The light on SAD
I self-diagnosed SAD when I was 17 or 18. I read about the condition and made the connection. I’d felt a “darkness” come over me for as long as I could remember around September each year and would withdraw from social activities and become nervous and anxious, feeling a desperate need to be at home and in the company of family – insecure and terribly clingy.
As a child, I would cry a lot and ask to go home from school in the winter months. I wouldn’t socialise with other children after school.
Even as an adult I couldn’t bring myself to make social dates during winter – a sharp contrast to my summer life where every day is filled with appointments and events.
During my college years, my attendance dropped every year between October and Christmas when I couldn’t discipline myself to get up and go into classes. Until the sun rose I couldn’t function or clear the negative feelings I was experiencing because it was dark outside. As a result, relationships with my tutors went downhill and my work suffered. I was passionate about the illustration course I was studying but the effects of SAD kept me trapped.
I discovered light therapy a few years ago after staying with my older brother who had bought a SAD light. While staying with him one weekend he was using it a few hours a day and I was exposed to the light. I wasn’t aware of it working for me until he switched it off and immediately I slumped into a depression. It was an epiphany – he switched off the light and I crashed… I realised how normal I’d been feeling while it was on. I wanted my own light and purchased one after I graduated.
Now I can get up in the mornings and go to my work. Living with my partner helps enormously as his support and encouragement really helps. Without him I’d not discipline myself at all! The Pharos offers some relief. I still hide away but feel more… normal. I’m less lethargic through winter days. My colleagues commented on my lighter moods just a few weeks after I’d bought the light box. They found me easier to work with than previously and I began feeling more productive.
I talk about my feelings with friends as much as I can – it helps me to admit this ‘SAD’ problem and gives them understanding of why I retreat from social life for a period of time.
My advice to anyone who can relate to my story and experiences is to try light therapy. I have never heard of anyone it doesn’t help. In addition, get a support network – tell friends, family and colleagues what you’re going through so they can at least understand what is happening to you. If a holiday abroad is affordable then get away in October. The effects of the sunshine and the whole ‘holiday feel good factor’ can last past Christmas.