Tis the Season

Yes, since the clock struck midnight Halloween it is now the “Holiday Season.” We will now hear Christmas songs playing on the radio, commercials for all the Holiday Sales and Santa will be arriving at the local department store for the family portrait holiday card. If there was not any stress before, the local news reports daily how many days we have until Christmas. The kids want all the new electronics that are so expensive you need to see if you can get a second mortgage on the house to afford them. Or you just could care less if the world ended tomorrow because you are so stressed out that you have no energy to enjoy the holidays anyway. Work, school, husband, wife, children, parents, other family, whose hosting Thanksgiving and there you are wanting to disappear.

It doesn’t help that the weather is not cooperating, the forecast is rain or snow, cold and grey, the days are shorter and we have to turn the clocks back an hour. WHY? It’s dark when I wake up and it is dark at 5pm. I have not figured out how to squeeze everything I need to do into a maybe a 9 hour day.  Looking at the bed unmade just makes me want to get back in it until Spring.

What is this called, you ask: Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder subset in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year exhibit depressive symptoms at the same time each year, most commonly in the winter.[1][2] People may sleep too much or have little energy.[3] The condition in the summer can include heightened anxiety.[4]

For crazy people like me, I am more sad, tired, moody, mad and could care less about anything. And for the professionals:

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV and DSM-5, its status was changed. It is no longer classified as a unique mood disorder but is now a specifier, called “with seasonal pattern”, for recurrent major depressive disorder that occurs at a specific time of the year and fully remits otherwise.[5] Although experts were initially skeptical, this condition is now recognized as a common disorder.[6]

So here comes old man Winter and there goes the joy of life. OK so it may not be that extreme for most people, but most people have these feelings. It is not just for crazy people. “Order up!”

SAD is a type of major depressive disorder, and sufferers may exhibit any of the associated symptoms, such as feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, thoughts of suicide, loss of interest in activities, withdrawal from social interaction, sleep and appetite problems, difficulty with concentrating and making decisions, decreased libido, a lack of energy, or agitation.[4] Symptoms of winter SAD often include oversleeping or difficulty waking up in the morning, nausea, and a tendency to over eat, often with a craving for carbohydrates, which leads to weight gain.[10] SAD is typically associated with winter depression, but springtime lethargy or other seasonal mood patterns are not uncommon[11]. Although each individual case is different, in contrast to winter SAD, people who experience spring and summer depression may be more likely to show symptoms such as insomnia, decreased appetite and weight loss, and agitation or anxiety.[4]

Those of us that already have the sadness feel worse or can feel worse and those who don’t show any symptoms “normally” can get it. I say let them feel what we feel!! Even if it is for a season. This may be our existence, our reality daily. I guess I’m tired of hearing get over it. “Tomorrow will be better.” “Count your blessings!” F&*^ you, I am sad and I am unable to change it. What do you say now!

However, there are things that can help:

In addition to being key in the prevention of seasonal affective disorder, regular exposure to light that is bright, particularly fluorescent lights, significantly improves depression in people with this disorder when it presents during the fall and winter. The light treatment is used daily in the morning and evening for best results. Temporarily changing locations to a climate that is characterized by bright light (such as the Caribbean) can also be effective. Light treatment has also been called phototherapy. Individuals who suffer from seasonal affective disorder will also likely benefit from increased social support during vulnerable times of the year.

Phototherapy is available in the form of light boxes, used for approximately 30 minutes daily. The light required must be of sufficient brightness, approximately 25 times as bright as a normal living room light. The light does not need to be actual sunlight. It seems that it is quantity, not necessarily quality of light that matters in the phototherapy of seasonal affective disorder. The most common possible side effects associated with phototherapy include irritability, insomnia, headaches, and eyestrain.

Antidepressant medications, particularly those from the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) group of medications, have been found to be effective in treating seasonal affective disorder that occurs during summer as well as that which tends to occur during the fall or winter. Examples of SSRIs include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), and vortioxetine (Trintellix). Common side effects for this class of medications include insomnia, nausea, diarrhea, and many can cause decreased sex drive or performance. As with any other mood disorder, psychotherapy tends to accentuate the effectiveness of medical treatment and therefore should be included in the approach to addressing this disorder. In individuals who are perhaps vulnerable to the development of bipolar disorder, either light therapy or antidepressants can cause a manic episode as a side effect.

Since stimulant medications like modafinil (Provigil) may be a helpful addition to other treatments for seasonal affective disorder, other stimulants like methylphenidate (Ritalin) may play a future role in addressing this disorder. Acupuncture may be a viable alternative intervention to antidepressant medications, particularly in pregnant women, for whom medications should be used with particular caution.

Determined to be equally effective as phototherapy or antidepressant medication in addressing seasonal affective disorder, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is another viable option for treating this illness. This form of psychotherapy involves the therapist working with the client to help the depression sufferer identify and understand ways of thinking that may be obstacles to improving their mood, thereby increasing the ability of the person with seasonal affective disorder to alleviate symptoms.

Chronotherapy, which uses environmental input to affect biorhythms, is thought to be a helpful aspect of treatment for seasonal affective disorders, as well as for other kinds of depression. This treatment uses methods like controlled sleep deprivation to affect the seasonal affective disorder sufferer’s brain chemicals in a positive way.

Lifestyle changes that can help decrease the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include increasing time spent outdoors, more physical exercise, and maintaining eating habits that are high in lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates while decreasing the intake of refined sugars and other carbohydrates. Remedies that do not necessarily require the involvement of a health-care professionals, or so-called home remedies, include vitamin D supplementation and taking melatonin in the evenings.

I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV; however, I research everything so that I can give good information. I have discovered that there is hope. Seasonal Affective Disorder does not have to claim your life. Talking to people and reaching out for help is a good start. Also I found that there may be support groups around that deal specifically with Seasonal Affective Disorder. WOW!

I know most of us that struggle with crazy everyday do not need something else on top of the pile. Adding more environmental factors such as the weather to the vast amount of chemical factors that is our brains is like handing a loaded gun to a child. What I mean is that most children are going to want to pull the trigger. For the crazy brain adding more things that affect the way we feel is like pulling the trigger.

Understanding what is triggering the crazy, the sadness, the anxiety of the season is another step to help change the response to a situation. Again, I am not a doctor and nor do I play one on TV.  These are tips to understanding the you and a guide to help relieve the intensity of the crazy.  I know how it feels to be so sad that all you want to do is disappear. I also know that there is a reason for living.

Holidays are a big trigger for lots of people. but there is ultimately a true meaning to why this time of year is special and it has nothing to do with “presents”.  In all religions there is a tradition of faith and hope that is attributed to this time of year. Even the pagans had their traditions. Find the true meaning in this Holiday Season and maybe it will be better than you anticipated. Also, we can not predict the future so be surprised when all the crap you may of thought would happen turns out to be the best that ever happened.

Lunatic Fringe Forever!

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