Tag Archives: Seasonal affective disorder

Guest Post II by “My Life as a Zombie” Dealing With S.A.D.

Introduction:

JLLopez1006 is the creator, writer, and designer of the online blog My Life as a Zombie, a blog for those that suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)– those who understand. Likewise, the blog is also for those that are lucky enough not to suffer from S.A.D.– those who do not understand, but seek to.  Her blog was started to increase awareness and understanding of S.A.D., as well as to be part of a support system available to those who suffer.

JLLopez1006 is self-employed as a Freelance Writer and Blogger.  After being self-diagnosed, she was professionally diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder in Spring 2008, and counts it as a blessing every time that she survives another northern United States winter.

This is the second installment of  Fighting the Good Fight  jllopez Guest Post giving you tips on how to deal with S.A.D.  I trust the previous post was helpful for you as it was for me! I am very honored to have her as my guest here on my lil blog,  thank you so much jllopez! So, here goes! 


  • Supplement for lack of natural light— Even if you get natural light, you may still need to supplement with artificial light. Choose a light that simulates sunlight and is designed to treat S.A.D. A regular light will not do the trick. Use it in the morning to start your day off right, or in the late afternoon or evening to keep yourself awake and going. If you have insurance and have been professionally diagnosed with S.A.D., check with your insurance provider to see if they will cover the cost of a light box in lieu of prescription antidepressants or regular light therapy visits. I was able to do this—I just had to have my therapist write a prescription for the light, and my insurance covered the cost in full.
  • Keep shades to a minimumI am speaking about two types of shades here. First, when you get out and it is sunny, remember that you need the light to reach your eyes. Wearing shades may block the light. I choose to forgo sunglasses for the sake of treatment during the winter. Though I cannot speak on the long-term effects of doing so in regards to cataracts or damage to the eye, I do know that when you use a light box, the light must go into your eyes, so I apply the same concept with natural light. Second, when in your home or office, keep window shades, blinds, or curtains to a minimum by opening them during the day. You will get some added natural light, plus you will save money by heating up your space naturally and not having to turn on so many lights.
  • Take a vacation from S.A.D.—If you are able, it is recommended to take a vacation to somewhere that receives more natural sunlight (think south) to help break up the long winters. I have done so at the end of March for a couple of years, and it helps me to get through the time when my collective sun deficit is at its worst. One word of caution, though: Coming back to where you live may cause a dramatic “let-down.” I heard one story told of a woman who did the same thing, came back to her home in Europe, was unable to deal with her situation after a dramatic “letdown,” and she ended up committing suicide. Though this is an extreme example, I have experienced a similar effect, so please be prepared for the possibility, and do not let it take you by surprise.  If the reaction is strong, make sure to get help.
  • Get a little helpI used to just deal with the overwhelming fatigue on my own. More recently, I have learned to take supplements and use caffeine in order to help myself through this time. Bananas are supposed to be helpful in treating S.A.D., in addition to Vitamin D. You may be able to find vitamins that specialize in providing added energy. As long as they are not harmful, don’t feel shy to use things that can help you get through winter.
  • Keep yourself busyThough I know some people choose to reduce their workload during winter, I have found that getting involved with activities that I like helps to keep my mind off of the long winter days.  In particular, working from home in a creative field has allowed me to stay productive in a therapeutic way.  Try to find activities, whether work-related or leisure, that help to pass the time.  The key is to stay busy, but do not overload yourself or force yourself to do things that will only exacerbate your S.A.D.  Stress can be a contributing factor to causing a breakdown due to S.A.D., so you should avoid it as much as possible.  In addition, staying busy with activities that you enjoy can help to keep your brain sharp as you fight the mental fog that S.A.D. often brings.

The mentioned methods are just some of the ones that I personally use to survive winter as someone who is fairly severely affected by S.A.D.

Please note that I am not a medical professional, and it is always recommended that you consult a doctor or therapist prior to attempting any form of self-treatment.

Likewise, what works for me may differ from what works for you, so it is a good idea to figure out what helps you to make it through the day.

Learning what works for me has helped me to get back to being a fairly normal and functional person in spite of the winter season.  Before I was diagnosed, I was a mess, barely able to get by in life. Now that I know what I am dealing with, I am able to handle it more effectively.  When it comes to surviving Seasonal Affective Disorder, knowledge is truly power.

Don’t forget to visit  My Life as a Zombie  and give some comment-luv to my special guest!! Thank you!

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Guest Post I by “My Life as a Zombie” Dealing With S.A.D.

Introduction:

JLLopez1006 is the creator, writer, and designer of the online blog My Life as a Zombie, a blog for those that suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)– those who understand. Likewise, the blog is also for those that are lucky enough not to suffer from S.A.D.– those who do not understand, but seek to.  Her blog was started to increase awareness and understanding of S.A.D., as well as to be part of a support system available to those who suffer.

JLLopez1006 is self-employed as a Freelance Writer and Blogger.  After being self-diagnosed, she was professionally diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder in Spring 2008, and counts it as a blessing every time that she survives another northern United States winter.

Today and in a second guest post next week you are getting advise from a “pro”!  Thank you so much jllopez1006 for your contribution on this topic!! I am sure it provides you with useful tips on how to deal with the S.A.D. elements in your life or,  at the least,  understand someone else who does.

Fighting the Good Fight

Seasonal Affective Disorder is one of those things in life that you can simply do without. Until you have it, you don’t get it; and once you have it, you sure wish that you didn’t.

S.A.D. affects you mentally, emotionally, and physically, temporarily numbing who you are as a person, dumbing down your senses, and turning you into a shadow of your former self. That is why I named my new S.A.D. blog “My Life as a Zombie,” because very often, in my opinion, “being affected is more like being infected.”

Seasonal Affective Disorder can disenfranchise you from others during this difficult time of year, can cause your brain to work at a reduced level, and make even normal physical functionality tough to handle. You may find yourself retreating away from others and activity; and likewise, others may feel the need to distance themselves from you, because they think you are a “downer,” that you are negative or pessimistic, or that you just like to be depressed.

This time of year demands that you learn your own personal rules of survival in the fight against Seasonal Affective Disorder. Here are some of mine:

  • Step into the light — Though days are short and natural light is minimal, try to take advantage of sunlight when it is available.  For me, that means getting out during the day and enjoying the sunlight as I do my errands. I also started working from home to allow myself the freedom to get out during the day rather than be stuck in an office with minimal light.
  • Get ample rest — It may seem simple, but it is vital to get enough sleep during this time. You know that you will still feel sleepy throughout the day, but sleepiness is different from sheer exhaustion because you have been succumbing to late nights and early mornings. Make sleep a priority, even if you have to take naps to get it all in.
  • Eat, drink, and be merry — Though you do not want to overdo it, make sure to get enough to eat and drink. Hunger or dehydration can cause you to experience fatigue, and considering how prone to feeling tired that you are already, you don’t want to make it any worse.
  • Do what cheers you up — As you struggle through the long winter, allow yourself to experience comfort and joy in ways that you can. For me, I like to read, eat out, go online, and watch movies. Despite what others may think or doctors would recommend, I do not choose “feel good” movies or books. Rather, many of them are actually very emotional and possibly depressing. But since I feel less during the winter, it actually helps me to feel again, so for me, it is a positive thing. Since I abhor cold weather and snow, I avoid being outside as much as possible, which, in turn, shelters my psyche.  Do what makes you personally feel more alive.
  • Be social on your own terms — For those suffering with S.A.D., it can be hard to keep up with the social requirements that may be expected of you. Rather than cut yourself off from the world for a few months, learn to relate to others in ways that you are comfortable with. I find social networking to be even more vital during the winter, as it is a great way to stay involved with others in spite of my own personal funk.  Same goes with email—since I like to write anyways, I am more likely to converse with people if I do not have to speak to them in person or on the phone. This is also helpful because I can do it when I want and when I have time—if I get overwhelmed, it is easy to leave it for later.

Look for the second installment here next week!  In the mean time don’t forget to visit My Life as a Zombie and leave some comment-luv for my special guest! Thank you!

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What to Do When S.A.D. or Depressed

What's love got to do with it? Read on...

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Routine and habits

As I shared in a previous post,  routine and habits are essential to hang on to in times of SAD or depression.  Yes,  it might take longer to do the chores,  and yes,  it will definitely be harder to fulfil them.  BUT,  when they are part of your system,  you can decide not to pay attention to how you feel about them,  but just do them.  That is the beauty of habit.  Mindlessly doing what you always do.

Why is order so important?

Keeping order in your mind starts with keeping order around you.  It is so easy to let go of housekeeping duties,  especially laundry and dishes (made easier with a dishwasher, I know,  but it’s luxury I don’t have),  and within a few days your house is a mess.  Cleaning up the mess seems impossible and soon you feel like drowning.  The mess overwhelms you,  causing more anxiety than you can handle,  which in turn increases the feelings of helplessness,  hopelessness,  guilt etc.

Been there. Done that. Forever.

HOWEVER

I discovered that habits in and of itself do not really cut it.  You need a good reason for doing them.  Otherwise you drop them at the tip of your hat.  Or at least when the going gets tough.  That used to happen to me all.the.time.

What made the difference for me,  though,  is the motivation WHY I do what I do.  The secret?

SELF-LOVE – doing what is in the best interest of ME

Finally I know how it feels to do things because they are in my best interest.  The fact that when I pass my kitchen,  I stand still to simply enjoy the look of my window sill.  It looks so nice,  after it has been a mess for so so so long.  Because I have an extra kitchen cabinet,  now it makes sense to keep the clean look.  Every time I am in the kitchen,  I do the dishes,  so I will not be overwhelmed again with the amount of dishes overflowing from the sink.  It makes me feel proud of myself that I am keeping it up and I thoroughly enjoy the clean look of my kitchen (and no, this does not mean my floor or my stove are clean – I am still working on that 🙂 )

The fact that I feel happy in my bedroom because there is order – everything has it’s place.  I never realised that simply dumping all my clean laundry on a heap was in actual fact disturbing to my soul.  I am even able to keep up with the laundry,  the hanging up and even putting away.  Right now,  my wash bin is empty!  This is unbelievable as I never seemed to get ahead of it.

So.

Here are some things you can do,  because they are in your best interest.

Getting up – even if it turns out later than usual.

Getting dressed – even though I love my jammies,  I noticed that being dressed changed my attitude about the day.

Have breakfast – sounds so logic, eh?  But I tend to ‘forget’ it.  Then hunger strikes and I eat snacks and junk food.

Have a cuppa – tea,  coffee,  whatever.  Keep the fluids going!

Take a walk in the morning
Yikes… Confession time:  I don’t like to go out for the sake of going out,  especially in the mornings.  But if I have to go out for whatever reason,  when I come home,  I notice the difference.  It feels so good!  Yet,  the experience is not strong enough to get me going by myself.  So especially when I am in a funk/depressed/SAD I try to make appointments in the morning to get myself out of bed and out the door!

The scientific reason to do this is to get yourself in day light in order to re-set your sleep-wake cycle.  Getting day light kicks the melatonin in your body in its place.  Melatonin is the body’s sleep drug.  Resetting it helps your body to feel sleepy when it ought to in the evening.

Speak to a human being
Make contact with someone.  Doesn’t need to be long,  nor about something serious.  Main focus is being in touch as opposed to isolating yourself.  This is especially important for singles (like me).  When you have a spouse and/or kids,  they will keep you on your toes.  Which is good.  And raises other challenges,  I know…  Still.

Do something creative
I maintain the view that each one of us is creative.  Either with writing,  knitting,  gardening,  drawing,  designing,  photography,  card-making, whatever it is you do that get your creative juices flowing.  Do it!  It will definitely make you feel better as you have accomplished something.

Do something you know you enjoy
For me,  going to the library and having a coffee there is a treat.  It’s just one of the simple things I love,  even on my own.  Whatever it is you love to do,  do it!  ANd don;t think that you are accomplishing nothing,  you are working hard on your self-love ;-)!

Do you have any ‘home remedies’ that help you deal with S.A.D. / depression?

Please share with us in the comment section below!

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Feeling Blue, Depressed or S.A.D.? Or Plain Confused?

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The blues
Yes,  everyone at some point or other ‘has the blues’.  (It beats me why it is called blue,  rather than grey.  Besides,  I quite like the Blues,  as in music.)  It is not uncommon to feel ‘blue’ when Winter is upon you.  The days are getting shorter,  you leave the house in the dark and return when darkness has set in.  During the day you hardly see the sun or you are not able to take advantage of daylight.

Time change
On top of that, the time change can seriously affect people who have a sensitive body clock. The inner sleep-wake cycle can become pretty disturbed. Honestly,  I don’t understand why we haven’t cancelled this whole stupid Daylight Savings Time already!  It influences my hormone balance,  sleep-wake cycle and what-not.  Why can’t they leave the time alone?!  It would save me,  and countless others,  a lot of hassle.  Let’s start a protest group…

Ok,  joking aside,  it does upset the system.  It takes time to get used to the coming of Winter,  especially in countries where daylight is cut short the most.  So,  feeling blue for a while is nothing to be worried about.

But when does it turn into being depressed or having S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder)?

Signs of depression
This list contains most of what you experience when you feel depressed and not just blue.  The symptoms must last longer than two weeks to become officially a ‘depression’.

  • Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/ or helplessness
  • Irritability or restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early morning wakefulness or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating or appetite loss
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease, even with treatment
  • Source

No,  you don’t need to suffer from all af them!  But if you can tick of a fair amount,  it might be worthwhile to explore it further for your own health benefit.

SAD (got tired of punctuation)
SAD is in actual fact a sub-category of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).  It has to occur at the same time every year and a minimum of two years in a row.  It also affects those having Bipolar Disorder (BD).  According to the DSM,  the psychiatrists bible,  SAD does not stand on its own.

I might disagree.  But then,  I am not a psychiatrist!

The reason why I say this, is that many people suffer from the blues or depression in some form or other during the darker times of the year.  While it might not disturb your life enough to warrant a doctor’s visit (in your thinking) and a psychiatrist might not diagnose you,  it doesn’t mean you have to silently suffer through it.

SADdies, Unite!!!

So,  what can you do about it?
What I have discovered in the past several months is that having a strong routine and solid habits can keep you going when a depression hits.  Of course it depends on the depth of the depression,  sometimes it just kicks out your legs from under you.  But all the same,  refusing to discuss ‘if I should make by bed;  do the dishes; hang up my coat;  put away the laundry’  it with myself by just doing it,  helps to keep an ordered and uncluttered house.  This way the chaos and disorder is contained in my head.  If my surroundings get cluttered and disordered,  my anxiety rises exponentially.  I don’t need no more of thát,  honestly!!

Next post I give you a list of practical things you can work on during the good times,  so you can fall back on it in the bad times.

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Are You Affected or S.A.D.?

Hang on!

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Habits.  Routine.  Having a mode of operation.

Those things come in so handy when you are swinging around on the mood swing!

Since a couple of months I have been able to implement some basic habits.  They are pretty simple really.  Like making my bed everyday.  Having breakfast every morning.  Hanging up my coat,  my purse,  my scarf,  each in its own place when I come in.  Putting my shoes away.  Having my laundry organised.  Going to bed and getting up about the same time every day.

Talking about organisation – I finally ‘organised’ the shelves and desks in my back room,  tidied up my bedroom,  created order in my kitchen.  And you know what?  It makes such a difference to my daily life!

The kitchen happened first,  because a new kitchen cabinet was placed where one obviously had been before.  Now all my stuff disappeared from my window sill and counter top and it suddenly looked so neat and tidy!  I gave my window sill a new look and every time I passed my kitchen I stood still and simply enjoyed the view…

The rest is history,  as they say.  Soon the other parts of my house followed.  I started to feel at home for realzzzzz!  An awesome experience 🙂

After arranging everything I somehow managed to even put some order in my daily habits.  I am determined to keep my kitchen uncluttered.  To stay on top of my laundry and not ‘forget’ to put it away (i.e. dump it in my bedroom and ‘fishing’ in the huge heap for clean stuff).

I honestly don’t know why I was able to get on top of things this time.  I have tried before,  real hard,  to no avail.  But what matters most is,  it is happening!

Behind me is a period of doing really well.  It took me by surprise.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.  Nearly got used to what I started to think of as my new ‘normal’.  That is when SAD hit me.

SAD,  or Seasonal Affective Disorder,  is a type of depression that comes with Fall.  As the leaves are falling, so am I 😦
I actually thought I was going to miss out on it this year.  I am taking my vitamin D (since I am officially low on D),  was energetic,  my social life was on the up.  It couldn’t have been better.

Then one day I woke up in a funk.  For no reason whatsoever.  Really.  No rhyme or reason.  The next day it was a little worse.  The next day,  still worse.  Then it started to settle.

Sluggishness and tiredness followed.  I am fighting to go to bed at a reasonable time.  I am struggling to get up in time for my activities.  I need more time for e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. which is totally annoying and irritating.  My proper eating habits that have served me well (I lost weight,  a story for another post if I don’t gain it back) are flying out of the window.  I want to eat junk food and snacks.  I don’t feel sociable.  I sit behind the laptop doing mindless games,  wasting time I should spend on my study and some other projects.  This irritates me to no end!

Keep hanging on!!!

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BUT.  I am hanging on to my habits.  I am still making my bed,  doing my dishes,  doing my laundry,  keeping order in my house.  I try to cook every day and eat regularly.  Will have breakfast.  I am going to work,  I do my activities.  I will celebrate St. Nicholas with good friends on Sunday and they will be my guests.  So I am sociable and I am determined to enjoy it as much as possible.

I don’t know when this episode will pass.  The only thing I know for sure is that it WILL pass.  That’s the nature of my illness.  Till then,  I have to hang on with all my might.  Even if I am hanging by nails,  I will hang on!

What do you do to get yourself through such times?
Help me by answering in the comments.

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Seasonal Depression – anyone recognize being SAD?

Been on the internet for many hours,  trying to catch up on all I missed during my 15 days of absence.  No use, of course,  but I had to get my fix!!!

Okay.  Since y’all have been able to read the basics of BD (about which is so much more to write,  I know),  I will now continue with the realities of living with BD.  Sharing my struggles.  Cuz I want you to be aware that life with BD is different for everybody.  It is as unique as the person dealing with it. 

There is so much I’d like to discuss,  like ways to approach living with BD;  what can others do to help;  what is not so helpful;  what can we do to improve our own lives; and lots more.  But most of all,  I want others to join in and make comments,  start discussions,  ask questions.  That is why I blog.  I don’t want this blog to be an ego trip that is all about me.  So,  please take part,  will you?!?

I haven’t been doing too great the last couple of weeks.  Mostly this was due to the lack of social networking since my internet and phone connection went down.  It’s a bit horrifying to know how dependable I am on technology for my social life and apparent well-being…  So much so that I go down with the technology. 

What has happened is that I have become fairly inactive.  It is not as if there isn’t anything to do.  My study is still waiting for me to continue,  there is a book to translate,  I could have written posts ahead of time,  could have made 3D cards and send to peeps I care about, and so on. 

But what I have been doing is sleep 10-12 hours at a time.  Read a lot of fiction.  Make Japanese logical puzzles.  Try to stay on a healthy diet,  which is a challenge in itself.  Keep up with housekeeping,  which I haven’t quite managed. 

Leaving the house has been a challenge as well.  I have been  a ‘titmouse’,  as we say in Dutch, staying at home.  This is probably also a result of not having had my own home for so very long.  Since I now have my own place,  I enjoy it so thoroughly,  I don’t like to go anywhere for very long.  I guess it is a normal response and I am not worried about it.  It is just harder to overcome at times and make myself go somewhere. 

Especially since it is so cold outside,  with snow for four days in a row,  an amazing feat in Holland!  Mind you,  I’ve got to do everything by bike and the cold is bothering me much more than in the past (a sure sign I am getting older….? ouch!).  Got to get myself a hat and gloves,  but I have to go outside for that, yikes!

Also,  I suffer from Seasonal Depression,  meaning I can’t handle the fact that day-time is so short and darkness so long very well.  In addition,  we get so many grey skies and days in the Netherlands,  lots of rain and now even snow.  In Ukraine,  with snow and frost comes often sunshine.  Here the sun disappears,  making me want to crawl in bed and hibernate.  It’s hard to not give in to do just that.  It helps that my internet connection is up again.  But to get out of the rut of sleeping long hours and not doing too much… I can’t begin to tell you how hard it is. 

I became so angry when the internet and phone connection went down (which resulted in not being able to have my regular session with my counselor,  aggravating the whole situation) – which wasn’t doing me any good.  Anger is my main survival emotion and once triggered,  if it reaches a certain level and has nowhere to go,  it turns inside and makes me depressed.  It can take me weeks to get out of it.  I still need to learn to deal with the anger before it reaches the danger level and virtually paralyses me.

It’s unfortunate that we,  BD’s,  are more susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder / Seasonal Depression.  I know there are certain lamps on the market that can help battle the lack of sunlight from which we suffer.  Don’t mind trying this,  but gotta be careful it doesn’t swing me to the other side… although at the moment I’d prefer being hypomanic to being sluggish and passive!

To close,  I end with a positive note: 

Three weeks back saw the beginning of my involvement with our youth group which has given me a lot of joy.  I feel so happy spending time with them and getting to know them.  I simply love it!  I am grateful that it is possible for me to do so and follow my heart’s desire in discipling and building trust relationships with that age group.  (Glad my church ain’t that far from my apartment! 🙂 Like 5 minutes by bike.)

Do you recognize what I am talking about?  What do you do to overcome the blues?  Anyone with BD have experience with those special lights / lamps?  Tell me about it!

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