I’m Not Sad…I’m Just Seasonally Affected

Do you know the difference between sad and S.A.D.?

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine asked me an interesting and surprising question totally out of the blue.  She wanted to know why I seemed so unhappy, despite the fact that, from the outside, it seems like I have a good life.

Being the pessimistic person that I can be, I found at least five good reasons (or at least I thought they were good) to give her for my seeming “unhappiness.”  One of them was because I am normally not a very optimistic or happy-go-lucky type of person.   You may find the rest of my answer of interest:

“It is difficult when you know that the life that you are living is not true to who you are… I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, so bad weather literally affects me in mind and body. And finally, a quote of mine from a little while ago sums it up: “Sometimes I like feeling sorry for myself almost as much as not having a reason to.”  

The last part was kind of meant to be funny, but the first part is what I want to focus on.  To many unfamiliar with Seasonal Affective Disorder, it may appear that someone who suffers from the condition is just sad, unhappy, anti-social, or ungrateful for the good things in life. Much of my so-called “unhappiness” stems directly from my fairly severe form of this disorder.  This is not the first or the last time that someone will pick up on this, though they very well might “misdiagnose” its cause.

It may be hard to notice the patterns that come with S.A.D.  I did not at first.  It took someone else close to me to point it out.  I just questioned if I was completely losing my mind, and did not really notice the correlation between the time of year and my downward spiral. Now that I know what my issue is, I am better able to deal with it, yet I am also keenly aware of my condition all year long in one capacity or another, either directly or indirectly.  Likewise, I am also able to look at others who display potential symptoms of S.A.D., and question whether they also suffer, whether knowingly or not.

I was speaking to someone recently about the weather, and our conversation turned to her husband, who, she revealed, suffers from S.A.D.  I was both surprised and relieved to hear of a man suffering, not because it is unheard of, but rather because it occurs more often in women than men, causing some people to think that it is just women being their normal dramatic selves (think back on the history of female hysteria/ insanity/ melancholy).  She described the difficulties that he has had, and spoke of his “pessimism” regarding the seasons– how it will be the middle of summer, and he already can smell fall on the way.  To some, that might be thought of as being overly dramatic; for me, I wanted to cry to hear of someone else who thinks like I do.

In spring, I can barely enjoy the better time of the year due to the dread of what is to come sooner than I can imagine.  At that point, I know fully the cycle and journey that S.A.D. takes me on each year, and though I feel lucky to have made it through another winter, I dread even the thought of facing it again.  Every winter I make it through makes me consider myself to be a survivor.  When others celebrate the summer equinox, which marks the official beginning of summer, I just think, “Oh, here we go again.  The days will be getting shorter from here on out.”  Maybe it is a horrible way to look at things, but understand, I was not always like this.  I was never this melancholy.  There was a time that I did not even like summer that much due to hot weather and the headaches that it would bring me. But at that point, I was not seasonally affected.  This disorder has changed me.

Sometimes I hate the acronym S.A.D., which stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder.  For those that already think it is a bogus condition, the acronym just seems to emphasis it.  But S.A.D. is a legitimate condition like any other that affects you both in mind and body.  Though S.A.D. is a type of depression, unlike some other forms of depression, it normally does not occur year-round, and there is an easy and effective cure: sunlight.  I have S.A.D., but that does not mean that I am sad.  There is a difference between the two, and I hope that people learn to recognize it.

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