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.

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...

My Own Personal Rules of S.A.D. Survival II

Well, I made it through the holiday season, and I am assuming that you did, too, if you are now reading this. It was a good stretch, and I had plenty of down time to get caught up on some writing and other things around the house. That has continued into this week, as it is has been extremely slow, but I am not complaining! It’s nice to have time to breathe and do some duties that normally get thrown by the wayside.

Part of my productivity and inspiration has stemmed from the decent weather that we have had thus far. The snow blower has remained in the garage, and we have barely had any snow to even speak of. Today was up to almost 50 degrees with full sun all day. We have been very blessed, to say the least. May it continue!

What is in your S.A.D. survival guide? I'm sharing what's in mine...

In one of my last blog posts, I talked about having some personal rules of S.A.D. survival. Well, good news, because I have the second installment of the post that was featured on The Crazy Rambler:

Guest Post II by “My Life as a Zombie” Dealing With S.A.D.

If you live someplace that Seasonal Affective Disorder is common, you know that you will deal with it on an annual basis, so it is wise to develop your own “S.A.D. Survival Guide,” whether formally or informally.

I want to thank The Crazy Rambler again for allowing me to take up some valuable space on her blog. I hope that you will check out her blog, which is much more advanced and versatile than this one.

In other news, this has nothing to do with S.A.D., but since zombies are an interest of mine, I thought it would be interesting to pass along this scientific news story about bees exhibiting zombie-like behavior:

Discovery.com– FLY PARASITE TURNS HONEY BEES INTO ‘ZOMBIES’

Maybe these zombie bees were exhibiting signs of S.A.D. by gravitating towards light and walking around in circles. That description does not sound all that different from me during winter. 😉 Talk about killer bees…

Enjoy the upcoming weekend!

"Zombee"? This news story suggests that the concept may be more real than we think. Photo credit: ShirtShovel.com

My Own Personal Rules of S.A.D. Survival

What is in your S.A.D. survival guide? I'm sharing what's in mine...

When you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, you can count every wintry day that you make it through as an accomplishment.  The name of the game becomes getting through your days as effectively as possible under the circumstances.

Recently I was asked by The Crazy Rambler to provide a guest post naming some ways that I manage to get by in spite of my S.A.D.  As I have dealt with it over the past 3 years since being diagnosed, I have learned some personal “tricks of the trade,” if you will.  Some of them may be only useful to me, and some may be useful to others.  After I was diagnosed with S.A.D., I literally wrote a survival guide for myself that I still have.  It helped to give me a game plan and some hope for times when my mind is cloudy and tired and all hope seems lost.

I am passing along this first installment of my guest post in hopes that you will find it helpful, or at least, you can take comfort in my struggles, as misery does love company (believe me– I know):

Guest Post I by “My Life as a Zombie” Dealing With S.A.D.

How do you get by during this tough time of year?  I would love to hear your own tricks and tips, so please comment below.

Make sure to catch the second installment with more S.A.D. survival tips later this week.

A Sneaky Symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder

One of the most undesirable symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (amongst a long list of negative ways that the disorder affects you) is weight gain.  Like the disorder, the weight gain can be of a seasonal nature only. And to be honest, people tend to gain more during the winter as it is, due to being inside more, and therefore more sedentary, as well as the holiday season with all of its decadent offerings.

But given the fact that the possibility of weight gain becomes more of a concern for everyone at this time, people with S.A.D. have to be particularly aware.  Much of the weight gain in relation to S.A.D. is due to an increased craving for carbohydrates (sugars), which are known to pack on the pounds.  Whether you are eating pasta, bread, or candy, carbohydrates may provide you with a temporary energy boost, but they will also boost the numbers on the scale.

In addition to the craving for carbs, those affected with S.A.D. may also have an increased appetite in general.  Some other forms of depression can also cause the person to eat more in the attempt to make themselves feel better.

I am not a doctor, but I tend to think that the increased eating during winter stems from a few different reasons.  First, it is biological. From a survival point of view, if we lived out in the wild, we would want to bulk up, as it is much easier to stay warm during the winter.  What do hibernating bears do prior to their long slumber?  Eat as much as possible, and in particular, they engorge on carbohydrate-rich foods found in the wild.  They may gain 30 pounds in one week by intentionally eating.

Second, I think we eat for mental reasons.  Both directly and indirectly, food has an effect on our minds.  The chemicals from foods can often produce a positive effect on our brains, causing us to function better and feel more clear-minded.  In particular, carbohydrates can produce a more immediate effect, providing us with quick gratification.  That is the direct effect, but the indirect is how we feel.  Food makes us feel cared for, makes us feel like times are good, and we are programmed to correlate food with celebration and happiness.  That is one reason that food is such a major component at the holidays or any special occasion, making the time very difficult for those on a diet.  It causes the person trying to cut down to feel like they are missing out on the celebration, and other well-meaning people who will tell them that in those exact words do not help the matter.

The final reason that I think that those with S.A.D. are more likely to eat during the winter is in an attempt to regain strength and energy. On a normal basis, if we do not eat enough, our brain and body is affected, causing us to feel lethargic, tired, and lacking in energy. Eating can undo all of those effects.  Because someone with S.A.D. is infected with a zombie syndrome that makes them walk around in a continual state of fatigue and feeling out of it, they may turn to food to try to pump themselves up with the energy that they lack, particularly carbs that offer a swift pick-me-up.

Unfortunately in this situation, overeating during the winter can end up making a bad scenario worse on an ongoing basis.  If you become overweight, it may affect your self-esteem, causing long-term depression, or people may make comments that will feed into a negative body image.

On my other blog, I just made a post about weight, its effect on your psyche, and our cultural standards.  Part of my own weight struggle is likely due to my Seasonal Affective Disorder, so that is why I wanted to share the blog post with you.

The Great Weight Debate

Here are some ways that I attempt to control my weight during this difficult period of time:

  • Keep temptation at bay— If I know that I am going to feel the need to load up on cookies or candy if it is in the house, I may sure that I do not buy it.  Likewise, if holiday baking or cooking is going to cause you to eat more during the process than you have left over, avoid it.   However, it is okay to have a treat once in a while as long as you do not go on a binge.
  • Drink instead of eat— Often our hunger is not from the need for food, but rather that we may be dehydrated.  Before running for a snack, try to drink some water to see if that makes you feel more energized.
  • Portion control the carbs— You can still eat carbohydrates, but keep them at a minimum.  Have a small amount of pasta or bread, or if possible, skip them.
  • Get exercise indoors if you can— I am not really into exercise, but we do have an exercise bike that I use from time to time. Particularly for someone with S.A.D., I am not about to tell them to get outdoors in this cold weather to exercise, but if you can do it inside, it can help with both weight management and energy levels.
  • Provide yourself quality snacks options— If you need an energizing snack in the afternoon, keep one or two things around that are decent.  It could be a granola bar, yogurt, dry cereal, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers,  or for me, dry oats.  Drink some water with it to make yourself feel fuller.  The key is not to start eating things that are bad for you or overdoing it even with the things that are good for you.
  • Don’t forget the drinks— Winter makes us want to have a mug full of hot tea, coffee, hot chocolate, or apple cider in our hands at all times.  Summer spurs us to drink more cold water, but winter does the opposite.  Some of these drinks have a lot of sugar or calories, and we could end up putting on weight from them.  So monitor how much that you are drinking, choose lower fat/calorie/sugar options like tea when possible, and instead of having a snack, you may consider just having a hot drink instead.  It fills you up, and can offer the boost that you need.
  • Re-program your idea of a good time— We are so used to think that only with food or drinks can we have a good time.  I used to go out and eat as if every meal was my last one.  We have to re-adjust our thinking to know that eating is fine, but it is not an end in and of itself, and we can do fun things without always overeating.  This becomes especially pertinent during the holidays or during social gatherings of any sort.
  • Determine your motivation— Before you pop something in your mouth, particularly snacks or treats, determine what your motivation is for eating it.  In other words, are you really hungry? Sometimes I find myself craving food as a distraction, as a feel-good, because I am actually thirsty and don’t realize it, or to celebrate an occasion, not because I am hungry at all. Determining your motivation will stop mindless eating.
  • Set your priorities— If you know that you are going out to eat later or to a party, choose to eat less at your other meals.  That way you can enjoy yourself, and still get the same calories as any other day.  Likewise, don’t waste calories on items that you really don’t like that much– for me, I often skip bread during dinners at home.  Another tactic is to only eat more when I eat out on things I really like, and eat less at home of things I really do not care that much for anyways.

After knowing what my issue is for a few years now, I have learned to control some of my winter-related eating, and a lot of it is just due to controlled actions that eventually become habits. By putting some preventative measures in place, you should be able to avoid seasonal weight gain, and the process will be easier in years to come.