Tuesday, 17 January 2012

A SAD state of affairs

Comic from the awesome Toothpaste For Dinner

I've mentioned before about how I tend to suffer from the "winter blues". It tends to start around the middle of October when it starts being dark when I get up in the morning and dark by the time I get home. That means it doesn't really start to go away again until the end of February/start of March, which means that for at least four months of the year I'm walking around in a constant state of gloom.

I wouldn't really describe it as depression really. I don't feel like hurting myself or others and I don't spend hours of my day crying or in a catatonic state or anything. It's more of a complete lack of energy and a bit of dissociation between myself and everyone and everything around me.

Getting up in the morning is a real struggle. The strangest tasks, no matter how mundane, seem like a mountain to climb. Just yesterday I sat looking at my clothes for ages after I got out of the shower because it felt like such an effort to even get dressed. It had already taken me an hour to psych myself up enough to actually have the shower in the first place.

I'm also conflicted about spending time with family and friends because, on the one hand, I love them and enjoy spending time with them, but on the other, eurghhhh, effort... I'm irritable and grouchy all of the time because I'm constantly tired, even when I've slept for 12 hours, so I'm probably not great company anyway. People who are indecisive or talk to me when I'm not in the mood to listen to them get a pretty short shrift.

I can cope ok at work because my professional pride (and my need to be a goody-two-shoes) overrides my general apathy but I leave my office most days exhausted and with a tension headache.

I wish I could just snap out of it and constantly find myself thinking, "come on now, catch yourself on", but I just can't find the energy or the will no matter how much sleep I get or how much coffee I drink. All I want to do is sleep and eat. The latter especially has a bad effect, particularly now that I can't exercise because of my hip injury, so this winter I've just been putting on weight and feeling increasingly bad about myself, thereby compounding the original issue and making everything seem worse.

I know I'm not alone in feeling like this. Seasonal Affective Disorder is one of those medical issues that has gotten a lot more attention in recent years. A recent article I read on the BBC news website said that 1 in 5 people feel some kind of energy loss and listlessness during winter months, whilst it's a serious and debilitating problem for as many as 7% of the population. I guess I'm somewhere in the middle.

To those it doesn't affect, I guess it seems like one of those problems that "didn't exist until people started talking about it and now suddenly everyone has it", but I don't think that's at all true. There's a huge taboo in our society to do with mental illness of any description, I believe because it contains such a massive range of problems that it confuses people, and also that asking for help rather than just "getting on with it" flies in the face of our societal values. Keep calm and carry on, etc

I know I'm just as bad. If I read the above as a description of how someone I loved felt on a daily basis for one third of the year I would be demanding they go to their doctor and get sorted out as soon as possible, but yet because it's me, my reaction is, "oh no, it's ok, I'll just muddle on, no need for a fuss!"

As it is, I would go to my GP but other than putting me on anti-depressants (my GP's go-to cure-all treatment), which I don't want, or telling me to buy a SAD lamp, which I can't afford and don't really trust to work effectively anyway, I guess there's not much to be done. Perhaps some time off work and a bit of rest and fun on my upcoming trip to America will help, and by the time I get back the days will be just that little bit longer again anyway.

I figure I can last it out this year but next year if I feel that black cloud of gloom and lethargy creeping above my head again, I think it will be time to finally do something about it. It's difficult to admit you need help but how nice would it be to not feel so damn SAD all the time...

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