Living with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Every October since as long as I can remember I have been sad, angry, confused, upset, and illogical. What about October made me upset? Was October just a weird month thanks to Halloween?
Many people have feelings of depression, mood swings, and less energy during fall and winter. Some people even have these symptoms during spring and summer though it is less common. Many people call it “winter blues” and some people don’t even know such a disorder occurs. Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a type of depression related to the seasons.
Every fall like clockwork many people including myself have mental breakdowns, quit jobs, destroy relationships and even take their lives because of this form of depression. I myself have had thoughts of suicide during bouts with SAD. I cried myself to sleep, fought with my spouse, yelled at coworkers, quit jobs, and even threatened harm to others during my bouts with SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder is just as destructive as any other type of depression. Sleeplessness, weight gains, feeling worthless or hopeless are other symptoms of SAD.
I never knew what caused my depression. It wasn’t until two years ago that I realized there was a real problem. I quit my job as an Executive Assistant to become a Police Officer. The training was hard, but no harder than I had been through in the military. I worked hard everyday, but a few times during training I broke down into tears. Since the training was in winter I was going through Seasonal Affective Disorder. I was working out two to three hours a day, being stressed out, studying late and getting about 6 hours of sleep a night. I was stressed out from the academy and the training while also going through severe depression. During training I wanted to run into traffic on our runs, die in a car crash to or from training or just never wake up. I did not know what was wrong and neither did my instructors. During to my training difficulties as well as an injury I ended up leaving the academy. At that point I was even more depressed. The SAD combined with failing at a dream put me on the road to suicide. Many days I thought about killing myself.. I tried to explain my depression but I could not ever figure out what I was truly upset about. I had not enjoyed the academy, I had missed my old job, and I was actually happy to have time with my family and get sleep.
My wife recommended I make a lit of goals. Things in my life I had wanted to accomplish but had not. The list was not long. I had done much in my life and seeing my accomplishments. After a rise in elation the depression hit me again. After years of going through these downward spirals my wife recommended I speak to someone.
I spoke to doctors, to therapists, and finally my chiropractor. He suggested I might have Seasonal Affective Disorder. Doctors thought that my time in the service had possibly led me to have a form of PSTD. Having grown up in an abusive home had also led to the theory that PTSD may be creating an environment for depression. My time at the police academy solidified the time period during which my depression manifested itself. After dropping out and returning to my previous employer I was still depressed. The next year was better but once again the October time frame lined up with depression. It was the final straw. One more year and one more season of this could be the last year or season if I did not do something.
I reached out to my chiropractor and he gave me some ideas. Via the Internet I looked for every possible way to work through my Seasonal Affective Disorder. There is not much information however the Mayo Clinic covers the disorder in detail even labeling some symptoms as well as offering some ideas as to what steps you can take to limit the impact Season Affective Disorder on your life. Getting tested for Vitamin D deficiency is a good idea. Many Americans suffer from Vitamin D deficiency due to our poor diet.
It has been almost two years since I found out I had SAD. I take many steps to help combat SAD during the winter months by taking Vitamin D, St. Johns Wart, Omega-3’s and using a Happy Light for light therapy. I do stand up comedy, I write scripts, a blog, and try to stay active in my church and community. I found that making sure my diet fits me, as the standard American diet does not. I eat Ketogenic with days where I eat whatever I want. I work out three days a week with a kettlebell which gives me the workout I need and not over stressing my body and mind. Many people recommend exercise to counteract depression but too much exercise can over tax your system and lead you back into depression after initial rise in endorphins.
SAD does not define who I am but it is a part of who I am. I find that some people don’t understand how a time of the year can have such a dramatic shift in your mind and body. It is only through education and understanding that we can help ourselves and others overcome the stigma of mental health. I know that others out there may not even be aware of the shift in mindset during the year but it is important to be honest with yourself when you notice the differences or when others notice differences. Are you just having a bad day/week/month or are you on a path that can harm you in long run? Asking for help does not make you weak. It makes you human. Grow, learn, and love. There is no greater power in the world than love and understanding.
James D. Creviston was born in Fairbanks, Alaska and raised by Huskies. He grew up in Texas and finished High School in Las Vegas. He served a four-year enlistment in the United States Navy and supported Operation Iraqi Freedom and the War on Terror. He met his wife, Krystal, while serving in the Navy in San Diego, CA. They have two daughters. James has a Masters in Military History as well as an M.B.A. His hobbies include CrossFit, reading, and wearing dunce caps.