depression · happiness · mood management · parenting · Self improvement

Life with S.A.D.

(Photo courtesy of http://www.barendspsychology.com)Winterdepression

Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Seasonal Depression.  Winter Blues.

Call it what you wish, it is a bag of shite.

One winter about 10 years ago I was back and forth to my GP several times for blood tests. I was constantly unwell, exhausted, irritable, unable to concentrate and increasingly fat.  I felt like an angry bear who needed to urgently hibernate lest I punch any poor human in my path.

My Vitamin D levels were low (I live in the UK…) but nothing else showed up except my symptoms which the GP decided were S.A.D.  I’ve since discovered my father suffers with it badly and my uncle has had to come to some arrangement whereby he spends 3 months abroad to prevent him hurtling into a black hole of despair every winter (either that or he’s pulling a fast one, which – if you knew my uncle – would be unsurprising).

It is a real thing though.  Here’s the NHS link for a bit more info:  https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/

I find that from October through to March I am dragging myself through the days like a befuddled sloth.  I had a tiny lie-down on my daughter’s bedroom floor as she played  next to me earlier but realised that within seconds her chatter was becoming distant and dream-like and I was already wanting to doze off.  As for trying to focus on work: sheesh.  I find myself re-reading the same block of text about 5 times and my ability to problem-solve has all but eluded me.

I write this post sat next to a light box.  Apparently some studies have shown them to be as effective as anti-depressant medication in the treatment of S.A.D.  I do find it makes some difference, especially if I switch it on immediately after my alarm in the morning.  My husband really enjoys that…If you are going to try one out though, find one that is SAD certified and isn’t going to fry your retina.  Mine is about A3 paper sized by Duronic and at about £60 it does the job well enough.

I always try to get out of the house as much as possible in the winter.  I spent two days largely indoors last week because of boring adult-related tasks like car trouble and life admin and I thought I was going to lose my mind.  I was emotional, fraught, irritable and I felt like a caged beast.  I told my husband we were going out and I bundled he and the toddler into the car and headed to the beach in the drizzle.   Living by the coast, it is basically wet for about 11 months of the year (those are not official statistics but they probably could be).

We walked along the shore in the bracing cold watching sea gulls swooping in to land.  I took big lungfuls of salty air and let it blow the cobwebs away.

My husband has some mobility problems so he offered to stay with the kid while I scrambled around rock pools and bounded around the shore like an excitable puppy.  I took this photo during a break from the drizzle.

Drizzly beach walk.jpeg

It’s still a majestic, spiritual place to me, the beach – no matter the season.  I  went home pink-nosed and far more energised.

I spent as much time as possible outside yesterday and noticed the difference in the baby’s mood.  She was more cheerful, far less tantrumy (that’s not a word but it should be) and she went to bed smiling.

So that’s going to have to be my strategy for the next 5 months:  get out.  Every day, anywhere, just out.  If I find myself wanting to crawl under the desk for a snooze: I will get outside, even if just for a walk around the block.

This too shall pass, my S.A.D. friends.

Does anyone else out there have any pearls of wisdom they can impart about managing their mood in the winter?

depression · happiness · mood management · Self improvement

Why I will not tickle “The Black Dog’s” tummy .

I procrastinate a lot.

I am perpetually late for all things.  I was actually 25 minutes late for our wedding.  My husband tells me there was never even the tiniest part of him that doubted I was coming (I like to think he found it oddly comforting).

Here and there I have bursts of ideas and enthusiasm but then I dither and I forget very quickly or I lose motivation and those ideas evaporate into little clouds of missed opportunity.

I also get really, really tired all the time.  I operate at one speed, which is slooooooooow.

If I was left to my own devices I would go to bed at 1am and get up at about 11am.  I would also nap.  Oh! how I would nap.

I suffer with a crippling, debilitating self-doubt that has blighted my life for as long as I can remember and has, no doubt, kept me operating at about 30% of my potential.  (On the plus side, maybe I’m actually like Bradley Cooper in Limitless and when fixed I will be super-human and quite awesome – and hopefully a little bit sexy to boot).

More recently though, I have begun to struggle to process the details of what people are telling me and I have a heavy fog in my brain where information no longer seems to flow in and out.

I decided to go and see my GP, having decided in advance it would simply be a thyroid issue.  They would prescribe me some medication and all would be fixed. Simple.

But the blood tests were all normal.

It turns out I have depression.

If I am being entirely honest, this was not a a shock to me.  I have a memory of being 5 years old and thinking how hard life was and that I didn’t enjoy being alive very much and would quite like to go to sleep and not wake up.  It makes me really sad now to think of 5 year old me feeling like that.  For the avoidance of any doubt: 5 year olds should not feel so sad they don’t want to wake up. That is never OK.

I have plugged away at life over the years with a distinct absence of joy, never fully engaging with it and always feeling that I was looking in at the world from the outside, a bit of a spectator. I have always been in awe of other people’s ability to do fun and interesting and new things…to be a certain way, learn a new skill; but never at any point have I believed I could take a bit of that for myself.

I see obstacles everywhere.  The glass isn’t half empty; there’s actually nothing in it whatsoever because some bastard poured it all away.

At my best, I bob along feeling a bit sad and tired and bored.  Along the way I have had some epic lows and I sometimes ponder on how I made it through my teenage years alive.  Upon finding my diaries from that joyous age they made for such depressing reading that I made a bonfire to hide the evidence. Prozac Nation has nothing on that tome.

Still. I have “coped.” Whatever coping is.

So what about The Black Dog?

I decided to go and see a private psychotherapist about this depression epiphany/begrudging acceptance of the facts.  She talked to me when we first met about the analogy of The Black Dog (and sent me this link here by The World Health Organisation if you aren’t familiar with it):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiCrniLQGYc

I had seen reference to it before in the hashtags and social media posts of “others.”

I am genuinely sorry other people feel this way too.  It is really crap and it does feel very unfair.  It doesn’t feel like life is a level playing field sometimes.

However; depression is not a pet.  It is not to be nurtured and stroked under the chin.  It does not need to be patted on the head and have its belly rubbed like it is “mine” or “ours.”  I do not want it.  I did not ask for it.  It is not welcome in my house. The Black Dog, frankly, can f*** off.

I became a mum a year ago to a beautiful, funny and remarkably happy little girl.   She is my delight and she is the most special and wonderful thing that I (“we” if we’re being technical – but I grew her from scratch) have ever created.  I will not allow her happiness to be dampened by me imparting gloom.

So this blog here is my two fingers up to depression and is where I hope to create a space to reclaim my life, my happiness and the happiness of my family.

Consider it a family well being project.

This blog will be a journey to find happiness in the everyday.  This is where I will ponder on how my husband and I will raise a child who manages her feelings and life’s lemons in a way that frees her to be who and what she wants.

This is where I figure out how I’m going to try to carve out space in the world as a parent, as a mother, as a 30 something year old woman who needs to try a bit harder than some at being happy.

So on behalf of 5 year old, sad little me and to all the sad people or just “meh” people everywhere…

Welcome to The Happiness Takeover.