Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Taking Charge of an Illness (Part 3)

This is the final post in my three-part series, Taking Charge of an Illness. As I've mentioned before, October is usually the month when my depressive episodes begin, and it's probably due to the darkness of the sky, less light, and also the holidays. I've discussed a number of prevention method I'm implementing to try to stave off these depressions. Here are the last two:

9. I've decided I no longer need to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. While I've never been diagnosed as SAD, there's always been a seasonal element to my depressions. I've read Winter Blues: Everything You Need to Know to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder by Norman Rosenthal, M.D., and instituted many of his suggestions.

I've changed the curtains in my bedroom so that I let in optimum light. We changed the carpeting in the house so that it's much lighter. We've painted the walls a warm white. I've tried a dawn simulator, which doesn't work for me. I've also tried a 10,000 Lux light, which doesn't work for me. But, I spend a lot of time outdoors every day, which does work for me.

While I realize that some people do suffer from winter blues, I also believe I can overcome anything if I put my mind to it. And it's not like I live in a climate where there's real darkness, a lot of rain, or snow. For goodness sakes: I live in Los Angeles where I can spend almost every day outdoors.

So...I've decided to overcome SAD the same way that other people overcome cancer or high blood pressure. I realize what the issues are. I've changed my lifestyle to the best of my ability. And it's now time for me to let my SAD feelings go.

10. As a family, we are going to change the way we celebrate the holidays. I have wonderful memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas (which I've always celebrated even though I'm Jewish). However, once I got married, the holidays changed for me for a number of reasons I won't elaborate. But the basic problem is that for me, the holidays are spiritual, not about presents.

And, the emphasis should be on making it special for my son, rather than the adults. Because I was so depressed last year, we celebrated the holidays alone, but that wasn't the answer either. This year we're going to begin developing new rituals that focus on my son and our values and sensibilities. (I'm not sure what they are yet, but I'll keep you posted.)

I guess if there's any true lesson to be gained from this series, it's that at the very depth of my being, I believe in recovery and wellness. I'm a problem-solver by nature. For years I've tried to get rid of these winter depressions to no avail.

But, perhaps the problem was that I wasn't willing to tell my husband how I felt about the holidays, and come up with new rituals. After a severe depression last year, and the subsequent months of therapy, I now realize that my own health and my son's happiness are my top priorities and my guiding light! And we will overcome!


marja said...

Hi Susan,

I've followed up on your topic on my blog. This is such an important thing to be talking about.

And yes, it IS important that our husbands know how we feel about the holidays...and about how the holidays make us feel. It would be good if they could help us devise a plan that will help us stave off depression.

Last year I was so bad that my husband told me we didn't have to do cards, didn't have to have a tree...just didn't have to do Christmas. He just wanted me to be well. Great guy, eh?

Just having him tell me that, gave me tremendous relief. We didn't do cards but we had a tree and "did" Christmas, but only what I could cope with.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marja,
My husband said the same. We didn't do cards, but we did have a tree. And he's willing to do whatever I want to make it a great holiday for our son and for me.

Thanks for following through on this. I'll check out your blog later today when I have a moment.