5 things every person with Seasonal Affective Disorder wants you to know
Seasonal Affective Disorder (which is fittingly referred to as SAD) is known as a subcategory of depression or bipolar disorder. It typically occurs when the seasons change and is punctuated by depression, low energy, sleep issues, a loss of interest, and an overall feeling of hopelessness. Experts aren’t 100% sure that the following is the cause, but many believe a lack of sunlight-loving, mood-altering serotonin is the root of the problem. If this sounds familiar to you, you’re definitely not alone — according to Mental Health America, about 5% of the U.S. population experiences SAD in a given year.
However, there is still the rampant belief that SAD does not exist, silencing those who deal with increased mental distress during a poignant portion of the year. To counteract this trend and bring these voices to the forefront, we’d like to express what those with Seasonal Affective Disorder would like others to know…
1. Yes, my seasonal depression is real.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, in my opinion, is real. For as long as I can remember, my mood has drastically changed the moment fall and winter are on the horizon, causing me to deal with a level of depression and anxiety that is not characteristic to my everyday life. Then, the second spring and summer hit my system, I am back to feeling like myself again.
2. No, I am not simply dealing with the “winter blues.”
I can understand why one would be suspicious when I say that I deal with depression only part of the year. After all, SAD is not something tangible. It’s not a dark cloud that manifests above my head on the first day of winter, giving me the chance to emphatically point and scream, “I am currently sad because of this!”
It’s also not something that affects me year-round, so I can understand why an outsider might believe that I am merely going through a rough patch, not a bout of mental distress brought on by a literal lack of sunshine in my life.
3. I will reject or cancel plans more than normal.
When the air around me grows cold and the atmosphere is tinged with darkness by 5pm, all I want to do is curl up in bed with a heating pad and something to distract my rabbit-hole-spiraling mind. That would explain why, if you invite me out to do something, I will likely feel too seasonally affected to accept. It’s not because I don’t like you or want to hang out — it’s because I’m currently not at my best.
4. I feel incredibly guilty because I know I seem like a Debbie Downer.
I know, I know, I look really sad right now. My eyes no longer gleam. It takes effort for me to turn that heavy frown upside down. As for my sarcasm, I’m aware it sounds like I’m actually just plain angry. And for that, friends, I am truly sorry. Because I know it must seem like I went to bed with the disposition of Snow White’s friend Happy, and woke up with the personality of Grumpy. But, please remember…
5. I can’t just “snap out of it.”
This is not a phase, a low point, or anything of the sort. Seasonal Affective Disorder is weaved within the chemistry of my brain, awakening for part of the year to remind me that it’s there. Yes, there are forms of treatment I can (and have) tried and activities I can take part in to lessen SAD’s effects, but that doesn’t mean it will ever go away permanently. Because just like my anxiety, my OCD, and my love of ketchup on grilled cheese, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a part of who I am.
And though it’s hard, I’m learning to accept that SAD makes me sad, not less of a person.
BONUS: Every person’s experience with Seasonal Affective Disorder is different. This is just one person’s account.