Monday, November 20, 2006

Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light

I went in for my quarterly tune-up with my psychiatrist recently. I think he’s a little bored of me; he hasn’t had to tweak anything for ages. This time, though, when he asked the usual questions about how things were going, I answered, “Fine, I guess, though of course it’s always especially hard after the time change in the fall.”

He perked right up.

“Why does that bother you?” he asked.

“Well, because it gets dark so early,” I answered.

Which is how I found out that it’s not entirely normal to dread the autumnal equinox and to count down the days until the light starts to grow again. I’d never understood how anyone can say fall is their favorite season. I’m used to my mood taking a swan dive in the fall, reaching its nadir about the end of December. It always creeps back up, but the prospect of the weeks and weeks of darkness stretching out ahead of me is tough.

So now I’ve got a light therapy lamp coming in the mail. I will set it up on my desk at work. I am going to look like a complete dork. Rather, I will be revealed to be a complete dork. But, I hope, a cheerful dork.

28 comments:

Meira said...

Hmm . . . fall is my favorite season, maybe because my moods start going down hill in January and hit bottom in late April. Delayed seasonal affective disorder? Anyway, one year I set up a normal table lamp without a shade on the floor next to my bed, and set a timer for the lamp to come on about two hours before I usually get up. Read it in some book somewhere. It seemed like it would be useless compared to what the lamp people tell you is vital, but I do think it helped. That and taking my meds with OJ first thing in the morning.
Despite my endorsement, I only did it the one year. So read into that what you will, lol.

Mignon said...

My mom got one at work and taped to each corner a couple old slides she took back in the day. It was slightly less dorky and slightly more artsy-photographer-in-training-y.

Or just pretend it's an x-ray viewer.

Larki said...

TTD feels exactly the way you do, and in fact always pulls a long face on June 21st, because that's when the days start to get shorter. He really heaves a sigh of relief at the midwinter solstice. Perhaps I should get him a light box, seriously.

I myself like the drawing-down of the days and the year, and the stark, clean cold of December, with the contrast of holiday lights. It's all good until January, when it all goes to hell and I vow, every year, to move to the equator. This is not an idle threat; I spent a year living about ten miles from it, and it was indeed amazing not to gird my loins in October for six months of misery. People said, "Don't you miss the seasons?" and I said, "Hell, no!"

On the other hand, the equator has the rainy season. And mud.

Maderine said...

You mean it's NOT normal to want to crawl into a hole and hide until March?

B.E.C.K. said...

Cheerful dorks are the best kind. ;^)

My mother routinely suffers from SAD, but she said this year she expected it to be a bit better because summer was so damned hot and she was happy for it to be over. We shall see. When I was a kid, I loved fall, but of course I had fewer worries then. Now I dread the season and start perking up around February. Hmm. Link to those light boxes?

Mrs. Ca said...

Not liking that the days get shorter sounds perfectly normal to me. Although I also get a touch of SAD every year, some (like last year) being worse than others. But, yes. Perfectly normal.

Lisa Sonrisa said...

The only reasons to look forward to fall/winter are: tight sweaters and knee-high boots!

Maman said...

How can a person not dread gray skies from November 1st to April 1st? Let me know if the lamp works.. I have always wanted one...

Jennifer said...

Yeah, I have thought twice about moving from Texas to someplace like Montana - the cold doesn't bother me, but I'm afraid the significantly shorter days would. Although, I do love how it stays dark past 10pm in the summer there...

jpn said...

I'd like info on the light box as well. I find it pretty interesting that, though I've never taken antidepressants, every November I suddenly find myself thinking that maybe I should...

punchberry said...

I was told that a grow light (the type sold in a nursery for use on plants) works the same way and is cheaper. I don't know if there is any truth to that; I just like to do my part to spread urban myths.

Anonymous said...

Strangely, I love Autumn, considering how much I hate winter and early spring. We got married then, and it is spectacular here in Scotland. Love the crispy, sunny days and all the colours (see Pamplemousse for some pics). However, from this time onwards until probably March is a different story, and I'll be watching with interest to see if your light box has a positive effect. Had my MOT with the psychologist yesterday and he reckoned it wasn't time to go galloping to the psychiatrist begging for a script, but "to keep that thought in mind"...hmmm, I think I will print out your "catchin' a wave" post and take it with me.

Fiona

Sandra said...

Yes, I've decided I have SAD. I never noticed it when I lived in New Zealand because the day's length only reduces by a small amount in winter. But I've lived in London for 6 years now and in the heart of winter when it's dark at 3.30pm and you trudge to work in the dark and leave in the dark is depressing.
I don't believe a light will make much difference to me. I try to keep 'up' by eating well and getting into an exercise routine. Hibernation makes it worse.
I've never counted down the days to the summer-time changeover but that seems inherently sensible to me. I may start that.

Anonymous said...

My DH uses a lightbox. It has really helped him. I can tell when he has skipped it, because he just seems to have no energy. I hope you get good results!

The MSILF said...

Keep us updated if it helps, as I'm crashing around now too and would try anything.

Karen said...

I love Autumn. The weather is crisp and clean, apple picking trips abound, I get to pull out my snuggly sweaters, start buying winter squash, and all the comfort foods I love I make mostly starting in Autumn. November is my favorite month, and always has been.

I despise Daylight Savings Time. I love Standard Time. I don't love that it gets dark so early, but it feels more "real" to me for some reason.

Still, I can understand why people have a hard time dealing with it.

binkytown said...

Can you tell us which one you got? I want to get a reputable one- too many to choose on the internet.

PS Still running, thanks to you. Just got a treadmill. LOVE IT. Thanks for getting me going.

Justbeingreal said...

Light Boxxes Rock, you can also set them on a timer so that you get the benefit for a while before you wake up in the morning.

CJ said...

I love my light box! It makes a huge difference.

Tech said...

SAD isn't a disease, isn't a malady, and there's nothing wrong with you - or you, or you, or me or any of us. We're hard-wired to be depressed and sleepy in the half-light of winter, when the game is scarce, the trees bare of leaves, and the lions and the tigers can track us by our footprints in the snow. We're PROGRAMMED to go into as near a thing as hibernation that we can manage.

It's the fact that we GET UP, and WORK, and are ACTIVE when our bodies tell us that we ought to be aslumber that causes our depression and disquiet.

So, if we intend to fool our bodies by eating and being active and working, we owe it to ourselves to fool our bodies into believing that the winter is over, that spring has come again. This takes LIGHT - LOTS of light. That puny lamp ain't going to do it.

Get two or three "industrial" flourescent "shop lights", 4 feet long. Fill them with half "Full Spectrum" bulbs and half "Grow Lights" for greenhouses.

Hang these lights over your desk or work surface and sit under them a MINIMUM of 4 hours per EVENING. Work there, read there, do EVERYTHING there, Turn them off about an hour before bedtime, and you'll sleep well, and wake refreshed, ready for another day of tricking your body into thinking that it is spring.

Try it; it works SO much better than Prozac, or Cymbalta, or whatever the new miracle antidepressant is these days.

Jen said...

dork + adorable = adorkable


Not just a dork but adorable too. At least, that's how I prefer to think of myself. heh.

s@bd said...

What if Fall is your favourite season (the trees! the cool breezes! my birthday!) AND you dread the early darkness?

Just wondering ...

Susy said...

Nowadays people can't feel a little depressed or sad without wanting to get a lamp or take some anti-depressants. Can't anybody just learn to deal with it and get better on their own?

DISCLAIMER: I'm not talking about serious depression cases, those who actually merit therapy and medication. But I doubt half the people posting here actually have a serious problem.

emjaybee said...

Ooh, that reminds me of a Northern Exposure episode; one of the characters got prescribed the light that you wear in a visor, and it worked, but he overused it and got manic and crazy. I'm not sure that's actually possible.

Winter depressed me a lot more in NY than it does here, except for the getting dark early. But at least down in TX I never have to worry about snow till April.

healthpsych said...

Fall is my favourite season - mostly because it signals the end of the extreme heat.

Seasonal affective disorder is commonly seen, particularly in places like Finland. My Finnish friend had light therapy sessions every winter when she still lived there...commonplace...no one bat an eyelid. Hope you get some benefits!

Anonymous said...

I, too, dread the shortening of days. November is actually always my worst month--I think December has enough cheerful distractions to keep me going. Anyway, I started walking to work every morning (that it's not raining)--2 miles, which takes me about 40 minutes--and it's done wonders for my fall mood. It's like it's spring! Must be exposure to all that sunlight, and the extra exercise can't hurt either.

Flicka said...

What do you mean it's not normal to be counting down the days to longer days? To me, the time change makes the world feel wrong somehow. Just...off, in a way I can't describe. I'll be anxious to know if the light therapy works; do let us know.

Anonymous said...

simply boring...