Late November GLOOM

Spring can’t come fast enough, but that’s still a long time to wait.

Yeah, it’s cold too.

novembergloom

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My Seasonal Affective Disorder makes me want to hibernate until spring.

It’s baaaaack!  I hate this time of year.

Lucky Otters Haven

seasonal_moods
Graph I made showing my mood pattern throughout the year. It’s this way every year.

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…

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Summer’s end.

The end of summer always brings me sadness — and I mean that quite literally, since I suffer from the mood disorder SAD (seasonal affective disorder) that always sets in around late August and usually sticks around until sometime in late January or early February, when the days start to become noticeably longer.

It seems incongruous to me that it is still so swelteringly hot (we hit 90 degrees F today) and yet signs of fall are everywhere: Halloween (and even Thanksgiving and Christmas) products and decorations in the stores,  kids going back to school, the presence of school buses on the roads when I drive to work in the morning, a few falling leaves here and there,  and that tired, wilted, look the trees and shrubs get before they begin to turn their fall colors (around here, that usually means dingy brown).  And, of course, the dreaded Pumpkin Spice Everything.

Another sign that summer is at its end is the closing of public swimming pools.  Even though it’s still as hot as the inside of a locked car in Miami, the municipal pool has closed its doors until next Memorial Day.   I found that out when I drove over there this afternoon, hoping to enjoy a quick cool down in the water.   Instead of the welcome sight and sounds of people splashing happily in the refreshing turquoise water and the occasional whistle from the lifeguard, what I found instead was a completely abandoned concrete building guarding the pool, which was half-drained so whatever water was left looked as refreshing as thick green pond scum.  The surrounding chain link fence with its rusty Master locks keeping the gates closed completed the desolate look.  The fact I was sweating balls under the blistering sun and the sky was a deep bright summer blue dotted with fluffy cumulus clouds made the sight seem even sadder somehow.

There was also not one person in sight.

I took a few photos so my visit there wouldn’t be a total waste of time.

summersend1

I enhanced the above “closed” announcement on the main building with a sepia toned filter for a nostalgic effect.

summersend2

In the above photo, I used a color enhancing filter, making the water a more lurid green and the sky even bluer than it actually was.

summersend3

Abandoned pool and lifeguard chair in black and white.

Honesty.

I’m not going to lie.   I’ve been feeling pretty down and out about everything the past few days.   Maybe it’s the letdown after “returning to reality” last week, or maybe it’s another huge pocket of pain coming to the surface that needs release.    I know what I can do about that.   I can meet my two new friends in Chapel Hill who have promised to work with me on that, but I have to set up a whole day to make the 4-hour drive there and back, and spend several hours in therapy.

My depression could be due to the sudden arrival of “winter”– all the leaves are finally gone, it’s suddenly cold and the days are unbearably short.   I spent the entire day curled up on the couch with a blanket eating junk food staring at my box TV, watching episodes of “Pitbulls and Parolees” on Animal Planet and crying during and after every heartwarming/heartbreaking episode.  And I don’t even like Pitbulls!  My pitiful little two foot tall fiber optic Christmas tree sitting in the corner by the window seemed to mock me.  Where’s my Christmas spirit? I have none right now.  And I don’t care.

Several real world issues (like terrible water pressure caused by years of incompetent jimmy-rigged plumbing in a 108 year old house that all needs to be redone and will cost thousands of dollars that my landlord doesn’t want to spend and I certainly don’t have)–things that aren’t really disasters but have the potential to become disasters aren’t helping.   I’m trying to work out solutions to these seemingly impossible dilemmas but don’t have the motivation or energy to do very much except complain and whine about how awful and annoying they are.  I almost don’t care.   The whole house is falling apart anyway.   The landlord does nothing.  I just want to move.  But that’s not looking like it’s in the immediate future either.

I’m getting older and feeling increasingly helpless and adrift in life unless things begin to change or I get a handle on myself and obtain more motivation to change some things myself–like writing that ebook I always talk about writing.  I know I could probably sell it and at least earn enough to move–maybe.   But my motivation to write or create anything is gone.  All I want to do is eat and sleep.  I don’t even want to blog or read.  I don’t want to do anything.   I don’t even feel like looking for a sad picture for this post.

I feel like maybe something very dark, some hidden or unseen outcropping of the Himalayan-sized mountain range of my abandonment trauma got triggered during my HeartSync week that wasn’t fully resolved or fully released.   I remember feeling like there was more I had to get out, but there wasn’t enough time to work on that.

I’m having lots of doubts about my faith too, which alarms me.    I feel like I need to call these two people in Chapel Hill really soon.   I also want my copy of Pete Walker’s “C-PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving” back.  My therapist has had it for months and I doubt has even read it.   I think I’m going to ask him to bring it back, because I sure could use the advice in it right now.

I didn’t want to write anything tonight.  But I wanted to be honest.  So there you go.  That’s where I’m at.   I’m going to put on my light therapy lamp for awhile and just try to relax and talk to God even if he’s AWOL at the moment.  Then go to sleep.

I think my Winter Blues are saying adieu!

snow_bench

I’ve posted before about my SAD (seasonal affective disorder). I also explained that for me, a sufferer of the Fall/Winter type (the most common type), I’m extremely sensitive to changes in daylight.

The Winter Solstice falls around December 21 or 22 every year. That’s the shortest day of the year, but also the last day the days are going to get any shorter. The next day, the sunlight-hours increase every day by increments of about a minute a day, as they march toward the Summer Solstice which falls from June 20 – June 22 every year.

I always noticed a darkening of my overall mood and loss of energy very shortly after the first day of summer, since the days are already becoming shorter even as they grow hotter. My body perceives these changes as early as mid-July!

There’s probably an evolutionary reason for this. Our distant ancestors were nocturnal, tree climbing, shrew like animals who may have needed to hibernate during colder weather to conserve energy and calories, while food was scarce. Many mammals today have a need to hibernate, and this tendency may have been retained in human genes to some extent, causing many of us to feel tired and depressed when they days begin to shorten. How nice if hibernation were an option for some of us humans!

bear_sleeping

Getting back to the topic at hand, my mood is already starting to improve, even though the first day of winter was only about 3 weeks ago (that long already???)
That’s early even for me. My body and spirits don’t usually start reacting to these increases until the end of January at the earliest.

But maybe my improving mood is due to more than just the lengthening days. Since I’ve been in therapy, I’ve been feeling a little bit happier and less anxious overall. For example, I have a serious car issue, but I’m actually not freaking out the way I would have a year or two ago. I’ve also noticed people are responding to me in a more positive way (or maybe nothing has really changed but I’m just perceiving they are perceiving me less negatively than before).

My creativity is increasing, and my motivation to write, and–I dearly hope I don’t sound narcissistic saying this–I think my writing lately has improved immensely and I’m beginning to find my humorous voice too and seeing how funny things can be I never would have found the humor in before.

I still have a long road ahead (my therapist thinks it’s going to take a while) and maybe this is just the honeymoon stage of therapy before the work starts getting really emotionally draining, but it’s a taste of what might be to come and I’ll enjoy this as long as it lasts.

My Seasonal Affective Disorder makes me want to hibernate until spring.

seasonal_moods
Graph I made showing my mood pattern throughout the year. It’s this way every year.

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:
http://www.normanrosenthal.com/blog/2012/01/how-to-beat-seasonal-affective-disorder-winter-blues-infographic/