Is the light therapy working?
I do feel less gloomy and more energetic than I did before. And when I think about how long it will be until the sun really starts making a comeback, that seems like a simple fact; I don’t feel it in my bones.
At first I was thinking it might just be a placebo effect. Then I remembered—I have a serious deficiency: I am immune to placebos. I used to be proud of this, thinking it meant I was less gullible than other people, but over time I have come to realize that it just means I don’t feel as good as other people. Because the placebo effect is a marvelous thing.
I always suspected that I was missing out. I get terrible post-viral coughs, and used to drink gallons of dextromethorphan without noticing the slightest decrease in the hacking. (I continued to take it mainly because the people I lived with got terribly annoyed if I didn’t—as if I were destroying their sleep on purpose.) I felt vindicated when I finally saw data that over-the-counter cough remedies are entirely useless aside from their placebo effect—but the knowledge didn’t help me cough any less.
My first attempt at (illegal) mind alteration was a dud. It was a pretty pathetic scene: three of us huddled around a tinfoil-and-tampon-applicator b0ng containing a tiny dried-up lump of h@shish. J, who supplied the stuff, was an anorexic who consumed only Tab and tiny, strictly measured mounds of trail mix. After a few minutes of inhaling hot cotton shreds, J said, “I feel it! I definitely feel it!” My friend S, a 2-pack-a-day smoker who was fluent in three languages, politely said, “Maybe?” And I said, “Nope. Don’t feel a thing. Let’s go get drunk.” (This non-starter led to unfortunate overindulgence much later on, on the suspicion that I just might need a higher dose; the result was not unlike that described by Feral Mom here.)
The real proof came one evening when I was staying at my sister’s house. She and her (first) husband went to a dinner event without me. I got takeout Mexican and happily sat down with a book and a beer. I didn’t much like the beer—some weird German brand I found in their fridge—but I really felt like I needed a drink that evening. Strangely, after I finished the beer, I still felt like I needed a drink. Must be really stressed, I thought, and cracked open another. But after draining that one, I still felt like I needed a drink. Am I becoming an alcoholic? I wondered. It was not until I pulled the third beer out of the fridge that I noticed the fine print on the label: non-alcoholic. I swore a bit, rummaged around and found a real beer, and was perfectly happy after drinking that one (though a bit bloated by that point).
While others are happily enjoying their buzz or being relieved of headaches and such, I’m moping in the corner wondering how I can get my hands on the good stuff.
I’m always a little amused when people get started on antidepressants and after about four or five weeks say, “You know, I’m feeling a lot better, but I don’t know if it’s really the medication—maybe I’m just snapping out of this!” Not that that could never happen, but it’s interesting that it almost always seems to happen right around the time when one would expect an antidepressant to kick in. And here I am, wondering the same thing about the light therapy.
So, I guess it works.