Depression, Health

The Double-Edged Sword

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This is my first blog entry and i feel like Im standing on the edge of a cliff. You see I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder and having felt for all my life that I needed to cover this fact up, I have now decided to start a charity and support group called Aurora so that others can come and join me and we can hopefully start something cool.

SAD in my humble opinion is a very misunderstood ailment. I mean, millions and millions of people would admit that they would rather summer than winter, but how many would actually acknowledge that the darker months mean that they think and act differently and experience different moods…more negative moods? For people who experience a slight case of winter blues, it may be hard to envisage that others experience something much more debilitating. Much in the same way that a social drinker who had a couple of drinks too many and has a sore head may feel that this is the full extent of what an alcoholic experiences.

The cliff that i mentioned earlier does not really scare me as such, because over the years i have learned to cope, privately. But standing in this place where i am starting a blog, a website (www.aurorasad.com), twitter account etc, is a little daunting. It feels like I am coming out of the closet. Admitting to experiencing sadness and depression at times may seem normal to me, but my friends and family, neighbours, employers, future employers, future partners etc may not see it that way. Regardless of how many attempts have been made to the contrary, there is still a huge stigma attached to mental health issues. Thats the risk. But the reward is that by forming Aurora I may just be able to help others. You see there is a huge contradiction at play. Post suicide, society often settles its conscience by lamenting that the victim did not talk about their depression. Yet we all know that in reality such conversations do not very well fit in with mainstream interaction.

Autumn is also like a double edged sword. If like 2014 the Indian Summer over Britain and Ireland has extended the brightness and dryness into October, then the season of mellow fruitfulness can be really special. But the jagged side is that the longer this goes on the closer we get to the dark bleakness of winter, when my brain will do its very best to drag my body into hibernation.

The best way for me to describe how SAD impacts my life is anaesthesia. I just feel listless and the longer the winter goes on the more this feeling prevents me from getting outdoors or getting active and this of course compounds the problem. My sleep cycle goes unpredictably astray. The irony is, I know that my skin and brain need light, but I procrastinate and slumber so much that I generally sleep when I could be outdoors.

It takes such effort to get through my Monday to Friday 9-5 in winter that by Friday night I am exhasted. But because it is Friday I like doing something such as going to the cinema or to hear live music. I tend to go to bed late despite being really tired and the upshot is that I sleep late on Saturday, sometimes to midday. Because of the late sleep I am not ready to sleep on Saturday night and so I end up sleeping late on Sunday too. In winter this can mean that there is only an 8 hour window in the whole week where I can get outdoors and get some much needed light. If the Saturday and Sunday afternoons are chatacterised by poor weather, then an entire week may have gone by without getting any natural light and the following Monday morning alarm clock comes like an express train.

It took me a long time to realise that the majority of people around me do not have such problems. But I have become accepting of SAD and I know that there are subtle changes that can be made that can have a huge benefit. Two years ago I managed to holiday for a week in the Canary Islands. It was like finding an oasis in the desert and the stockpile of sun that I enjoyed for that week carried me through the remainder of the winter largely unscathed. But to be fully accepting I need to make contingency for winters when I cannot escape the darkness by migrating south.

My hope is that by blogging my experiences, and forming Aurora, I will bring together other people just like myself , possibly just like you, and that we will find safety in numbers and support each other. A gathering of happy SAD people if you will.

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