The words slowly float by on the low, gray clouds. I reach up to capture them, but I'm too slow. The fog is thick; my legs feel like they're stuck in cement. It's hard to think; it's hard to act; it's hard to write or cook or get up or accomplish much of anything.
A bad dream? Unfortunately, no.
It happens every year, and yet it takes me by surprise every year. I sit confused and bleary eyed at first trying to figure out what has happened; what's wrong with me. Then, I look outside at the gray nothingness and it hits me; I have stepped into that dark portal between fall and winter and am free falling into that black hole.
The Darkest of Days
You know, that time of year when you get up and it's dark; you take the kids to school and it's gray, damp and dreary; you go to pick up the kids and the dull sun has started to slip down behind the low, dark clouds; you run a few errands and emerge to find what little sunlight there was has slipped below the horizon; you glance outside and realize you better turn on the porch light for the husband because it's completely dark and the clock has yet to strike 5 o'clock.
Up in the northern regions, this happens in late October and lasts through the winter, but November and early December are the hardest as the days are especially dark and dreary. By mid-December the snow begins to make an appearance, lightening and brightening the night and day and this helps me immensely.
But at this moment, I am stuck in the dark fog that permeates my being.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
This is Seasonal Affective Disorder. Here's what the U.S. National Library of Medicine says about it:
Symptoms usually build up slowly in the late autumn and winter months. Symptoms are usually the same as with other forms of depression:
Increased appetite with weight gain (weight loss is more common with other forms of depression)
Increased sleep (too little sleep is more common with other forms of depression)
Less energy and ability to concentrate
Loss of interest in work or other activities
Unhappiness and irritability
This about sums it up, but this year my appetite has decreased, which is a plus for me.
Treatment includes managing symptoms by sleeping enough, eating healthy foods, exercising, getting out in the sunlight, when possible and light therapy. I started using a lamp last year for treating my SAD symptoms.
These lamps use a very bright light (10,000 lux) that mimics light from the sun. The U.S. National Library of Medicine makes this recommendation regarding light therapy:
Start treatment during the fall or early winter, before the symptoms of SAD begin.
Follow your health care provider's instructions about how to use light therapy. A common practice is to sit a couple of feet away from the light box for about 30 minutes every day. This is usually done in the early morning, to mimic sunrise.
Keep your eyes open, but do not look straight into the light source.
Symptoms of depression should improve within 3 - 4 weeks if light therapy is going to help.
As I mentioned, I am caught by surprise each year by this annual visitor. I should have already started light therapy, but I will begin it now. And I will try to remember to pull out my lamp next September in anticipation of this dark portal.
How about you? Do the dark days affect your mood, upset your rhythm and break your spirit like it does mine? Over and out...