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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Friday, December 29, 2006

Just a nasty case of these ol' Wintertime Blues

By Norah Wilson

I'm sure John Hiatt will forgive me for stealing the title for this blog entry from his song "Wintertime Blues". But the clinical name for what I'm suffering is Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. I live way up in New Brunswick, Canada, so our daylight periods in the winter are short. Six years ago, I used a handy-dandy questionnaire I found on the Internet to self-diagnose myself, after which I puchased a full spectrum light therapy lamp.

SAD affects millions of people. As you may know (or will have guessed), it manifests itself when the season transitions to fall/winter and tapers off with the lengthening days in the spring. Sufferers may display any or all of the following symptoms: feel less energy, feel less productive/creative, need more sleep, feel depressed, have less control over their appetite. If you think you might fit the profile for SAD, you might want to take this self-test at this Dr. Norman Rosenthal site.

In my case, the primary symptoms are a desire for sleep, an unending appetite for carbs, and a marked anti-social feelings. And oh, yes, a reluctance to open my work in progress and write. (How can I feel my characters' feelings well enough to write about them when I can barely feel my own?)

The good news is that there's help. The light therapy box really does help lift the worst of the symptoms. So does vigorous exercise and managing your diet. Some people find St. John's Wart very effective in combatting SAD, but if you have high blood pressure like me, you should probably avoid it. And of course, your doctor may prescribe anti-depressants, if necessary.

The other thing I found heartening when I read it is that while women in their late thirties are more inclined to be "seasonal" (my approximate age when I diagnosed myself), symptoms reputedly lessen with age. So far I'm not seeing that. In fact, I have a suspicion that as long as I'm still pre-menopausal, I won't see much improvement (try crossing PMS with SAD and see how you feel!).

So, if there are effective treatments and if diet and exercise can help ameliorate the symptoms, what am I whining about? Perhaps because December is drawing to a close and I have yet to dig out my light therapy box. Yes, I am certifiably nuts. But here's the thing -- the whole SAD business makes me actually want to avoid treatment. For the most part, I don't feel like I'm long as I keep indulging myself by doing what the SAD tells me to do. Does a hibernating bear want to be shoved in front of a 10,000 lux light? Does he want to engage in bouts of vigorous exercise or take pains with his diet? No. He wants to be left alone to sleep. :-)

But enough is enough. My New Year's resolution will be to get on top of my SAD. Come January 1, my light therapy box will be sitting beside my computer, my refrigerator and cupboards will be filled with more healthful food, and I will climb onto the eliptical trainer I bought myself for Christmas.

In the meantime, since I ripped the title from John Hiatt, I'll leave you with a verse from his "Wintertime Blues":

Three hours of day light
And all of them gray
The suicide prevention group has all run away
I'm running out of groceries
I ain't got no rubber shoes
Bring the bacon baby
I got the wintertime blues

John Hiatt
Master of Disaster


At 1:26 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

That is my song, baby! Up here in the Great Northwest (USA type) we don't get the cold, but we sure to get the gloom. A few years ago (2004-5) we had the strangest winter, with sunshine and warmth all the way from December to May, when the rain returned. I was almost lively that winter. Winter in Santa Fe was like that, even with snow.

And like you, Norah, I don't seem to want to do anything but indulge myself. I'm not really depressed. Just moving in slow motion, like that old mama bear who doesn't want to come out of her hole, but doesn't want to do anything in the hole, either.

So okay, maybe my writing career deserves better. Maybe I'd better do something about it. Groan.

At 12:54 PM, Blogger bridget said...

Oh, Norah, good luck! I don't have a real diagnosed disorder, but I do feel the lack of sunshine when it goes on for days and seems like forever. Stepping up the workouts helps a lot, and playing the right kind of music. Hugs to Delle, too!

At 9:58 AM, Blogger Diane Perkins said...

A caution about St. John's Wort. It made my hair fall out! This is a rare and unusual side effect of some antidepressants, but I had it with St. John's Wort. None of the doctor's I consulted caught on, although I mentioned taking St. John's Wort to all of them.
Please don't be afraid of taking antidepressants if you need them, just because of this potential side effect. If it does happen, just tell your doctor and try something else.

My husband gets SAD. February is his worst month.

At 10:16 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Norah, I know what you mean, though so far this winter has been pretty good. I haven't had to pull out my light therapy lamps. I wish you good luck with your resolutions.


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