The honesty shop: let’s talk about S.A.D

I’ve decided to open the doors to the honesty shop for the first time, and chat about something which impacts my life a lot.

I’ve started to realise recently that the best columns are those which are brutally honest. Even when it’s scary, even when you want to keep quiet, I know from experience of reading anything I can get my hands on that the best musings are the ones people can properly connect with. That’s why I want to open up about my experiences with a pretty ignored condition.

Let’s talk about Seasonal Affective Disorder. Let’s talk about how ridiculous it feels to have your life be dictated by the weather, and the irony of understanding you are caught in a vicious circle of weather-based pathetic fallacy. Let’s talk about being a completely happy, loving human during the summer, and the sudden personality switch of figuring out ways to emigrate as soon as you see that first leaf dare to stray off the tree in your garden.

Let’s talk about the hibernation stage; gaining more than just a little Christmas weight because all you can physically do is consume a 100% carb diet and sleep for 18 hours. And those few waking hours? Take Glasgow’s yearly rainfall and prepare to cry that amount out, every day, over nothing.

Let’s talk about being emaciated when the hibernation period is over; people asking you if you’re ill, because you look so sick and withdrawn. That’s because excessive sleep and the desire to eat are things of the past. So are crying – crying doesn’t even seem viable anymore. The only thing possible is staring blankly into space, feeling numb, feeling nothing.

Let’s talk about being constantly torn between smiling politely and square go-ing someone who casually utters ‘I think I’ve got that, too!’ when you say you have S.A.D; these people are usually those who are immediately placated by the ability to snuggle up with a disney flick and a hot chocolate. S.A.D doesn’t mean you’re blue that it’s raining, making you miss summer for the half an hour that it takes you to find a fun activity to do indoors. Life with S.A.D means there is no such thing as a fun activity to do indoors. Everything loses its appeal. Seeing friends, talking aloud, watching something, reading, going out – what’s the point? What’s the purpose? S.A.D strips these things from you, one by one, until you’re alone. And it’s not limited to winter, either – right now we’re in the middle of June and yet, because Glasgow dares to rain, I feel like the usual Phoebe has been turned down to zero on a dial that’s usually set to 1,000.

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The NHS website identifies symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder correctly but, let’s talk about your doctor not understanding; the smooth efficiency of the conversation switching over to depression, medication, prescriptions. The chuckle that they give when you inform them you don’t need drugs, but a holiday to get some sunlight – “Don’t we all?”.

Let’s talk about your saving grace being an electrical appliance – a lamp, not available on the NHS, for light therapy to make you feel better, which costs over £200 and is the reason why I get through the grey days without having a nervous breakdown, with one at home and one on my office desk. Light therapy is the only thing that works and yes,  let’s talk about work – the constant worry of hearing “can you switch that off? It shines too brightly in my eyes, it’s disrupting my concentration.”

I like to think of myself as being solar powered. Everything seems a little easier with some sunshine on my skin. As a 90% hippy moonchild, I like to think that having a life ruled by the elements simply suggests that I’m more in tune with the turmoils of Mother Nature than most. However, research suggests otherwise – S.A.D appears to be caused by a lack of vitamin D, which humans get the highest intake of through sunshine. A lack of this means your melatonin (tiredness), serotonin (happiness) and natural circadian rhythms are all affected. Therefore, those in Scotland are more likely to experience it than most other parts of the UK due to severe lack of sunshine – why did I not choose to move to California for university instead of Glasgow?

I’m lucky I respond incredibly well to light therapy and need no counselling or medication. Not everybody takes to it as well as I do. Light therapy often works for S.A.D symptoms but not for other depressive-related conditions; those with depression are urgently advised to speak to a medical advisor before trying a lamp, as medication and lamps often don’t mix well – so don’t try this at home, kids, without having a good read of it first.

S.A.D is just another condition that goes unnoticed in a long line of invisible illnesses. That’s why raising awareness by talking about these kind of conditions is a super important thing to do, no matter how scary it might seem at first.

Are you affected by S.A.D, or any other invisible condition? Let me know how you deal with it in the comments.

For now, I’m getting back to my lamp and keeping my fingers crossed for some sunshine again soon.

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