somewhere in between.
The key for me was to understand that every effort, every small defiance is a victory to be celebrated. To catch up to the compounded mountain of stress and negativity, you must be allowed to reward yourself for your victories, and to always hold space for gratitude in your heart. Forgive yourself for being imperfect, and applaud yourself for every effort towards positive progress. I remember that much like the oppressive winter, every moment is temporary, and that I (we all) deserve to make it to the next good moment.
SAD is a treatable condition. According to www.psychiatry.org, there have been positive results associated with light therapy, antidepressants, talk therapy and combinations of these treatments. If you feel you have symptoms of SAD, please seek the help of a qualified professional and talk to a doctor about possible treatments and support just as with other forms of depression. Many other medical conditions can cause symptoms similar to SAD such as hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia and infectious mononucleosis, so proper evaluation is essential.
If you feel that the depression is severe or you are having suicidal thoughts, consult a doctor immediately or seek help at the closest emergency room.
Canadian Suicide Prevention Hotline, open 24/7/365