This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and I decided to write a series of blog posts about how mental illness affects me. Enjoy reading them, and I hope I can encourage you to speak out about what you’re going through.
Winter is finally making way to Spring and Summer, and thank goodness for that. It will be more of a relief to people like me who suffer from really bad depression symptoms during the Winter months – a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.
SAD is a condition rarely ever talked about, which is quite strange as it’s actually quite common – 4 to 6 percent of people may have winter depression, with it starting at the age of 20. Whilst in my last year or two at university (I graduated last year), I never really knew why I got so down in the Winter and all I wanted to do was get into bed and stare at the ceiling, not bothering to do any work or washing up, or anything important.
I thought it was just down to hormones, the stress of uni or my anxiety. But when last year’s winter made its way into my mind, I decided to discover why I feel so rubbish between the months of September and April. Then I stumbled upon SAD. All the symptoms made complete sense: lack of interest in everything you would normally be raving about, no energy or motivation, no appetite/overeating and lots more. I found a website that gives free resources and strategies for coping. One said that I should get Vitamin D tablets, which I did and those helped a lot.
Even still when I started work, I would be absolutely drained of all energy when going to bed and often didn’t want to go in when I got up in the morning. “Oh but everyone doesn’t want to go to work on a Monday morning” you may say, but this was different – it was literally a battle in my own head to get up and head out in the dark skies of the morning. I opened up to my boss about it when I started my job and she was amazing, letting me work from home whenever I needed to and giving me space if I wanted it. I also called our Employee Assistance Programme which was also great and provided me a couple of weeks’ counselling to work through my feelings.
I’m a lot better at controlling it now, and know exactly why I feel the way I do. I feel sorry for myself for a day or two, but then finally get on with what I have to do – having such a supportive network really helps with this. But at uni, I used to nap all the time because I had no energy and no explanation as to why I felt like that and I’m not talking an hour, we’re talking 4 or 5 hours every other day.
I got a so-called “SAD lamp” last Christmas that helps radiate the feeling of sunlight into your room to trick your mind that it’s light outside, and so you wake up feeling a lot better and can aleviate symptoms. I find the lamp to be of great help, as in January and February I was so much more motivated and just felt better in myself – I seriously recommend getting one of you match any of the symptoms. You can find them cheap on Amazon.
I’m pretty sure I’ll have SAD for the rest of my days, it’ll just be about to trying to help myself feel better during the tricky Winter months.
Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and if you feel that you have any of the symptoms, please do reach out for help.
A K Jones