I’ve been trying to write this one for a while. I’m not kidding, I have about 6 drafts of this thing half written that I’ve like kind of scrapped but that I like some parts of… which is honestly kind of on brand for the topic, I guess.
Let me first start off by saying that I’m a hypochondriac. If any of you bitches start using that against me though, I’ll never say it again. I get a sore throat & I instantly think I have strep kinda thing. You get it. But there’s a difference between swearing on all things holy that your foot when you stubbed your toe and feeling like your hitting rock bottom again… for the millionth time… every year around the same time.
When I was first diagnosed with major clinical depression, my psychiatrist called it “Stage 3”. (Listen, I still don’t have any sort of degree yet, nor have I ever studied an ounce of medicine… so a Google search might make more sense out of this, BUT) how I understand it is Stage 1 your normal behavior starts to change aka isolation, more sleeping, appetite, etc. People around may or may not notice it. Stage 2 you might feel physical symptoms like aches and pains, exhaustion, headaches, upset stomachs, physical illness as a result of the lack of regular behavior your body has been used to. Stage 3, your body is kind of like “Ok, I can’t do this anymore so I’m going to sleep 18 hours a day” or you’re having a lot of depressive episodes, suicidal thoughts, etc. Again, this was explained to me at like 16 years old & I’m not a doctor so if anything at all these are the hypothetical stages that I went through. Okay? Don’t cite me as a scholarly source.
I struggled for a long time with episodes and the rollercoaster of depression. I’d have little increments where I didn’t need any thing from anyone – which included my meds and my therapist. Foreshadowing: it was a bad idea. I had really bad moments where I wondered why I was even taking medicine in the first place if I was still feeling shitty enough to cry myself to sleep in my college dorm every night.
I started to see this HUGE change in the winter. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Attendance has been an issue since the first diagnosis days… but this was different. I wasn’t skipping my 8:00am high school geometry class… I was skipping a class at 2:00pm. That I was paying $15,000 a semester to live and learn here… and sitting in a shitty dorm room because the thought of doing anything besides laying awake in my twin bed made my heart pound. I was awake. I was healthy. I could read. I could write. I could physically get there, but it’s like something was holding me in that bed and I didn’t really get it.
When my therapist brought up seasonal affective disorder, I actually got pissed. As far as I knew, that was what people who didn’t really understand depression said that they had when weather started to get cold. As far as 18 year old Emily knew, that was a slap in the face for all of us that suffer all year long… summer, fall, winter, and spring. Didn’t she understand that I was depressed, I didn’t just have seasonal affective disorder? AND I had been deny the fact that anything was wrong for so long, here I was calling for help to get was I felt was a bullshit diagnosis thrown back in my face.
So, we started talking about my specific symptoms (some of which, honestly, I still struggle with today, guys):
- I sleep 12 hours a day and I’m still exhausted
- I don’t want to see anyone. It’s exhausting.
- Showering seems like a lot of work.
- Some days I don’t really eat.
- Other days, I can’t stop eating…it makes me feel better.
- Last night, I stayed up till 6 crying…. just crying.
- I have increased depressive episodes
- I’m extremely irritable in situations I wouldn’t be.
- I lack empathy or interest in daily activities.
I was on anti-depressants. I was doing the coping mechanisms we were working on. But I felt like I was being sucked backward after huge strides forward I had made with managing my mental health. At that point, my friends, I didn’t understand seasonal affective disorder. She had to drop the bomb that I had just upped my mental illness chart another diagnoses AND another 20 mg of Fluoxetine.
Every single year, the winter months knock me on my ass. You can tell that my family has gotten used to me needing a little more love and patience this time of year, because my family group chat is much more active, despite my inability to hold a texting conversation. Guys, I mean I couldn’t even write a damn blog about seasonal affective disorder because it’s been such a bitch to me! But, my friends, that’s part of the beauty of this community. I see so many of you are going through similar situations – whether you only struggle seasonally, you have both major depression and SAD like me, or you are just in a tough place.
I know that mental health bloggers are supposed to provide you with this crazy list of like “99 Ways to Cure your Seasonal Depression” & I don’t have that (nor do I think it really exists in the way that we all want it to). I’ve skipped thousands of dollars worth of classes because I couldn’t get out of bed. I’ve felt the grip of depression get a little tighter on me as the days got darker and colder around me. So, I fucking believe that what you’re going through hurts. You are validated in needing help, needing space, needing time to heal, and just needing a moment to regroup. It is okay to not be okay…but, it is not okay to this you are all alone in that mindset.
Psychology Today says that 10 million Americans struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder every single year. So, the fact that once again I felt like I was weak, unworthy, or less because the winter months give me depressive episodes is a little fucked, in my opinion. There was the stigma and narrative 18 year old me was running with… and I’m not doing that bullshit anymore. So, if you or someone you know are struggling with the season (or at all) PLEASE seek help or reach out for some great resources. I might not have a list of 99 Ways to Instantly Cure SAD, but I do have a couple things that work for me: making to-do lists (and getting that shit done some how and some way), candles, baths with epsom salt, undereye treatments, rolling out your calves (even if you’re not an athlete this just feels good), naps, good podcasts, and long SAFE drives.
I’m going to leave you with this quote from “Endless Night” in The Lion King, which has gotten me through some of my worst days. It’s relevant and I think that it might be my next tattoo. *don’t tell Becky* The sun does always come out, my loves. Even if we have to push really hard to get through right now.