Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects many people each winter. More women than men are affected, and where you live also plays a prevalent role in this form of depression. The further away from the equator you live, the higher your likelihood of developing SAD.
How does Seasonal Affective Disorder work? Sunlight affects a person’s serotonin levels. A sleep-related hormone called Melatonin is secreted at higher levels with darkness. This kicks your sleep/wake cycles out of rhythm.
More than the Winter Blues:
Diagnosis of seasonal depression can only happen after two consecutive occurrences have occurred. They must start and end at the same time of year. Symptoms can range from depression, anxiety, mood changes, sleep issues, fatigue, overeating, social problems, and sexual problems. These symptoms are the same as so many other mental health issues, which is why diagnosing SAD can take so much time.
SAD has been a part of my own personal story for many years. I love living in West Michigan. We’re able to enjoy and participate in all four seasons. The beauty of rebirth and the smell of spring is amazing. Summer comes in with warm breezes, the sun hanging high in the sky, and the need to hit the beach. Fall greets us with vibrate reds, yellow, and orange leaves. The sounds of leaves crackling under your feet is unbeatable. Winter brings in snow. When the sun hits it just right, it looks like diamonds sparkling.
Late fall, we need to turn our clocks back an hour. The extra hour of sleep is nice. The problem for me is that the sun rises around 7 a.m. and sets around 5 p.m. The window of daylight is small; you don’t get much time to experience the sun—and that’s if it breaks through the clouds.
SAD hit me hard when I moved to third shift at work. It felt like all there was darkness for me. Depression, overeating, and sleep issues became my constant companions. I had a physical job for 30 years. This helped me, but it wasn’t enough. I tried new medication and group therapy. Someone suggested a “happy light,” or light therapy lamp. I found that it helped if I used it within the first 30 minutes of my day. It was a step forward.
I started to walk/jog. Slowly, I noticed a difference in how I was feeling. I dropped weight and started to sleep better. . I signed up for a race, which required some much-needed consistency in my jogging routine. My love of racing kicked in, and I competed in several virtual races and some in-person races. I shared my passion for completing a race and the joy it brought me. My walking/jogging was the light I truly needed to feel whole! It made me a better mother and wife at the time.
Progress is Impossible without Change:
Retirement and covid brought unexpected changes. Retirement gave me freedom and a different sleep schedule. Covid brought isolation that lasted longer than most because of health issues. Last winter, I was laid up because of foot surgery, 3 kidney stone removal surgeries, anemia, and I struggled with SAD once again.
I had been praying for direction and to find relief from being overwhelmed. My prayer was answered on WOODTV. Sasha was doing an interview about Still I Run. I got connected to the FB group, the Grand Rapids Chapter of Still I Run was started, I became a scholarship participant, I volunteer for the Run.Fight.Write program, and I was just accepted as an Ambassador! I’ve gone into this new “turn-back-the-clock” time of year with a new team by my side, a new attitude, and a new purpose!