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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

You are my sunshine....

I’ve been stuggling through each day. My head is full of wool and I wonder if people think I’m a drug addict because I can’t enunciate my words and my eyes won’t focus.

On weekends I sleep until noon and am in bed by 6pm the following evening. It’s sheer torture to get out of bed, not helped by the guilt I feel that I should be getting up earlier and if I would just had enough self control and will power I could do it.

I’m not writing, running, working out, or feeding my body anything useful. I scrounge around the kitchen eating various nefarious things that will last me Tues-Thurs until I can get to my boyfriends house or parents. I haven’t been grocery shopping is eight weeks.

Sunday night, as I lay in bed, still awake at midnight I asked myself “maybe I’m depressed?”
And then I had a revelation – I have SAD! (Seasonal Affective Disorder). I had completely forgotten. After all a year is a really long time… (I’m kidding). Of COURSE I’m depressed – it’s mid December, it’s been rainy and overcast for weeks and I haven’t seen the sunshine since…I don’t know when (hehehehehe – a bit of Johnny Cash). Additionally, Farley and I are on a bit of a vacation – so for the last 3 weeks I’ve been riding sporadically.

No wonder I wasn’t getting anything done! In the summer when I feel like this, it usually means I need to take a bit of a break from everything to refocus. However, if I try that strategy in the winter time (and that’s what I’ve been doing) it just gets worse and worse and worse…..I have to use a completely different strategy to keep my brain happy in the winter.

Every year I forget that I have SAD. In fact, I probably posted about this HERE, around this time last year. When I called my mother and shouted excitedly – “I know what’s going on-I have SAD remember?????” – I could sense her rolling her eyes as she said “of COURSE that’s what’s going on!”. I forget. I truly do. And it takes me until mid winter to remember and start doing something about it. I never used to struggle with this – it started when I accepted a mostly indoor job 4-1/2 years ago.

I’ve managed this successfully every year through a couple, simple behavior changes during the winter months (in California defined as Dec-Feb). There may be a time when I go on medication for this, but for now – I’m doing OK. I started yesterday and I already feel better (as evidenced that I’m actually writing a post!)

1. Get outside for a 30 minute walk in the middle of the day. This is TOP priority. Nothing else is more important right now than that walk in the sunshine.

2. No more guilt about not getting up early “enough”. My work is flexible and nobody will comment about my arrival unless it’s after 9am. If during this time of the year I need 10-11 hours of sleep a night to feel good – than that’s what I’ll do. In my experience, the sleep thing resolves itself if I take care of #1. Yes, most times of the year I revel in my 5am wake up time. But if 7:30am is the earliest I can manage right now, than that’s good enough.

3. Eat real food. I can get away with more carbs and sugar in the summer time. In the wintertime, an excess of sugar, processed food, or junk food just create a cycle of tiredness and lethargy.

4. Get out of the house and get stuff done. Last night I finished ALL my xmas shopping. This may very well be the first year I haven’t wanted to break down in the store in tears during xmas shopping because I felt so tired and horrible and so “non-xmas-y”.

5. Replace all the burnt out bulbs in my apartment. Let there be light! Go with the highest wattage recommended. No guilt about leaving them ALL on if necessary in the mornings and evenings.

6. Eat breakfast. I may not be hungry or even want it. But I’ll eat it. And it won’t just be a fried egg or a packet of too-sweet-instant-oatmeal-like-food. Today, I started my day off with a 2 egg omelet with asparagus, mushrooms, and green onions. I’ve gotten away from eating breakfast in the mornings. But, I’m finding that the less often I eat in the mornings, the less I am ABLE to eat in the mornings – let’s say…at a 100 mile endurance ride! I need to get back in the habit of eating a regular REAL breakfast and see if that makes a difference to my GI tract during stressful events.

7. Work out as I’m able. Some days it will just be my afternoon walk. Other days I’ll squeeze in a bike ride to the stable, pilates, or my exercise ball. From experience – if I’m getting enough sunshine, enough sleep, and giving fuel to my body – getting enough exercise isn’t a problem, my body WANTS to move.

8. Make time to write every day. It might be a blog post, my website, the CBA column, my novel, or something entirely different – the quality of my writing is a good indicator of my mental health.

In conclusion – it’s so nice to be back. Maybe next year I’ll start being proactive in….October or November instead of mid-December. Maybe I’ll schedule a little reminder for myself on my ipod: “now is the time to start my winter schedule”. Or maybe my mother really will send me a sign to hang on my wall like she threatened: “I have SAD!”.

Now that my brain isn’t wooly, I’m going to go finish some of the posts I have in the works! (I attempted one yesterday on the merits of a single horse versus multiples and realized it was so incomprehensible *I* wasn’t even able to read what I had written. Obviously had not gotten enough sunshine!).


  1. I'll glad you rediscovered your medical mystery. My daughter has SAD also. She bought a lightbox that she sits in front of every morning for an hour. She drinks her coffee, eats her break, puts on her make up whatever to keep in front of the light. She also has a flex schedule so she goes in a 6:30AM so that she get out of work in the light. These things have helped to keep her out of the funk.

    Good luck, look forward to future writing.

  2. Look into getting enough Vitamin D, that helps with SAD and also talk to your doctor about going to a tanning booth. Sometimes even 3-5 minutes once a week can help but for sure, talk to your Doctor about it. :)

  3. I always tell people it's NOT a disorder--it's DARK! (writing this at 4:15pm, and it's dark outside already here). In summer, I get 15 hours of work done in an 8 hour shift; in winter, I might do 4 hours worth. My boss gets her money's worth as long as she doesn't fire me in springtime! >g<

    I recommend vitamin D and also vitamin B (which helps with good sleeping). Get daylight as much as possible (for you, it can even be REAL sunlight, for me it's just daylight reflected off of rain clouds!).

    Eat green and orange foods.

    Sleep as much as necessary.

    Watch movies that are filmed in sunny summer climes (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN!).

    I take a highlighter marker to the top of my daytimer pages for the months of November to February to REMIND MYSELF not to over-commit myself for meetings and classes and parties when I really need to be hibernating.

    And, just rest. It's what winter is good for!

    WV: mootini
    an unhealthy mixture of chocolate, milk and vodka. Avoid!

  4. As usual my readers came through! I started taking vitamin d as well as sticking to a schedule as outlined above and I feel much better. I can really tell when I leave jus one of these things out of my routine.


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