Depression sucks, it really does. And I should know. I have suffered from depression, and witnessed its effects on others just about all my life.
For those of you who know me, you will be well aware that I have had things happen to me in my past which have caused me to become very depressed, and will also know that I took time off work (and eventually lost my job), was on a lot of medication, counselling, and that I got very, very fat indeed. But you’ll also know that the depression I was feeling then was the result of my circumstances, and once those circumstances were removed / put behind me, I got better.
BUT, I also suffer from SAD. It is not the same thing. Sure, it’s depression, but it’s not the kind of depression that counselling will resolve. It’s not the kind of depression that I can work through to resolve. It’s something that I will have to live with through the winter months for every year for the rest of my life.
And THAT sucks!
Some of what the web site says:
Everyone Suffers To Some Degree
Although SAD has been studied for over
20 years, it is still somewhat of an enigma. Researchers still don’t know why
some people have SAD and others don’t when it gets dark. What we do know is that
winter darkness affects us all. We all gain weight in the winter, we eat more,
exercise less, are less productive, and we sleep more. Still, some people can
shake it off, others are mildly affected, and some become deeply depressed.
Weak Body Clocks
Scientists believe that some of
us have weaker body clocks that don’t respond to the same cues that others
respond to. While normal morning light or alarm clocks help most people, about 7
– 10% of us have body clocks that don’t respond, and need a stronger stimulus in
order to respond. The strongest circadian signal is specialized bright light.
While studies show that bright light is beneficial to all people, those who
suffer from winter depression respond the most to bright light. Generally ½ hour
of light at the proper time of day will entrain, or reset our body clock, and
once it is reset, only 15 – 20 minutes per day is needed to maintain that
Human Genome Project
Because of the extensive work
in deciphering our gene structure, scientists have been able to identify several
genes which work in concert with the Suprachaismatic Nucleus, or body clock, in
determining our circadian rhythms. These genes are responsible for sending
feedback or reinforcing signals to the SCN, and they are also responsible for
several other circadian functions. Some of these circadian controlled functions
include the regulation of blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, and
digestion. Scientists have also discovered that some of these genes can be
deformed, causing a predisposition to mood and circadian rhythm disorders.
Researchers hope that this research can develop tests, which should predict
whether someone is prone to circadian rhythm disorders, and what he/she can do
about it. These tests should also help us understand circadian rhythms better,
and when to use light more effectively.
So great! I have defective genes! It’s that just what we all want to hear! But that said, I do agree with so much of that. I never wake up with the bed side alarm clock for example. In order for me to fully wake up in the morning I need to either have the sun light streaming through the curtains into my eyes, or (like at this time of year) my feller has to be up moving around, have the TV on, and the bed room light before I’ll even stir. It doesn’t help that at night the depression causes me to lie in bed with random thoughts running though me head (not nice ones) keeping me awake, so I am also very tired in the morning. Staying up late at night also throws your body clock even further out of whack.
There are lots of way to combat it (I mentioned this earlier) like doing exercise to raise the serotonin levels is the body, but when you suffer from SAD you don’t have the motivation to go and do any. Sex has the same effect, but when your depression makes you hate your self, or at least take a huge knock out of your self image, you don’t always feel sexy. There’s always chocolate (a girls REAL best friend), but that makes you fat when you’re not doing anything physical to work off the extra cals. That lowers your self image again, and you feel more depressed. Also, the come-down from the sugar and caffeine rush has a depressing effect on everyone’s body.
And there’s the “light box”. I have one of these. Dad bought me one last year. But they are not cheap to buy, or to run. I haven’t had to replace the bulb yet, but I will have to one day, and I suspect they will not be free somehow.
Medication; what can you take? See your doctor and chances are you’ll come away with some meds. First time I went – which was when I was depressed already before SAD set in for the winter – I was given sleeping pills. They helped, but I wouldn’t recommend replying on them. They are addictive after all. I was only given them to get me through the first two weeks of my anti-depressants, which would take that long to kick in. My lack of sleep was making my situation worse, and my doctor rightly suggested they were the best way to let me get some much needed rest until my head was clear enough to let me sleep naturally. The anti-depressants themselves are tricky too. They are highly personal – what works for me won’t always work for you etc.
The effects; I can’t speak for every sufferer, but I know when it happens to me I can be unbearable to live with. It triggers all the insecurities in my warped little mind. I become convinced that people – usually my friends – actually hate me, so I avoid them. That means staying away from them and not answering the phone. Then I get agoraphobic too. I even envision arguments with them in my head (usually when I try to sleep at night which keeps me awake). I believe that my man thinks I am ugly and un-touchable and I become argumentative (which pushed him away and feeds the paranoia). On top of that, any aspect of my life which isn’t perfect at that moment in time suddenly becomes unbelievably important and impossible, and every little fault is mine, and it becomes a huge problem. And when no one else sees this problem I have with it, or there is any one who doesn’t understand, I flip out at them. I shout, I scream and I cry.
In my head there is a small sane me watching all of this and saying “what are you doing? You know better than this! No one is out to get you, the people you love all love you, everything will be ok, it’s just the SAD” but the insane depressed side of me is screaming louder and drowns the sane me out. Once I’ve calmed down I apologise to anyone I have up set or pissed off, and try to carry on. But then that’s another argument I have stored in my head to run over again and again when I go to bed.
I said yesterday that I was tearful in the morning. Last night I was worse. When we went to bed Yorkie didn’t hug me right away, and the SAD took over. “He’s not hugging me, he must be rejecting me, and he mustn’t love me any more. I’m fat and ugly. He’s only with me because it’s easier than leaving”. We had a small argument, and I cried. Yorkie did then hug me, but Yorkie was stressed out by this time, and I could feel it. So rather then just enjoy the hug, I pointed out that I could tell he didn’t want to give me this hug, and that the hug was now spoiled. Hugs are supposed to be about love and affection, not “For god’s sake, give her what she wants and she’ll shut up”. Childish I know – but then it strikes, that’s how it makes you feel. And you can’t stop your self feeling it and it’s very hard to stop yourself from voicing how you feel.
I wish now that I had taken the appointment with a different doctor so that I cold have my meds now. I know that they’ll still take two weeks to kick in, but then at least I’d just have two weeks to get through. Now I am waiting for almost two weeks to see me doc, and then I have to take the meds for two weeks before they have any effect. That’s almost 4 weeks! Will I cope? How many more nights like last night will there be in the meantime?
I can’t really have a go at Yorkie. He knows how I get, and he should be prepared (which was the argument I made last night), but in the same breath, I know he finds it very hard to deal with, and the fact that he sticks around and bothers to at least TRY to deal with it is brilliant. That in it self shows me just how much he loves me. In truth, he doesn’t know how to deal with it, so be backs away and tries to hide from it. Unfortunately, that’s one of the things that make it worse. I need to be given more affection and reassurance when I feel like this, and I tend to smother him in an attempt to get the attention I crave. Like any man – or indeed any one at all – he wants to pull away from being smothered, and gets agitated. I pick up on this and I get worse, which makes him worse, which makes me worse, and so on.
I should have gone to the gym today. I should have gone out and interacted with people. But it all feels like such hard work – not that I normally have a problem with hard work - although I have made some small effort. I did my work out DVD round lunch time, and I drove out to the post office this afternoon to send off my orders where I had a chat to a woman who started a conversation with me in the queue, and with the lady at the counter. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but when depression comes down on you, small things like that are real achievements.
Tomorrow I really should go to our local garage and sort out when my car goes in for its MOT (due before the end of next week). It’s something I have to do, so hopefully I will. It’s not a difficult thing to do, I managed fine last year. I keep trying to do positive things. The other night I sorted out some of the kitchen and threw out a load of stuff we don’t need. Today I sorted through some clothes which don’t fit anymore because of my dieting and I’m selling them on eBay. These are positive steps, small, but positive.
Maybe I will be OK this year.