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.


Into the Light

I am so tired of walking around in the darkness of my mind that is filled with a SAD-induced haze...

In my ongoing quest to prop myself up, I drank some coffee this morning prior to an interview.

This afternoon, I took a short nap, which brought on some better mental clarity, but made me feel tired in a different way.

Now I am onto my next plan of attack. I have been using a mini light for the last couple of weeks, since I have been feeling the decline. For some reason, I could have the light on all day long without feeling that much more awake, or the eventual agitation that normally comes with using the light for too long. Thus, all things considered, it led me to wonder if the light was not working.

I checked online, and it seems like the light has worked for some others. But some people were upset that it said that it had a certain amount of light lux, but only when using the two mini lights together. I was already concerned that it might not work for me in the first place, as I did not like the bluish tone that it has.

I have now brought out my larger light that I have used in years past, and I think that I may experience some more typical results. I may also go blind in the process, but at this point, I will almost take wide awake, but blind if I must choose.

Like the sun, this light has a more mild yellowish tone to it, so it is more natural to my eyes. The ones with a bluish tone remind me of fluorescents that I hate and that give me headaches. This light pierces my eyes in a different way, but it works, and that is about all that I can ask for right now.

Wish me luck– and lots of light– and I wish you the same. 😉

Sometimes some light, natural or not, is your best friend in the world.

This is More than your Common Case of Laziness

Why can't I get my mind to focus on any one path?!

I do freelance writing for a living. Dr. Norman Rosenthal described why he normally refuses to have fall or winter deadlines. I thought I was going to outsmart him, and maintain the same level of writing as the rest of the year. I was wrong.

In addition to the standard exhaustion that Seasonal Affective Disorder brings, along with your common case of laziness, I have been having severe problems focusing to do even a simple task. I simply cannot get my mind to focus on any one thing. My memory is failing, my motivation is lacking, and I just cannot concentrate.

We are experiencing some fabulous weather for early March, and I thought the sun and warmer temperatures today would cause me to experience a newfound determination to get my work done. I stepped out to enjoy some sunshine; I opened windows in the house; I turned on my light; I exercised; I played some music; I did some physical housework; I ate some indulgent snacks (Dove Ice Cream Miniatures, to be exact); and I drank some coffee– all to no avail. I have gotten some work done, but the thought of meeting a deadline next week is daunting, especially when I was trying to work on one assignment, and just got another.

I decided to take a blogging break to see if the natural flow of creativity that comes with it would calm me down and help me to be more productive. True to zombie form, when I get like this, it is almost like my eyes cannot clearly focus on any one thing, which makes reading or writing difficult. I cannot properly process information. People can talk to me, and I will completely ignore what they say (and not even on purpose this time). Language becomes more foreign, and my coordination less accurate. I am at a loss as to how to remedy this.

I know that many people experience some relief as spring is on the horizon. For me personally, this is often the toughest time of all.

Do you have any ways that you manage to increase concentration and focus in spite of your S.A.D.? If so, I would sure love to hear them– comment below, and help a fellow zombie out.

Did you ever notice that zombies seem to have trouble focusing on any one thing? This seems to be the case both physically with their eyes and mentally with their mind.

So Tired It Hurts…

I have just went head-first into a wall, and I do not know how to recover...

On Friday evening after meeting my publication deadline, I was excited to move onto housework and other responsibilities. By the end of the evening, I was experiencing a level of exhaustion that was almost unbearable. I assumed it was due to the deadline and how hard that I had worked to complete my work, and that it would pass after a night’s rest.

Well, it didn’t. Here it is Tuesday evening, and I have been the epitome of a zombie since that time. I am literally so tired that it hurts. My body hurts; my mind aches; I cannot think straight; and my coordination is slow and lacking. I hit a brick wall before the weekend, and I have not since recovered.

I have tried caffeine, and that is not helping. I have tried rest, but any reprieve is only temporary. Eating and drinking does not help. Today, February 21, 2012, I took one of my small lights out for the first time. I have had it on since the early afternoon, and I am still deliriously tired. It is truly hard to describe.

I have a tiring week ahead of me, and if this continues, I am wondering how I am going to make it. I had assumed that the fatigue may have been due to “that” time of the month or impending sickness, which it may still be, but as time drags on, and I still feel like I have been run over by a train, I am beginning to doubt those two contributing factors.

I am starting to remember what S.A.D. truly feels like. I always know and remember, but still seem to forget the full magnitude of it. It’s no joke. I am truly living like the walking dead right now.

Life as a zombie is just no life at all...

The “Pros” About Probiotics

Does S.A.D. cause your system to become out of whack or are you prone to weight gain?

In the previous post, I talked about my battle with carbs.

Thankfully I have been sick for the last few days, and my eating has tapered off again. Also a fluctuation in female hormones may be making it easier, in addition to the fact that I finished off the entire large container of Italian Pizzelles that my mom gave me at Christmas, and I do not have too many more things around here that I am tempted by. 😉  Sometimes you have to count the little blessings, right?

I want to share a blog post from my other blog that is not necessarily related to Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, I do feel that it is pertinent due to the fact that S.A.D. can cause weight gain, and probiotics can be useful in minimizing weight gain. As mentioned previously, I have lost 20 pounds through portion control and probiotics, so it is definitely something I would recommend that you check into.

Product Review: VSL#3 Probiotics Provide Positive Results for Digestive Systems in Distress

Taking Vitamin D supplements may be helpful to those who suffer from winter blues or S.A.D., and some probiotics even contain Vitamin D. So there are plenty of reasons why probiotics can be helpful to various individuals.

I do feel that at least some of my weight gain has been due to my S.A.D., so the use of probiotics has become a crucial part of my own weight loss routine.

Often ignored, probiotics may be the key to successful weight loss, even for those that suffer from S.A.D.

The Carb Conundrum

Carbs are the enemy...

I have been experiencing this problem. Let’s call it my carb conundrum. I guess it is to be expected with Seasonal Affective Disorder, but as of late, I have been feeling the urge to eat more sweets, like cookies, and salty items, like chips.

Normally I am not too tempted by these items, and over the last few months, I have actually lost 20 pounds through portion control. So needless to say, this sudden hankering for less-than-healthy food items is more than a little distressing. Surprisingly, I made it through the holiday season without the gaining that I expected to occur, and was so disinterested in food (not to mention, tired and overwhelmed) that I never even made any holiday treats. Maybe it was due to the extra junk food leftover from the holidays or getting used to the concept of eating more or an over-inflated confidence in my ability to lose weight whenever I desire, but now that the holidays are over, my eating troubles are just beginning.

I know that carbohydrate cravings are symptomatic of S.A.D., in addition to the corresponding weight gain that often accompanies these cravings. Many of my cravings occur when I am most tired or frustrated, and often in the afternoon when I hit a wall and need a sudden pick-me-up. But rather than cutting off my meals, I feel the need for a dessert to top it off, and I have been a lot more hungry than I was previously. Add into the equation the recent onset of worse winter weather, and it does not make for a good combination. Writing an article on Great American Pie Month, which involved lots of emphasis on fabulous pies and quiches, sure did not help either.

I am not often successful, but one way that I try to control these cravings is by not having the source of temptation available. I got a sample of an item that I wanted, and I gave it to my husband instead. I way overdid eating a box of candy that I bought recently, so I will be refraining from buying anymore of that. If I want an afternoon snack, I stick with a hot drink or some dry oatmeal, which is a carb, but is healthier, and a good source of fiber. Thankfully, I normally avoid eating too many chips or bread with dinner, and have not been interested in chocolates that have been sitting around for a while.

That being said, I need winter to be over sooner rather than later, lest I undo all of the improvement that I achieved over the last few months. I also need to get to working out on my lonely exercise bike, as that can help to undo damage caused by carbs.

How do you fight your carb cravings? Or are you lucky enough to avoid them altogether?  Do you feel differently from one year to the next? Please share your own tips and experience with this S.A.D.-induced carb conundrum.

Put the carbs down and back away...

Welcome to the SADdest Day of the Year

Today is a “special” day.

Today, January 16, 2012 is considered the saddest day of the year. According to British researcher Cliff Arnall, the third Monday in January is quite possibly the worst day of the year, and is otherwise known as “Blue Monday.”

This date was not arbitrarily chosen; rather, it is based on an equation. The equation takes into account the following factors: the time since Christmas (post-holiday blues), debt accrued over the holidays (did you get those credit card bills yet?), time since failing to keep your New Year’s resolutions (oh, did you forget about that already?), low motivational levels (feeling sluggish and not wanting to do anything), the feeling of a need to take action (it’s a new year, and we just had some time off– shouldn’t we feel more motivated?), and of course, the weather (can you say cold, dark, and days too short?). This complex calculation has been used to choose today as the most depressing day of 2012.

Though some may question the legitimacy of choosing one day to act as the saddest day of the year, something that can vary so greatly by person, nevertheless the concept in and of itself is very interesting, and from a logic point of view, it does seem to make sense. January brings the end of the brightness and busyness of the holiday season; a return to normal life, which includes school and work; days are still short; credit card bills start pouring in, forcing us to come to grips with our holiday spend-a-thon; our New Year’s resolution was not as easy to keep the second, third, fourth, etc. day into the year, and though we feel the need to at least try, we may come to the grim realization that it is just not worth it or just not possible. Is it any wonder that anyone can get depressed at this time of the year?!

For those of us who are seasonally affected, we can take some solace in another day that has already passed last month– the winter equinox. Though it would seem like a sad day to have the start of winter, it can actually be considered a good thing, as it marks the start of longer days. It may take a while to get to the long days that we love and that are like medicine to our souls, but we have the hope of what is to come.

Contrary to what Dan Kruger, an evolutionary psychologist, has described as a time that “there isn’t so much to look forward to,” we know that we have the prospect of spring and longer, sunnier days to look forward to. We are already on our way.

Try not to be too affected by this saddest day of the year. If you need something to cheer you up, remember that not all Blue Mondays are bad, like this classic 80’s tune “Blue Monday” by New Order.

Here's something to ponder: Do even pets get sad on the saddest day of the year?