Be Your Own Best Doctor

The Internet, for all of its usefulness, makes many doctors groan...

The first step to dealing with your SAD is recognizing that you may have the disorder.

My husband was the first one to suggest the possibility of SAD to me, and after reading more about it, I quickly realized that I had figured out my own issue.

I did see a therapist to confirm this suspicion, even though I was pretty wholly confident at that point in my own diagnosis, and to find out how I could manage the disorder more effectively.

That’s why I loved this frank and honest post from I’m Pretty Even as she talks about self-diagnosing herself with SAD:

78 and Sunny

And in regards to the moving part, girl, I am definitely right there with you, and actively working on it. 😉 The best and most guaranteed cure for SAD is a change in venue.

Even if you know that you do have SAD, some of the reasons that you may want to see a doctor is to get a prescription for treatment of some sort, whether light therapy (whether inside or outside the home) or anti-depressants. My insurance paid for my light, because I asked the doctor to write a prescription for it. If you choose to take meds, you will need to be eased onto and off of it at the proper times throughout the year.

Another reason to see a doctor to get your diagnosis in writing is to avoid problems at work if your situation requires modification to assist you in dealing with your disorder. Your work is required to provide reasonable accommodations in regards to any disability, but you must have a verifiable condition. I was able to win an unemployment case due to this, but only because I had taken the proper steps. Let’s say you need a vacation during the winter to help you deal with your disorder, but your work only allows vacations in the summer– having a doctor’s diagnosis might resolve this issue. Or your work suffers a little during the winter– having a diagnosis on file could increase workplace understanding, and help to prevent unnecessary negative feedback from your boss who just thinks that you are slacking off or do not care about the job anymore.

An additional reason to be professionally diagnosed is that you may be able to participate in case studies, but only if you have received a proper diagnosis. And on a personal level, your friends and family may get tired of hearing you complain about your disorder or might not understand, but a therapist knows that it is normal, and can providing that caring ear along with expertise advice.

It is definitely wise to be your own best doctor, since nobody cares more about yourself than you do, and you are ultimately responsible to actively manage your own condition. But there are some reasons that you may want to see a doctor in regards to your Seasonal Affective Disorder as well, at least in the beginning stages.

Daylight Savings Time is for the Birds

Daylight Savings Time ended almost a month ago, and yet I am still adjusting.  The concept has some merit, until it ends, and then the day is on its way to darkness by the time you pick up the kids from school.  By 4:30 PM CST as I write this, it is almost dark.

I guess if I were to look at the bright side as someone recently suggested, it is December 1st, and pretty soon we will have the winter equinox, which means that from then on, the days will get longer.  But let’s be realistic: it is a slow process, and what we are really looking at is months of short, dark days with long, dark nights, and lots of cold to match.

If you find Daylight Savings Time as pointless and confusing as I do, you may enjoy reading this recent blog post from Dr. Norman Rosenthal about why most of the United States participates in DST, and why it affects many of us in the way that it does, particularly those who are seasonally affected.

There Goes Daylight Savings Time: What Can You Do About It?

Upon reading the post, you will find that he suggests replacing natural light with artificial light therapy.  If you have been feeling sluggish, overly tired, unmotivated, and/or down, light therapy could be a solution to look into.  For those of us with S.A.D., it is considered the top way to treat the condition (well, other than moving close to the equator, of course). 🙂  But even if you do not have S.A.D., but just get a little of the winter blues, feel more tired during the winter, and/or have some other form of depression, light therapy is still an effective option.

I have mentioned these lights on the list of S.A.D. resources on the home page, but I am going to run through them here as well.  I asked my insurance to pay for my light after getting diagnosed.  Strangely enough at the time, I had been working at a warehouse that stored and shipped higher-value products from a well-known website, and one of them just happened to be a light.  I was not familiar with S.A.D. at that time, but the girls in the office found the concept of a “happy light” intriguing, so we all took turns (me reluctantly, at first) setting up the light on our desk, and using it for a while in the mornings.  So, when I found out that I needed a light of my own to deal with my S.A.D., I knew exactly which one that I wanted.

Day-Light Classic Bright Light Therapy System by Up-Lift Technologies

In order to have the insurance pay for the item, I had to be officially diagnosed, have my therapist suggest bright light therapy as a form of treatment, and have the therapist write a prescription for the light. The truth is, buying a light one time is a much better investment than paying for ongoing prescription medications or trips to a facility that offers bright light therapy.

Any light designed for bright light therapy will work, but this one has a nice soft, warm glow to it.  It also can be easily set up for use on a desk next to or over a computer screen.

I also have some mini lights that I received as a gift, which are really useful for tight spaces, like on a desk or table, or in a bathroom or kitchen.

HappyLight 2500 Energy Lamp Twin Pack by Verilux

These are a little more discreet than the previous light, and look less conspicuous, so if you are using them in public, these ones are less likely to draw unwanted questions. Plus, with two of them, you can keep them in different parts of the house, or use one at work and one at home.  This lamp provides a little more bluish-white light than the previous (more like typical fluorescents, if I had to compare).

Other ways to get the light that you need involve taking advantage of natural light when it is available.  Open your blinds, shades, or curtains during the day– the light will help you, and help to keep your heating costs low (make sure to close them at night).  When possible, attempt to sit or stand facing the windows.  Even if you are not an outdoorsy person, taking a ride in the car can allow you to get some much-needed sun.  If you have a sun roof, you may want to consider using it.

I often try to play the hero and do without my lights for as long as possible (my husband asked me out-of-the-blue today where my light was, and I was embarrassed to say that I have not taken it out yet), but realistically, no amount of rest or caffeine can substitute for it. My therapist recommended that I start using light therapy as early as August each year in order to stave off my Seasonal Affective Disorder, so dedicated use throughout at least half to three-fourths of the year (late summer through early spring) is probably ideal, particularly depending on where you live.  Light therapy can help you to deal with the seasonal changes that occur at this time of the year, particularly the dramatic shift that takes place when Daylight Savings Time ends.

Note: Consultation with a medical professional prior to starting any form of treatment is highly advised.