Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Overcoming Seasonal Affective Disorder

Since my depressions have always had a seasonal element, which suggests some form of Seasonal Effective Disorder, and since I've decided that I can overcome all this, I figured that one area I need to deal with is darkness.

It is the darkness of night and the shorter days that contribute to my feeling worse in October, and escalate in November and December. And independent of whether I live in Los Angeles or Norway, the fact is that for years I've known I have a sensitivity to seasons and light.

I believe that one of the best ways of changing behavior is confronting the fears that cause it. And I recently realized I have become frightened of the darker days. Before writing this post I reread an essay, In Praise of Sweet Darkness, by Shepherd Bliss, (which can be found in Ecotherapy:Healing with Nature in Mind). While I've quoted from Mr. Bliss's essay once before, today I'll provide two different quotes, which are illuminating for me.

"Darkness can allow transformation to occur. Seeds benefit from darkness in their hulls, and can drink from it for many long years before becoming beautiful plants when they finally burst into the light. Common caterpillars can crawl about with a hidden treasure within them, and then suddenly sprout into butterflies, flap their wings and soar into the air. Other small flying creatures can also penetrate the darkness. "

"...'How Sweet It Is' is a little sign that greets me when I drive from my small farm past another nearby small farm that specializes in honey. Whereas some honey is a light amber color, other honey is darker. Busy bees transform pollens and other tasty items into that sweetness, as chickens transform bugs, grass, and other tasty items into eggs. The Spanish poet Anthony Machado captured this transformation in lines that describe 'the golden bees.../making white combs and sweet honey/from my own failures.' The darkness of one's 'old failures' can indeed be transformed into something sweet. Bees and birds are among the many flying creatures that benefit from the benevolent darkness."

Any thoughts?

P.S. The graphic is by Chato B. Stewart, and I found it at Mental Health Humor and Cartoons.

12 comments:

Shadow said...

Yes, hi and thank you so much for existing.
I was doing research about working and having bipolar disorder and I found this wonderful blog that I’m sure we all can agree it’s the best thing ever to help us figure out some of our main issues as bipolar of just depressive.
I used to have Seasonal Affective Disorder but with a lot of work changing my internal dialogue and patters I can say I’ve overcome it and doesn’t bother me no more. I can finally enjoy all seasons.
My concern now is about work and I will come back to read all that you’ve ever written in this blog because it’s perfect and a must. You are doing a great job helping us with such complex world we live in inside our minds.
Thank you for caring. I wish you all the best in the world.

Alex

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Alex,
Welcome to my blog. Thanks for letting us know that you've overcome seasonal affective disorder. It's really important to people to learn about success stories.

Susan

Tamara (TC) said...

The cartoon is great and so apropos with your interest in gardening. ;-)

Sensitivities to seasons and light are interesting. I actually am sensitive to too much light and so the longer days of summer and all the sun increase my depression and make me feel more physically ill. We are moving into the time of year that I love. I think it was Dorothy Hamill that wrote a book about the opposite of S.A.D.

I am glad that you have plans in place and such a wonderful attitude about moving beyond seasons effecting you. I know you can do whatever you put your mind to!

Hugs,
Tamara

marja said...

What Shadow said about enjoying every season sounds so important to me. If we can enjoy each season for the special things they bring, there would be not need to get so down about it.

You said, Susan, how you feared the short days. Maybe anxiety is a big part of SAD - a big part of what makes us depressed? (See my post for this morning.)

I love that piece you quoted. It's a beautiful way of thinking about the dark. Now if we could just start appreciating the dark instead of dreading it, we'd do well, wouldn't we?

sallyo said...

Beautifully written. I especially like the quote from Shepherd Bliss. I think it's absolutely true. And it's also true that darkness comes before the dawn, and the dawn ALWAYS comes. That's the great thing.
I am really enjoying this series on wellness activities. Keep up the good work.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Tamara,
I had to laugh when I searched SAD images and found this cartoon. You're right; it clearly was drawn for me:)!

As always, thanks for your support. I've been working on my plan all year so hopefully this time I'll be successful. I, too, am quite hopeful.

And, yes, I have read about people for whom the spring and/or summer are an issue and they feel worse.

How interesting the human body is!

Hugs to you!

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marja,
Yes, conceptually I believe we should love each season for what it offers. And, it's unusual for me to admit that I'm fearful of anything.

But, this year I decided to be more honest with myself. And that's why I started therapy last January. The moment I was feeling better, I decided to focus on dealing with all the issues that might cause a fall depression.

We'll see, won't we?

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Dear sallyo,
Thanks for letting me know how much you enjoy this series. And, I not only loved Mr. Bliss's essay, which I, too, think is so beautifully written, but I loved the entire book in which it is included.

Susan

Periwinkle said...

Hi Susan,

The weather is getting cooler here on the east coast and the sun is setting sooner and I do feel a bit of anxiety about this, fortunately we will be camping this holiday weekend so I will get lot's of sunlight! :) I have decided to make a goal for myself this dreary season that is upon me and set some goals for some sewing projects in hope that my creativity will help with the depression and also try a morning walk once the kids are off to school. Thanks for always posting for us!
Cheers,
Perri

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Perri,
It's nice that you're going camping, and yes,walking makes a huge difference. There are a ton of other things you can do that are in Dr. Rosenthal's books--from making sure your house is light enough to eating certain foods.

Sewing sounds good too. Best of luck with all this. And...you're welcome. I'm glad that what I'm writing is helping.

Susan

karim said...

Very thoughtfull post on wellness. It should be very much helpfull


Thanks,
Karim - Creating Power

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Karim,
Thank you!

Susan