December 25

For Years, I Lived with Seasonal Affective Disorder, Thinking It Was Just the Winter Blues

By fitness

December 25, 2022

As advised to Nicole Audrey Spector

Come on, Jules. Get it collectively. Suck it up. You can do that. You’re an athlete. Not simply any athlete however one specializing in endurance sports activities. Think about that phrase. Endurance. You simply must endure this.

That’s what I stored telling myself once I would get up within the morning feeling completely stripped of my regular get-up-and-go vigor. It was late fall in Michigan. The lengthy highway of winter lay forward. The mere considered it stuffed me with dread as a result of I knew I might really feel much more zapped of vitality because the dreary months drudged on.

Seldom did I see the sunshine. I would go away for work when it was nonetheless darkish out and get out of labor when it was darkish as soon as once more. The solely mild I actually knew throughout these months was the cruel, buzzing fluorescence of the indoors.

During these darkish months, my temper would plummet. I used to be a mix of unhappy, anxious and listless . The winter doldrums, I figured. Nobody enjoys these darkish, bitterly chilly stretches.

But I had different signs as properly — together with physique aches, extreme sleeping, fatigue, and profound mind fog. The mind fog was the worst. I’d simply sit there watching a wall of emails feeling prefer it was closing in on me, like I used to be frozen.

Some years later, I relocated to Dallas with my husband. I used to be thrilled to be in a hotter, sunnier local weather. But Dallas experiences winter, too. It’s nothing like what you get in Michigan, however the days are nonetheless brief and in the event you don’t make an effort, you possibly can simply overlook to get out within the sunshine in any respect.

It was a pair winters in the past once I felt my previous gloomy signs return. I used to be extra than simply bummed out, I used to be depressed — and infrequently barely in a position to get off the bed. I used to be additionally coping with different well being points, together with persistent migraine assaults. As the winter blues kicked in, my migraine assaults obtained far worse. I wound up visiting a handful of medical doctors to attempt to unravel what was occurring with the persistent migraine assaults.

Eventually I discovered a PCP that I actually linked with who, over time, picked up on a sample: I had signs of despair all 12 months spherical, however my signs actually elevated in the course of the winter months. The physique aches, mind fog and migraine assaults additionally worsened.

“I think you have seasonal affective disorder,” he mentioned.

I’d heard of seasonal affective dysfunction (SAD), and understood that it was a sort of despair that flares up within the fall and winter months. What I didn’t know was simply how vast the spectrum of SAD signs is. People residing with SAD might expertise not solely unhappiness, but additionally mind fog, listlessness, fatigue, extreme sleeping and sluggishness, amongst different signs.

There’s no blood check or different solution to formally diagnose SAD. But I've all of the signs, which led my physician to conclude that I've it.

Most individuals right here in Dallas are used to the lengthy, sunny days so that they romanticize fall and winter. They look ahead to the brisk air, the crunchy leaves and the pumpkin spice lattés. But I face the darker months with a way of foreboding. I do know that my despair will dip, my physique aches will intensify, my mind fog will remodel into one thing extra carefully resembling complete confusion and my want for sleep will improve.

But I can’t let the SAD win. Otherwise, I'll have such a small and, properly, unhappy life.

So, I gear up for winter prefer it’s an endurance sport unto itself. My first technique of assault is to go up on my antidepressants. This is step one as a result of for me, with out the medicine, I actually can’t do something.

I've mild packing containers round the home that I take advantage of to take in digital rays. Those with SAD are advisable to start out with half-hour a day of sunshine remedy with a ten,000 lux fluorescent mild field.

The mild field helps a bit, however what I discover helps me most is to regulate my sleep cycle to be in complete sync with my circadian clock. To do that, I've my dinner properly earlier than the solar units (right here in Texas, meaning by about 5:45 p.m. this time of 12 months). I wind down early and go to mattress as early as I can.

Then, I get up with the solar.

2021 (Photo/Paul Simon)

The most important a part of my SAD-combatting routine is to get outside with my canine when the solar is shining vivid. I sometimes don’t have the vitality for a run, however I can muster a stroll. Just strolling for some time within the peace and quiet, underneath the magnificent sprawl of the solar, infuses me with vitality. Again, I by no means actually get sufficient vitality to do a full-on exercise (not less than, not but), however I can collect sufficient life drive to propel me via my day.

Until I discovered that I possible have SAD, I figured that the best way I suffered within the winters was regular, and that I used to be being dramatic for feeling upset over it. And I used to be baffled. How might an endurance athlete be dropped at her knees by one thing as pure because the altering of the seasons?

But like so many invisible sicknesses, SAD is a trickster. It likes to make you second-guess your self. The avalanche of mind fog absolutely doesn’t assist, as that alone could make you are feeling such as you’re shedding your thoughts.

Now that I’ve begun treating myself for SAD — and seeing optimistic outcomes — I ponder what number of others reside with the situation and simply don’t realize it. Maybe like me, they assume they simply have to toughen up. I’d like these individuals to speak to their physician about their signs and to comprehend that SAD isn’t simply the winter blues. It can result in severe despair, and so many different devastating signs.

I hope that in the event you assume you’re experiencing SAD, you received’t, as I did, wait years and years to convey it as much as your physician. Talk about it now and search out the sunshine — even when it is available in a field.

Have a Real Woman, Real Stories of your personal you wish to share? Let us know.

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