I’ve been thinking a lot about my SAD.
SAD is triggered by the lack of light and shortening days for those affected with it. During the shorter days the brain produces more melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that induces sleepiness in certain animals, like bears. It’s the reason why some mammals hibernate until the warmer, longer days of spring. Unfortunately, some humans retain this biological urge to hibernate, but because we must continue to live productive lives, our natural urge to sleep is ignored and seasonal depression is the result.
I seem to suffer from a weird form of SAD. The fall is much more depressing to me than winter. Most people with SAD feel terrible in late fall AND all winter. But for me, I start feeling depressed sometime in mid-August, when the days are growing noticeably shorter. Obviously, for me, the heat as nothing to do with it.
My SAD really kicks in once Fall officially starts and the trees start changing colors. My worst months are by far November and December. I absolutely hate them. I can’t stand the holidays (too stressful), so they do nothing to lighten or bring cheer to my low mood. All I want to do is curl into a little ball and hibernate until early spring.
In mid-late fall, everything looks so grim and barren to me–shades of gray, brown, and black, and everything is dying/going to sleep. The cold, gloomy, overcast days don’t help either. It’s dark when I get up and dark when I come home from work. It’s everything I can do to drag myself through these dark, depressing days.
Although I hate ice and cold and snow, sometime around the end of January (which I read is statistically the most depressing month of the year) my mood begins to perk up as my body begins to notice the lengthening days. Actually, I feel relief after the first day of winter, just knowing the days are going to get longer for 6 more months. I feel even more relief once the Holiday season is over (which I find really stressful).
My mood continues to improve until mid-late spring, then starts to level off, until early August when it starts to sink again.
My mood is at it’s highest around the end of April/early May. I have no idea why. Maybe because the days are fairly long by then, but the oppressive heat (which I don’t really like) hasn’t kicked in yet.
I think it might also have to do with the fact there are so many happy colors in the spring–and they aren’t the dreary 1970s-like browns, golds and oranges of fall. They’re more like 1980s colors–or even 1960s colors in some cases (and weren’t both those decades less depressing than the 1970s?) Everything isn’t all the same boring shade of green the way it is in summer either. I love spring.
My body/brain seems to mimic the cycle of hibernating animals–except that in the winter I actually feel better than in the fall. That I can’t really figure out because I hate cold weather so much (and it’s coldest here in February, but my mood is not that bad anymore by then).
I face this same strange pattern every single year. I’m coming into the worst of it in about another month or so. Blah.
For further reading: How to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder/Winter Blues: