The Fall season and the approach of the holidays seem to trigger an influx of lows for me. I have always been affected by the shorter days and lack of sunshine. In fact, I used to joke that I’m solar powered and it turns out that that’s not far from the truth!
Many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder and for me, it can be the first trigger of depression and anxiety. Early on, before I had a good understanding of my mental health I fell victim to these depressive phases in my life, struggling through these cycles year after year. Privately, I was constantly tired, not eating, cried easily and felt very alone fluctuating between apathy and high anxiety. On the outside, I did my best to smile my way through these phases. Unfortunately when one of these phases coincided with the timing of my divorce and the death of a dear friend and her son, I “crashed”. When major life stressors occur during low phases, the end result can be emotionally devastating.
Through the help of a wonderful therapist and Zoloft, I was able to get back on my feet emotionally. It took awhile to find the right medication, in fact Zoloft was my third medication and I gave each medication a fairly long trial period so the whole process seemed to take forever.
Ironically two months before her death, my friend had given me a SAD light box to use and it has been a tremendous help to me. I pull out my light and use it practically every morning from November through April. I wake up, grab a cup of green tea, turn on the Today show and fire up my computer and sit in bed with my light shining on me from the bedside table. It only takes about 20-30 mins a day for me to get the boost that I need. On those mornings when I don’t have the time to sit next to my light, enjoying my cup of tea, I place the light on my bathroom vanity and it shines on me while I get ready for the day. Another option is to place it on my kitchen counter right next to me while I prepare and have my breakfast. All of these little opportunities offer valuable “light time”!
I also do my best to eat and drink healthily and I think that helps my emotional/mental health as well as my physical health. My personal experience has been that when my body is struggling to process unhealthy foods, it increases feelings of fatigue. And when you’re constantly fatigued, it’s easy to get down. It can be a slippery slope.
There have been times over the years that I have had to go back on Zoloft. Times when life’s circumstances create feelings of lows and anxiety that I find hard to control. I now have a good sense of when I need to go back on medication and luckily am able to control my health through a very low dose. My advice is to get to know your body, listen to it and try to recognize the triggers that affect your mental health. It’s not a particularly easy or quick process but it is worth it!