WARNING!: Introspective wankery ahead!

It’s that time of year when the chemicals in my head start to go a bit wrong, for I am a sufferer of Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Summed up in a nutshell, when the nights get longer I get mopey.

More mopey than normal before anyone who knows me makes a joke…

I’m only letting you know this because I may become slow(er) in answering emails, posts may ramble a bit and I may seem a bit distracted until…oh…let’s say April.  I let you know because it shows that I have some form of Insight into my own personal brand of mental illness (which I’m sure will please the currently holidaying Mental Nurse – excellent read, reminds me of my short stint as a student nurse in the local rehab unit).

I first noticed this years symptoms a couple of days ago.  I’ve just upgraded my phone to an SPV M5000 which is a lovely new bit of kit that replaces both my phone and my old Pocket PC.  Wonderful, you might think, for I do so love my new technology toys.  But unfortunately, I find myself upset over my old Pocket PC that will now be left on the shelf – unloved, and unwanted, despite many years faithful service*.

You tend to realise that there is something a bit wrong with you when you want to cry over a bit of machinery.

S.A.D. tends to affect me in a couple of ways.  Firstly my sleep is, to put it bluntly, buggered.  Last night I slept about 2 hours, the night before around 16 hours, before that I have no idea, but I seemed to wake up every half hour.  This is seriously not good when you are a shift worker, especially one who is expected to drive ‘progressively’.

Besides altered sleep patterns, I also find myself lacking energy, both physical and mental.  This is why I have emails from a week ago waiting to be answered, and why I can’t seem to be bothered to start any quests in World of Warcraft.  (Yes… I realise that this is a screwed up way of measuring my own mental health).  It might also explain why my blogposting has been a bit spotty over the past few days.

It also means that I get some mood swings, mainly towards the negative end of the scale.  This I can deal with – I just wander off and have a sulk.

I’ll also find myself eating more, or less than normal, so my body weight/shape tends to wander all over the place.  This, I can deal with, as I don’t really care if I start looking a little chubby.  I am more anti-social during this time though, I’m not particularly interested in going out and seeing people, and the effort of getting ‘ready’ to go out often seems too much for me to handle.

It might also explain why I ‘blabbed’ my IRC password to everyone last night, by mistyping the command in the wrong box on screen.  At least, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

What is really stupid, is that my life is currently *excellent*.  My work is great, I’m working with great people on something that is utterly brilliant, and I have few, if any, money worries.  So the huge part of me that is pragmatic is telling me to get over it, and enjoy the good times.  But it just seems that you can’t combat Bad Brain Chemistry.

The only thing that I can do about this lack of Serotonin washing around my brain, is to get myself out and about.  I can’t afford a ‘lightbox’ (£150–£250 for a lightbulb!, and I haven’t got an hour each day to sit in front of it), and anti-depressants would take too long to start working, and that would be after spending the better part of a year to find a dosage that works for me.  So I guess it’s cognitive therapy for me, essentially recognising that I’m mad and thinking my way around it.

Funnily enough one of the few things that provides me with any relief is work.  I’m guessing that it’s the outside life that helps, with the increased amount of sunlight I get from working out on the road.  I was laughing to myself the other day while slaloming through the traffic at the thought that I get paid to do this…  To be honest it’s reason #1 why I left working as a nurse in windowless A&E departments to come out ‘on the road’, the thought that increased daylight might mitigate my symptoms somewhat.

Still, at least I have Spring to look forward to, when I spend six weeks being horny as hell, and then spend my Summer being sickeningly happy and positive about everything…


* Fear not!  For my old Pocket PC will find a loving home in the hands of my mum, who will use it to play Solitaire, Mahjongg and Su Doku.

28 thoughts on “S.A.D.”

  1. It;s interesting that you talk about this, as one of the paramedics I was on work experience with was taking melatonin, and said that it really helps. He bought it online

  2. the daylight bulbs aren't the same – they're designed to give off a more natural light balance for people doing sewing/painting/crafty stuff. The proper SAD lights give off a broader spectrum of light, similar to natural daylight, which is why it works.I found a SAD light for about 90 in Boots a couple of years ago. It's strange – it can give you a bit of a sickly headache at first, a bit like motion sickness, but this wears off over time. You do have to persevere with them though.

  3. that's interesting to know, Lyle, thanks. I might have a go with them too. If I change, say, my office light to a daylight bulb, it'll be on a lot anyway – rather than me thinking “hmm, I need to get the sad light out” – if that makes sense šŸ™‚

  4. It could be those blue lights. See if LAS would find a more cheerful colour for you. Reprogram the siren to play jingle bells.Or, listen to a CD of , er, music by Tom Lehrer.

    take care..

  5. Sorry to hear that the SAD has kicked in. I know how you feel as I'm in the same SAD boat. But at least being down over winter means that the mad horny spring is even more enjoyable ; ) See yeah, off to get some sunshine rays in my knacker but lovely MG midget! Hope it's sunny for you today.

  6. You can get pretty decent light boxes in the 150 range.. and remember, that as you're using them for “medical reasons”, you can knock the VAT off the cost (if you order online, you'll probably need to fax over a statement saying that you are ordering for said medical reasons).I need a new one after my old one died.. But then, I also desperately need new glasses and a warm coat, and I can't have all 3!

  7. Do the lightbox, if you haven't got many money worries- read taht again, the darkness really has gotten to your brain. I also simply got a bunch of full spectrum lightbulbs- since I do have money worries. And just that does seem to help. Google it, there are a bunch of brands out there, and I don't own stock in any of them (dammit).

  8. Getting outside is really important, because even on an overcast day there are loads of photons to be had. Unfortunately I don't think being out in the car counts as outside. Glass absorbs a lots of UV (which is why you don't sunburn through it) so there may well be some science in it.Perhaps what benefit you feel over when you were in windowless A&E is down to the placebo benefit…or just that seeing things, funny incidents in the street, smiles from passing someone you know, heartwarming sunsets etc are already a damn site better for you than being under strip lights all day.

    However, as I said, what you want is real outdoorsness, so you want to try getting out of the car more. Do calls come through to a bleep/phone or to the car itself? If its a bleep then you can stomp around outside in quiet spots. The fast pacing you'll need to keep warm will also kick off some endorphins which of course help with the mood.

  9. “Jingle Bells”?You are just asking for one of my trained attack hamsters to be posted to you, aren't you…

    Poxy b****y Christmas.

  10. I don't think you can get it in the UK, (at least not without answering a spam email), you definately can't get it without a prescription at least.

  11. 150!You see, if I had 150, a glorified lightbulb is one of the last things I'd spend it on.

    That and I haven't got an hour spare each day to sit in front of it.

  12. Oh I do have a little wander around when I park up. But I'm not too sure that it is dependant on UV, I think it's just light of the non-fluorescent kind.

  13. Er, I brought tons back with me from the States (naughty, I know). Email me if you'd like to try it Tom; I'll bung some in the post to you.

  14. I can only sympathise with your predicament as I also suffer from severe SAD, which I didn't know until I got to UK and its short winter days. My doctor advised to either get a light box or take some Fluoxetine. I didn't fancy the pills and I couldn't afford a new light box, so I grabbed a second hand one for 48 on Ebay. It works wonderfully and in all the years I've been using it I've never had a problem with it.As for not having one hour a day to use it, that can easily be solved. Firstly, I was advised to use it 1/2 hour a day and that has always been PLENTY to zap my SAD into oblivion. Secondly, you don't have to do it in one session, you can do 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there, as long as it adds to 30 minutes and it's not too near your time to go to sleep (4/5 hours is a safe margin).

    This means that you could simply have it at work, at the desk you sit at, and use it in the intervals between your emergency calls. You can find as many reasons to object as you wish but the truth is that your mental health is important and the light box WILL make a big difference on your wintery outlook.

    Good luck.

  15. Come on, Tom. If you can buy yourself a fancy new phone, you can get yourself a lightbox. No excuses, now. Just because everybody else who sees you sitting in front of it will think you're weird… After all, it would be cheaper than a holiday to Cancun, though perhaps not as much fun.By the way, there are a couple of lightboxes going on eBay as I write. Good luck.

  16. By no means do I mean to trivialise SAD as I know it's a real problem, but the first thing that popped into my mind when I read this post was “Oh god, a 5-month long spell of PMS!”

  17. I spent all my life feeling quite normal, thank you, even through a few English/Dutch winters. (I assumed everyone slept 15 hours during winter if they could get away with it.) Then I had a job in a windowless room and was boggled at the effect. Sleep disturbances like really bad jet lag, not ordinary insomnia, and bizarre sadness. I had to laugh about mourning the phone. That's it, exactly.Melatonin really helps for SAD-induced insomnia. Get some. Screw the regs. (3 mg., slow release, is usually plenty. More is not necessarily better.)

    Lights. Again: get some. Really. They help. And whaddya mean, you don't have time? Set them up to shine in your face while you're blogging. Of course, last thing before you go to sleep is not such a good idea. And getting up early for the purpose would be a real hardship. But, anyway, something should be workable. (Just after dinner?)

  18. Ahem…from the URL I mentioned earlier:'Talk Therapy More Effective Long Term Treatment For SAD Than Light Therapy, Study Finds.

    'Only six percent of the CBT participants met the criteria for depression at the one-year follow-up, while 40 percent of light-exclusive participants met the depression criteria during the winter season of the next year.

    'The majority of light therapy users reported having a hard time adhering to the recommended twice-daily 45-minute light box sessions at the end of six weeks of study treatment.

    'Rohan's research offers compelling evidence that CBT talk therapy by itself may be an effective treatment for SAD and may offer some long-term benefits over light therapy.'

  19. my mate has a lightbox, he found time to use it for 30 mins, it was called tea time. he has the box on a small table by his arm chair, and as he alway sit and eat watching the national news.or you could use it as you are on the pc.

  20. As a thought re. “blue lights”, have a look at getting some “daylight” bulbs. They're available from B&Q, Homebase etc. now, and are made from a blue glass that apparently emulates daylight as opposed to artificial light.They're a bit duller than “normal” lightbulbs, so go for an 80 watt instead of a 60 if you can, but even if you get only the 60s you soon get used to the slightly duller light.

    I did find, though, that they helped my SAD quite a bit – and without forking out chuffloads on a lightbox.

    Many commiserations about SAD – it's a bugger, but it's doable in the end.

    One other suggestion – not for this year, but bear it in mind for next – is to take a break in Nov to somewhere sunny. That seems to “top up” the sun levels, and work pretty well…

  21. When you become somebody's stalker they'll probably get one for you rather than put up with the added mopeyness as the grey days descend (talking from experience – aheum). Probably not worth the outlay when only patients get the brunt of it ;-)There's no rule that says you can't do something else while you have the light on (eat breakfast, iron your uniform, answer your emails that sort of thing).

  22. I know that the light-boxes produce a broad-spectrum bright light which is supposed to work, but my own experience has been that the daylight bulbs can have a significant effect on their own.I didn't mean to make out that they're the same, as I know they're not – simply to say that in my experience they do help. As yet I've never forked out the £100ish for a “proper” lightbox, but I have forked out the £6ish for a daylight bulb.

  23. I actually just put mine on a timer and in a not-obvious place in my bedroom so it clicked on about an hour before sunrise proper. Perhaps more perceptual than physiological, but it did seem to make me less crabby…

  24. Ask around at the hospital. I had one on loan for a while to see if it helped before I decided to buy one. Sometimes they won't part with it but you can book a session a day for a while in a nice room. Think of it as a sunbed session and take a book!!

  25. I'm sure your SAD is exacerbated by your shift pattern too – as if you have some ever-changing form of jet-lag. Melatonin would prob help – there is also a fabulous product that you can get from the States “Sleep System' by Rainbow Lights. It's a damn sight cheaper than 150 and worth a go. It is basically a vitamin supplement with a small amount of Melatonin in it. I got when travelling back and forth from the States alot. It really works and you feel refreshed on waking not as if you have been hit over the head with a club hammer which helps! You could also do with taking a Vit D and E supplement. Washing it down with Red Bull or Coke is probably best avoided though! Good luck – SAD is really disruptive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *