climbing up and out

Surely you’re getting tired of hearing of my recent outrage and heartache. I agree; it does make me dull. It is therefore my pleasure to inform you that I am 48 hours into taking an herbal serotonin enhancer and have, thus, begun the climb up and out of the hole I’ve been in since…hmm…maybe mid December.

I mentioned that I’m prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder. There is the lack of sunlight, holiday stress, the cold… Compound this with a January rejection and, next thing I know, I’m regularly in tears with little to no provocation. The challenge is that it’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference between normal, everyday malaise, sadness / grief or desire to hibernate and real, genuine depression. This time, I realized I wasn’t able to pull myself up and out on my own.

I’ve found that these are some of the clues that let me know when to get some help:

  • When there’s a part of my mind that is obsessing about something out of my control, and I seem powerless to let it go. (Normally I have a grip; really I do.)
  • When my mental acuity and focus become elusive, and it’s difficult to concentrate.
  • When more swearwords than usual come out of my lips in any given day, or my brain-to-mouth filter seems especially defective. (Given that I’m already capable of cursing like a longshoreman, this can get really, um…spectacular.)
  • When I am angry or teary three days in a row.
  • When I can’t seem to bring myself back around to gratitude or happiness from feelings of resentment or pain.
  • When a beer commercial brings me to tears.

Over the years, I’ve learned to compensate for these feelings; I’ve learned to smile in spite of them, to put forth a brave face. Probably many in my life — even close friends — wouldn’t guess what I’m going through. These days, however, I’m getting real:  I’m much more open to sharing what I’m going through with friends and, especially, talking with my children about mental health, their genetic risks, tools and strategies, and responsibility. I hope they’ll grow up understanding that we all have varying degrees of mental and physical health throughout life, with some of us more prone than others to specific types of illness, and that there should be no stigma associated with either kind of disease.

It can be difficult to see how deeply one has sunk until one begins that long climb up and can see from where one’s come. I’m already feeling marginally better, and I’m looking forward to having a much healthier perspective within a few days.

that sinking feeling

I have a case of the Januaries. It likely began in mid-December, but now it’s in full swing. All I want to do is sleep, I’m moody and irritable, and my outlook has taken a turn for the distinctly bleak… I’ve slid into self-diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), what my therapist might otherwise call Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood.

I’m someone who is definitely affected by the low exposure to sunlight, the lack of vitamin D, the waning stores of serotonin in my body. And while I wish to do little but hibernate, struggle to maintain a positive attitude and experience bizarre feelings of anger in response to being physically cold, my kind of depression pales in comparison to what I know so many people struggle with on a regular basis. I may wallow for a bit or go on a crying jag but, generally speaking, I can pull myself back up out of it within a number of hours and at least be minimally social, productive and effective as a parent. I rely on the assistance of my friends, vitamin D supplements and a natural serotonin enhancer.

For any of you who may be feeling a bit down this winter, please reach out to your friends and loved ones, find something you can look forward to, be grateful that each day gets a little longer, take care of yourselves and seek whatever kind of help and support you need to let the light back in. We’re each responsible for our own mental health — and there are resources aplenty for those willing to seek them.