14 January 2008

On The Lighter Side

As my regular readers know, I have been having a real struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder this winter. Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D. for short) is an ailment whereby the patient is ticked off because she can't affect the amount of sunlight avaiable in the winter months of the Northern hemisphere. Needless to say, if she could affect the amount of sunlight, there would be much more of it!

As it is, here in central Maine, the sun comes up over the horizon around 7am and it's dark by 4:30 pm. I am SO glad that I do not live even further north, because the days are even shorter and because then I would be in Quebec and my French is atrocious at best. However, if I did live in Quebec, I would definitely live in old Quebec City - probably in the basement of Le Chateau Frontenac because I'm sure we couldn't afford housing in the old city. Mulletman and I would make our living strolling the streets and singing/playing guitar for our supper. Naturally we would continue to homeschool.

Um...What was I talking about? Oh yes, S.A.D. The symptoms of S.A.D. include depression, hopelessness, the desire to sleep too much, cravings for excess carbs, lack of energy, lack of motivation, difficulty completing tasks, and an inability to find enough chocolate to make it all better. Some folks even get suicidal, but I think they all live in Quebec.

I had all the symptoms except the suicideal tendencies. I told one friend about it and she seemed totally shocked. "You don't SOUND depressed," said she. I reminded her that I am an actress and I am a sanguine. Sanguines compartmentalize quite well and can buoy up into a bubbly fountain of cheer even in the midst of darkness, at least they can in short spurts. But once they are off the stage (either literally or figuritively) they melt into self-focused, teary, unproductive messes.

So I did a bunch of research (ie. I read info on 2-3 websites) and made some interesting discoveries. One is that my PLME (Polymorphous Light Eruption) and my S.A.D. are probably related. Mulletman and my FIL, as well as my MIL and my BIL are all related too, but that's another story entirely.

The PLME started 2 summers ago. If I was out in the sun for any length of time, I broke out in a nasty, itchy, yucky, stupid rash wherever my skin had been exposed. Some folks call it a sun allergy, though that's not strictly true. This meant that Groovy had to do some serious covering up to go outside which, in turn, means Groovy made virtually no natural vitamin D. This was/is a major bummer because Groovy likes to ride her bike OUTSIDE (Can you imagine?) and she likes to hike and garden. Now she could only do those things, in the SUMMER mind you, whilst wearing pants, long sleeves, tons of sunscreen, and big ugly hats. Yes, Maine is cold in the winter, but - and I know this comes as a shock to you folks from away - it gets quite hot and humid in the summer.

How comfy and festive. (I'm not complaining here, just reporting.)

(Well, OK, I AM complaining just a little!)

So, no sun in the summer. And then, no sun in the winter. That's enough to make ANYONE SAD!

Now I'm making a 3-pronged attack on the S.A.D.: I take St. John's Wort from October through March, I am now taking supplemental D3, and last week we bought a $250 Therapy Light.

Each morning, shortly after I rise, I sit in front of the light for 20-30 minutes for my Light Therapy. It's slightly above my eye level and it gives off 10,000 lux of joy and happiness and energy. While I'm sitting I either read or work on the computer. The first couple of days it just seemed to make me agitated, but after that I noticed the agitation went away. After only 9 days I am waking up easily and fairly clear-headed. I'm not falling into the horrible slump of doom after lunch. (Though I am occasionally falling off of ladders!) I have considerably more energy and more motivation to start and complete tasks, I'm much better able to keep up with the girlies and their schoolwork and housework and writing. I am noticeably more cheerful! I'm not wanting to crawl into bed at 8pm. I'm not teary all the time and I'm finding it easier to NOT be self-focused. I'm not glaring at the phone every time it rings.

Folks, what I'm saying is, THE LIGHT, SHE WORKS!

Now I have to work on my other health theory. I've been taking St. John's Wort, like I said, from October through March every year for the past four years. St. John's Wort can make you sensitive to the sun. What I'm wondering is if the herb has altered my body chemistry so that I am STILL sensitive to the sun in the summer when I am not taking it. If so, then I have started my own vicious cycle: Feel moderate depression in winter, take St. John's Wort. St. John's Wort increases my sun sensitivity in summer, so I finally have to avoid the sun altogether. This in turn decreases my vitamin D and increases my winter depression, necessitating more St. John's Wort and lights that cost way too much money.

Hmmm....Now that the light seems to be helping I may taper off the herb just to see. Maybe I'll substitute chocolate instead!

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

"Mischief is your middle name, but your first is friend. You are quite the prankster that loves to make other people laugh."

Whoa...Is that ME, or what?????


Marianne Arkins said...

I'm SO GLAD to hear that the light is working. It's odd... I take St. John's Wort, and don't have sun sensitivity. OTOH, I stay **fairly** covered up in the summer (not entirely, but a lot-aly) because of a family history of skin cancer. Still, my hands, calves and feet are almost always exposed. Hmmm...

In any case, I'm going to search through my budget to find $$ for a light. Happier winters would be good.

Tammy said...

You know, I suffer from S.A.D. which on different years effect me in various degrees. I was doing fine this year until just last week (after Christmas is over- Christmas kept me cheery) and then last week I was suddenly so low and weepy. I'm feeling slightly better this week, and I know hormones play a part, but come January every year it is like the dark clouds in the Oregon sky hover directly over my head as I walk around.
I am going to look into this light therapy!

Right now, I have an upcoming trip to Disneyland and San Diego on the horizon, so that helps!

So glad your taking an active attack on yours Groovy!
And I'll pray for you if you pray for me, K?

Michelle-ozark crafter said...

That is you through and through! Huggles to my groovy friend! i am glad the light is helping.

Michelle-ozark crafter said...

Oh gosh! We are the same thing!

Carole Burant said...

I'm glad you see the light...wait, not that way...you know what I mean! lol Seriously, I'm so happy to hear that the therapy light is helping. As for St. John's Wort, they say not to take it for more than 3 months at a time because of it's side effect of being sensitive to sunlight. I use to take Kava Kava for anxiety/depression but they went and took that off the shelves here...grrrrrr. It was the only herb that helped me. Sounds like a lot of us are not enjoying the winter months too much! lol I've had my periods for 28 days straight...but according to the doctor, it's normal when you reach my age for them to act weird like that. Aaarrggghhhhh!!!!

Rita Loca said...

I am the same as you! i must be "groovier" than I thought!

MyAffiliateNicheStores said...

I wanted to thank you for the 5 star rating on my Squidoo. I too have suffered from SAD for many years. My doctor kept telling me to get a light box, and I finally did last fall. I use it every morning and sometimes twice a day. I really feel a difference. Thank goodness I don't live in Alaska!

BTW - one study I read suggests taking Melatonin in the afternoon. Anyone tried it?

Dawn said...

Wow, that is a conundrum. My diagnosis and prescription - move to Colorado where the sun shines about 300 days of the year. Seriously.

I am so glad the light thingie is working so well.

You are definitely a snapdragon! I'm a daffodil: You have a sunny disposition and are normally one of the first to show up for the party. You don't need too much attention from the host once you get there as you are more than capable of making yourself seen and heard.

Hmm. Pretty close.

Anonymous said...

So glad the light box works. You may be right about the St. John's Wort. I took it a few years back and found I was sensitive to sunlight, which can be a problem in sunny Sydney. I'm going to research it and find out.

I'm a Snapdragon too. Great minds think alike!

Angry said...

Told you that taking the light box off the ceiling would improve its performance.

Canada Thistle!!!
"You are a mean spirited, ornery cuss. People try to get rid of you and you just keep coming back."
That's a weed.

*Pfffft... Stupid thingy, what would it know anyway.*

Susan said...

Loved this post, Groovy. My son has been talking about getting the lamp. It has been suggested to him by his doctor. Glad it's working for you. I don't take any herbs but it does sound like they may be working more against you than for you.

I'm a Snapdragon, too!!!! No wonder we are friends!!!

groovyoldlady said...

Angry=Canada Thistle


All of my other friends are NICE flowers!

anno said...

I was going to say something sympathetic about being glad to hear that the light box is working, but then I read Angry's comment and I've been laughing so hard I don't think I can type straight.

Loved this post! Loved the comments!

Ms. Kathleen said...

I suffered from SAD's in Nebraska in the winter but had no summer trouble. Our house was an old farm house with not many windows. When we built our house up here we put in A LOT of large windows and my hubby stood on the plot on the shortest day of the year and made sure the house (and me) got as much sunshine as possible.

Also, I don't think you are complaining. If we don't know what ails you how can we pray for you! So, prayers going up for healing for your body, mind and spirit.


Ms. Kathleen said...

Oh, I am a daffodil ☺

Angry said...

Oh I see... you vote for Huckabee on my site...that choice was included to test your loyalties I hope you know... and there are no needy Canada Thistles numbered among your friends.

It's becoming quite clear where I stand around here.

(Now I'm SAD, you know, sad in that other way....)

Chrissie said...

Delurking to say...
I love Snapdragons! Thanks so much for making me smile! Glad you're doing better - it's a joy to read your blog!
God bless you

Unknown said...

Well, I laughed out loud a few times while reading the first few paragraphs of your post. But this S.A.D. is awful sounding. Groovy needs to come on down to Florida for a visit. Oops. but you can't tolerate too much sun, what's a girl to do?
I'm really happy the light seems to be working!

Damselfly said...

I'm a daisy ... says I'm sensible ... something must have gone wrong with that survey!

That must be really tough to have SAD and PLME but maybe you can make up some other initials that will make you feel better. ;) Seriously, I'm glad things are getting better.

Wholly Burble said...

For a very brief period in my life I lived in the Rockies--on the "back side" where we're heading for Utah's desert--lots of sunshine, no humidity. THEN, I moved back to Iowa. There was no sun from April to June,and the clouds hung about three feet above our heads. I felt claustrophobic! I definitely felt S.A.D. I read about light therapy--but I didn't act on it (those lights are expensive).

I'm pleased for you that the light is working. Too bad you've got the sensitivity to light thing as well. Good thing that By His Stripes we ARE healed and made whole.