So for the last month, I have really been struggling. Since I am self-employed and work at my web design business from home, I need a lot of self-discipline - and that has been lacking. Instead of working diligently, I have been playing NetHack a lot. (Until a couple of rush jobs came in - then I gave myself some swift mental kicks and dug in.) I'm often sleeping till noon or 1:00 pm, giving myself no more than three or four hours of daylight some days. I'm experiencing a lot of body aches, necessitating several trips to the chiropractor. As a result of all this, I am getting almost no exercise.
And I have such a craving for Betty Crocker brownies!
Now my family wants to know what I want for Christmas. Or they think they do. What if I told them the truth?
- To sleep for three months
- Move Christmas to July
- NO gifts this year for anybody, so I don't have to think of ideas for anyone, myself included!
This is all called Seasonal Affective Disorder - cutely known as S.A.D. "SAD," however, doesn't describe it at all. I am not sad. I am grouchy. HUMBUG!!!
(Technically, the symptoms of SAD are fatigue, increased sleeping and eating, craving for carbohydrates - those brownies! - and irritability. I've got 'em all.)
In addition, I have one difficult emotional association with this time of year: in 1992, the man I had loved for more than 11 years died suddenly, just a week before Christmas. We had finally decided to marry just a month earlier. I think that trauma triggered my yearly bout with SAD.
Now, my doctor and I are going to work on this - but if you've been reading my I'm Bipolar Journal, you know we have a lot of work yet to do. Bright Light Therapy is supposed to be excellent, but I'm short on funds these days (and am Scrooge-like when it comes to spending anyway), so it's a non-starter for me. So what can I do for myself - when all I want to do is pull the covers over my head until it's over?
- Walk. I have to make a deal with myself to get out of the house for at least 20 minutes every day, to exercise, raise my endorphin levels, and absorb what meager sunshine there is. So I'm putting it on my electronic calendar, with alarm: Every day. 2:00. Walk for 20 minutes (minimum). What else?
- Shop Online. I do not like shopping at any time of year. It makes my feet hurt. And at this time of year, I don't want to talk to anybody, so even the thought of talking to strangers on the telephone to order gifts sends me diving under the covers. So I will do my shopping right here on the internet.
- Be Prepared. There are certain things that happen every year that drive me up the wall. This year I am going to talk to the people involved ahead of time and try to defuse those situations before they occur.
- Take My Meds. Forgetfulness won't do - and it isn't just the meds. I have not been taking my multi-vitamin tablet and fish oil capsules daily of late. The fish oil in particular is an essential for me!
- Don't Give In. Putting my head under the covers will just make things worse, because Christmas gets closer day by day and yes, I have to do the gift thing. Come Christmas day, I'll be glad I did.
SAD doesn't go away on December 26th - but at present, I just want to get that far. After that - well, I'll keep walking.
Author's Note, December 2001: Many things have changed since I wrote this essay. I have taken steps to control my SAD, including four fish oil capsules daily as well as the other steps I outlined above. They all help. If you get the winter blues, get fish oil and get moving - and if you get severe SAD, also get help!