Thursday, September 20, 2012

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Now that the days are growing shorter as we head into autumn, I am reading more and more posts about how truly dreadful this event can be for people who suffer from depression.  The sun arrives too late and leaves too soon, and without even consciously registering the change your body begins to rebel against being anywhere but in bed, and the gray skies seem to crush all the way to the ground beneath your feet, daring you to find the energy to take another step forward, whispering the lie that another step forward is only another step further into the gloom.

I can completely relate to this.

At the same time, I welcome autumn.  I beg for it to come faster.  From June to October every year I hold my breath, willing the intervening months to pass.  My Irish genetics may be well diluted by now, but they must have something to do with the fact that I am simply not built for summers.  I do adore vacationing with my family, having Jimmy home on hiatus, watching our girls bounce around in swimsuits at the beach, and certainly those long, spectacular sunlit hours.  All the while, though, I am melting.  When I think of summer, my first thoughts are those of sunburn, sweat, mosquitos, window-box AC units, AC-induced summer colds, flushed skin, sunburn, sweat, chaffing, greasy sunscreen, bugs in my house, dry feet, hot cars, skimpy clothes, the hours I haven't spent at the gym, sunburn, and sweat.

I know.  I'm a total grouch about summer.  I do try not to be, but it's annoying to be sweating IN the shower.

In short, I think my version of Seasonal Affective Disorder applies to summer most of all.*  Yes, I am genuinely better off with sunshine in my daily diet.  But in the summer I have to hide from the sun, because if I don't, I get terrible sunburns in stupid places like from exactly mid-shin to toe and those sunburns never go away they only fade into stupid tan lines no matter how much I try to exfoliate or moisturize or re-sun the entire leg with sublock only on the lower half.  It's not my fault.  Summer hates me.  Or I am summer inept.  Whichever.

So when those fall catalogs begin showing up at my door, I am ALL IN.  Jackets, yes.  Sweaters, yes.  Scarves, boots, blankets, pants and skirts that cover my leftover sunburns, YES.  Every item in every store is plaid and wool and pumpkin themed, flavored, scented, shaped, stamped, appliqued, bedazzled, and I DON'T CARE.  Bring it on.  Even orange is a welcome sight to me after the blinding neon of the summer months.  I welcome it all.

And yes, I have it easier living in Los Angeles where the humidity is low and the winters are mild.  And no, I don't mean to dismiss so many people who are looking ahead to dark days and who suffer terribly in them.  Having my own depression to manage, I understand.  I understand the sinking feeling, the fear, the suffocating dread.  Losing the sun is hard for me, too, albeit not so very hard as it is for others.  If you have SAD, then you are on my mind every September.  More importantly, if you think you could have SAD, please take it seriously.  There are ways to manage it and avenues to get help.  To wit:

Wikipedia entry: Seasonal Affective Disorder
SAD treatments and help
someone to talk to

It's still way too hot here in LA, but the mornings and evenings have been deliciously cool, and this morning I had the sincere pleasure of breaking out my nearly-worn-out fancy-cozy clearance-sale polka-dot soft wool socks.  You probably heard me cheering at approximately 9am PST when I first slipped them on.  And when I can sit outside with a jacket and a cup of hot coffee at noon and not immediately melt into a puddle of sunburned sweat attacked by idiot flies, (pretty), when I can do that I will sit in the sunshine all. day. long.

I get my Vitamin D in the fall.  Maybe this year it will be pumpkin-flavored.

* When I drafted this post I thought that SAD was specific to the winter months, but when I went to search out the links for information and help I learned that it can apply to any season.  I think this is information well worth knowing, because I know for myself, I genuinely struggle through summer.  I should also clarify, though, that I have never been diagnosed with SAD.  If you would like to read some personal writings by someone who deals with SAD in the winter months, I recommend dooce.  

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