Do you ever have one of those periods where everything is just blah? Nothing is really wrong, but nothing feels quite right either. You’re not quite sure if you’re bored, depressed, or just out of sync with the world around you. I’m in the midst of one of those periods. For the past couple of weeks I just haven’t had the same drive as I usually do. I think it is attributable to the change of seasons. The shorter days. The longer nights. The colder outdoors are especially discouraging. The weird thing about it all is that it was a completely unexpected change in my mood and energy. I don’t remember the day it happened. And all of a sudden two weeks went by that I was in a bad mood. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t sad. I was just…blah. But what am I going to do about it?
Well, Seasonal Affective Disorder hits me annually. And I seem to be surprised each and every time. I think mostly because the days don’t seem to gradually get shorter. It just seems that I wake up one day and there are only 3-5 hours left of daylight left. And I am usually on my way to work when the sun sets these days. Let me tell ya, working nights is no way to live. Maybe if there were more 24-hour businesses…but I’m getting sidetracked.
I haven’t blogged for awhile and there’s a good reason. I’ve been blissfully happy and there’s nothing bothering me. I have a great guy who makes me happy. We are casually looking for a new place for the two of us to live. I am already well into my Christmas shopping so I will be done well ahead of December so I get to avoid the insanity…and I love it. I hate crowded malls and then tend to spoil my Christmas spirit. I tend to finish early for that very reason. And my job is pretty good, albeit stressful at times. So overall…there was nothing to blog about. There were no big political issues that I felt required my attention. Bush is digging his own hole so he doesn’t need my help. And when idiots do stupid things, pointing and laughing is all I feel the need to do. Again…sidetracked.
So…S.A.D. Why bring it up? Well, besides the fact that it has hit me right on schedule, it seems to be impacting a friend of mine. As far as I am concerned…I have to get back to the gym. Before the summer hit and outdoor activities took up the bulk of my exercise, I had been going to the gym regularly. I had slimmed down and toned up and was feeling great. I was sleeping better than usual. Being in shape was encouraging me to eat better without feeling like I was depriving myself. But once you fall out of going to the gym, getting back into the groove is pretty difficult. But I will. I’d like to start tomorrow but I think Tuesday is most likely to be the first day back since it is my next day off. After that I will be going before work.
So…my friend. He recently blogged that he was feeling down. He was finding it difficult to get out of bed. Now, when we hang out there is always a sense of camaraderie about us. I think mostly due to the sarcasm and acidic wit that the two of us share. That and the fact that we’re both queer. And karaoke fans. He’s more blunt than I. In a lot of ways, he’s stronger than I am as well. But he’s depressed. Now, I am sure he has more than one reason to feel depressed that I can only attest to from the outside looking in. Other than making the time that I can to be available for listening and encouraging, there’s little I can do to change that. One thing I learned in a lifetime of battling anxiety and depression is that the only person who can change me…is me. So the blog is dedicated to him, but is out there for the millions of people (if they find me/it) who suffer from depression, and more specifically, Seasonal Affective Disorder. And in reading the stuff below, any treatment can be used to combat everyday depression as well.
Keep in mind that nothing I have to say, whether or not it comes from a reliable source, can take the place of seeking professional treatment or counseling. I take 30mg of Paxil everyday. I am not embarrassed by it. I can tell you it has made a great difference in my life and helped me to accomplish things I never thought possible. But I can also tell you it comes with side effects that some don’t feel are worth the trade off…and there are days I might agree…but most of the time is definitely worth being a little annoyed.
So here’s a brief rundown and a link you can use to get more information:
Seasonal Affective Disorder is basically depression that comes on with the winter season and is alleviated in the late spring. There are many ways to offset the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
One method is phototherapy. Most people find it difficult to find the time to sit in a brightly-lit space for three unproductive hours. You can find the time by eating your dinner or watching television in a brightly-lit space. This is not something you want to do within 2-4 hours of going to bed or you will find it difficult to sleep. Studies have also shown that an hour in winter sunlight is as effective as 2-3 hours of artificial, bright light. So while going outdoors isn’t necessarily the first thing you want to do, getting out for some window-shopping isn’t always a bad idea. Just bundle up and head out with a hot drink in your hand. Another popular alternative in the winter months is going for tanning sessions. The ultraviolet light closely simulates sunlight and people often report feeling rejuvenated after a winter tanning session. Be sure to start off slowly and do not overdo it. Be sure to use sunscreen. Even with sunscreen you will tan. It will take a couple of sessions to achieve the same results as some others but only one of you will end up without melanoma and wrinkle-free. And if you’re tanning, exfoliate and moisturize daily…that is also important in winter anyway.
Something else you can consider is your diet. When depressed, we tend to crave sweet and starchy foods. But putting on weight will just give us a new excuse to get down on ourselves. So eat natural sweets like apples, bananas, or grapes. All are sweet and juicy and all expend more calories to consume than are being ingested. So it’s win-win. As for the starchy foods, oven-baked french fries are lower in fat than the fried versions and they allow you to be creative in experimenting with your own style of spicing/flavoring. And another spicy, starchy oven-baked food is pita chips. A little spice, some olive oil and you’re on your way.
Finally, nothing stimulates happiness more than exercise. You can spend time alone to dance around the room to your favorite tunes or get out to a club with good friends to dance the night away. FYI: bottled water is better than empty calories…and light beer has the same fat just less alcohol so you drink more to get the same effect thus increasing your overall fat consumption. You can take part in your favorite activity too since all movement expends calories. Exercise is key to stimulating endorphin production that will help alleviate some of your depressive symptoms. Burning calories and fat can improve your self-image and give you a better outlook. Do some chores. You can be productive and healthy all at the same time. Just remember not to gorge yourself after you exercise. Put down the fork between bites. Share a meal with hearty conversation. The same dining habits apply. But have fun with your meals too. Eat at different places. Try new foods. Shake up your routine.
Above all else…if all else fails, see your doctor and follow his/her advice. And now, my lengthy, blathering complete…I will leave you with this fun fact…
A study recently completed in Africa among 3500 men concluded that circumcision lowers the chance of HIV infection by 60%. In fact, the group that conducted the study suggested adding circumcision of males to the current efforts to curb the rate of HIV infection in one of the hardest hit regions of the world.