This is a bit of a more personal post, and vastly different from the material I usually write about but I felt like sharing as I’m sure many people are feeling the same, and it is important to discuss issues of mental health, no matter how awkward or embarrassing it may seem.
I’m pretty much suffering from the “Winter Blahs.”
The joy and frivolity of Christmas and the holiday season has passed, and it is back to reality of work and the stresses of regular day-to-day life. The fluctuations in weather on the east coast have created long stretches of cold, grey days, and the snow which was once white and beautiful is now blackened and ugly.
It took me a while to figure out what was wrong with me – for the past couple of months I have been feeling, for lack of a better term, “weird.” I brushed it off, initially, as over the holidays I seemed to be feeling better, but after that was over, the same symptoms hit me again, and even harder.
I have been having difficulty getting out of bed, and constantly feeling tired. I tried going to bed earlier, but I couldn’t seem to feel rejuvenated. It has been difficult to concentrate at work, and it has even been difficult to stay motivated to exercise. This initially raised some alarm bells in my head as usually when I’m feeling a little blue or stressed, I work out – I lift some weights, I do some cardio to some fast-paced, bass-heavy, music, I sweat until everything that was bumming me out just ends up in a puddle on the floor. The fact that I didn’t even want to work out was the first little niggle in my brain that something wasn’t balanced.
Then I noticed how I was eating – voraciously. I was constantly hungry. Now, I love food. All kinds of food. The hashtag #iworkouttoeat is basically me. But I’ve always had a regular appetite and am fairly health conscious about my food choices. I was now eating anything and everything. It’s not like I went crazy and started eating massive amounts of junk food. I continued to try to pick healthy choices, but I would crave stuff like french fries, pizza, chocolate, and strangely, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And on more than a few occasions, I would give in, thinking – “oh – if I satisfied my craving, I won’t want to eat crap anymore.” FALSE. I would still be hungry and be craving for a different type of food.
Finally, I started feeling sick. Like I was coming down with a cold or something, but it never fully became a cold. Just always that feeling of “just starting” to get sick. I was upping my vitamins and drinking lots of fluids to ward off what I thought may be a virus, but nothing was working.
My body was telling me something, and I wasn’t listening. It was now screaming so loud I had to do something about it.
They teach us in school the classic signs of depression which includes the loss of energy, motivation, appetite, etc. But with my increase in appetite I had to do some more research. Something was wrong with me, but what? Did I somehow get the double pleasure of suffering from depression and a tape worm??
I have heard and learned about seasonal affective disorder (SAD), but it had slipped my mind until I read an article in the paper about “the most depressing day of the year” – a pseudoscience marketing campaign that started years ago, but it made me recall SAD.
After researching the symptoms of SAD, it seemed to fit the bill. Although I’ve only been experiencing these symptoms for just a couple of months, and this is probably (to the best of my recollection) the first time I’m experiencing this, and I am not a trained mental health professional, I cannot diagnose myself with this condition; however I can safely say I’m most likely suffering from the “winter blahs” (a term I made up but probably has been used elsewhere to describe the gloomy feelings associated with winter).
After I realized that I was probably experiencing some depressive symptoms, I started talking about it with my support network. Some of them told me to shake it off, or that if I went back to my routine, I would be fine (which irked me – and I now realize how awful this must sound to people suffering from real clinical depression), but many others were supportive and let me talk about how I was feeling. A minority indicated that they had these feelings before in the past and recommended some treatments that had worked for them which included: taking a vacation (not possible at the moment), increasing my vitamin D, doing more meditative exercises such as yoga, and light therapy.
As this has been just a recent revelation for me, I cannot really comment on the efficacy of any of these. I am currently doing some research of various studies conducted on SAD and its therapies. In the meanwhile, I have purchased a light therapy box and will try that first and adding some yoga to my currently brief workouts (perhaps it will actually motivate me!)
So what is the point of this post? There’s no educational merit! No tips or tricks, or studies comparing one treatment to another! This isn’t a journal for cryin’ out loud!
As I mentioned above, I believe it is essential to have have an open dialogue about mental health issues. So many people around the world are suffering in silence, either afraid of the stigma, are in denial, or like myself, just had no freakin’ idea what was wrong with them – only that they feel strange.
Mental and spiritual health is an essential part of what makes us whole. If we neglect these parts, how can one ever expect to be an optimized individual?
I could get into the science of the limbic system and how it influences our body physically through emotion, but this post is getting too lengthy as it is. I’ll leave it for another day and put up fancy pictures and everything. Once I get my research together, I’ll try to make another post that will have some educational merit 🙂
Please feel free to comment or message me about your own experiences with SAD or depression, or any other mental health issue, and how you’re dealing with or have dealt with it. Open dialogue is key, and support can come from anywhere…even in the blogosphere.
And it’s always nice to know that “you’re not the only one.”