For me, my birthday of September 24 signals the start of my annual decline into a depressive episode that lasts until somewhere near the spring equinox. Some people call it seasonal affective disorder (SAD); I call it hell. Though it is torturous to live like a zombie for 6 months a year, I’ve found a few easy ways to make our annual ride down the river Styx a lot more comfortable.
Change your meds
The change in seasons causes a change in brain chemistry. Even if your meds had been working previously, now might be the perfect time to increase your dose, add a helper or take a break. Talk to your doctor and see if there’s something you can try.
Two years ago around my birthday, I started taking anti-depressants for the first time - Welbutrin 100mg daily. This year, I asked for a switch to something different and she added Zoloft 50mg daily. At only about 9 days in, I’m still about 4 weeks away from knowing how it will affect me fully. Yet, I’ve regained my optimism, creativity and imagination. It’s been a long time; I’m glad to have them back.
Invest in a 5500k or higher lightbulb
Light therapy has been a great treatment for SAD and major depression for people closer to the poles for a long time. Light boxes are an easy but kind of expensive option – cheap ones start at $50. Whereas you could install an outlet timer and fluorescent bulb over your head to wake you up with a burst of “sunlight” every morning for about $25. You could also spend less than $10 and buy a specialty CFL bulb that’ll fit in any standard outlet.
Keep busy, be useful
Because I like projects and fall on the frugal side, I prefer the DIY options for the tip above. Even if you have the cash for a light box, it’s always a great idea to aid your sense of accomplishment with a series of short projects or a long term hobby. Although I have found some types of tasks, projects and hobbies work better than others.
For my depression, getting a useful hobby with measurable results has been a life and mind saver. Having something to care for, watching something grow, getting better at something, these things keep me connected to the world and people around me.
Currently, I care for an indoor garden, guinea pig and human pup submissive. I also started a new blog, wrote this article, and have taken a keen interest in the effects of cannabis on sex. You don’t have to do all that but even taking care of a fish or orchid could be enough to keep you going.
Give yourself a break
My depression feels like nothing and everything is happening at once. The result is an exhausting mixture of behavior that is at times frantic, tense or eerily still – sometimes all at once. A bitch gets tired from time to time and when that happens I give myself the time to rest up; even if that means sleeping for 24 hours straight.
Even under ideal brain conditions, rest is necessary. Autumnal depression or SAD has a way of zapping our energy like nothing else. It’s important to know when it’s time to rest. You’re not a failure for needing a nap or some solo Netflix and chill time.
Now, I’m not a doctor or an expert on this. So, this is just some personal experience, not advice.
For me, the morning is a crucial time for me. If I can find a way to just start my mind right when I get out of bed, I can usually rev up to a functional level of energy; if not, I’m fucked. Previously, I fixed that with some not so legally acquired Adderall, but it raised my blood pressure too high. Now I start my day with a cup of coffee or two.
There’s something in the getting up and doing a useful thing plus ingestion of a that stimulant really seems to help me. I also like smoking cigarettes for the same reason. If you don’t like coffee but do like cannabis and tobacco, a spliff with a tobacco and a strong, energizing sativa might be a great option.
Stay away from downers
Whether it’s joy sucking people or intoxicants, it’s important to minimize the things that are zapping your energy and spirit. If you’re a weed smoker, stay away from indicas as they will make you sleepy. If you’re on SSRIs ask your doctor if adding a stimulant to your meds might help. If you’ve got a case of the fake people, say goodbye, goodbye to all the fake people your life.
Being selfish gets a bad rap. Usually, though, selfishness is actually healthy. We often over-exert ourselves trying to be there for everyone. We need to spend more time being there for ourselves. Selflessness and sacrifice are valuable features in martyr, but martyrs die and you’re trying to live. Be a little selfish, sacrifice less of your soul and you’ll have a greater ability to lift yourself, which, funny enough, will still help to lift others.