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Seasonal depression, seasonal sadness, winter blues, whatever you want to call it

It has begun.

From the nhs website: Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. SAD is sometimes known as “winter depression” because the symptoms are usually more apparent and more severe during the winter. Some people with SAD may have symptoms during the summer and feel better during the winter.

Every year since I was thirteen years old, I remember getting very low and sad in November. It was only 15 years later that I realised this wasn’t happening just to me. This is a common phenomena happening to millions of people. Let me describe my experience.

It happens after my birthday

My birthday is in mid October. I love having a day when everyone is nice to me. I get presents. My family cook my favourite food or we go out to eat. At that end of the day there’s cake. What’s not to love? I know not everyone enjoys their birthdays but for me, it still holds that childhood magic. I love the decorations, balloons, candles…the whole thing. I ride that high until the end of October, and then plunge into darkness.

I started noticing that November was alway a low month for me when I was 17. Before then, I didn’t piece together that out of the whole year, this would be the only time I would find myself retreating from socials, wanting to hide my body, crying myself to sleep at night. It’s like my thoughts themselves would change, turning moody and dark. My lens on the whole world would be clouded over. Everything was sad.

Once I noticed, the inevitable darkness was hard to escape.

I looked forward to my birthday but dreaded November. I tried everything to turn it into a ‘good month’: making plans for Christmas early, stick to an exercise plan, call it my mental health month where I took extra steps for self care. It didn’t work. November remained dark.

This continued for years. I forgot each time I came out of the other side. The promise of spring and summer would soothe my memories and I would promise myself that this year, November would stay happy. I would get through this winter without any issues.

What is actually happening?

The main cause of disorder is a lack of sunshine, leading to a lower production of melatonin, serotonin and a disruption in my circadian rhythm. It’s good to know the causes, but it doesn’t help. Well I could always ship off to a tropical island at the end of each October; Mauritius is great from November to February. But short of that, it seem I’m stuck having to brave November year to year.

What happens after November?

December is still dark and dreary but at least there’s Christmas activities to distract me. January brings the promise of a fresh start. February is when I start thinking of spring. And then there’s light.

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