Saturday, December 09, 2006

Bring Back the Light

by Cathy Anderson Moffat

I first feel the darkness descend in October, which worsens in November. Mostly I feel loss of energy (too tired too often), but lately I've noticed dark thoughts and fearful thinking. I wake up in the morning wondering: What if my senior cat and dog get sick? What if I'm not busy at work today? And at least once during the terrible, overcast days--why bother with anything?

No, I don't sleep extra hours or forget to brush my hair. It's not a regular depression, but since this has been happening year after year, I wonder about SAD (seasonal affective disorder);maybe I have a mild case of it. SAD, also known as winter depression, is a mood disorder. Most SAD sufferers experience normal mental health throughout the year, but experience depressive symptoms in the winter. It's all about the light; when the light falters, some of us have system slowdown.

As a writer and a massage therapist, SAD spells disaster. How can I push harder on their arms, legs, and backs? How can I get a few more chapters written on the novel? The query letters and book proposals I send out to lucky agents who never see them--how to up productivity (to increase the rejection ratio). Let's face it--we all want to get more done.

And dark thoughts are best left in the closet with the door shut, unless you're writing a creepy, crawly thriller. Or maybe some mysteries, too.

Never fear, the light is returning with the winter solstice on December 21, 7:22 p.m. EST. It's a celebration for the SAD people, when the longest night and shortest day tip the balance. The days get longer after that. On solstice, the northern hemisphere leans farthest from the sun, as the earth experiences maximum tilt in relationship to the sun.

But here's the good news: at the same time of our winter solstice, summer solstice regales the southern hemisphere. Lucky birds! And SAD is rare and probably nonexistent in the tropics.

Why didn't someone tell me? Get me a plane ticket and I'll finish this novel. I'll pound the daylights out of the touristos at some seaside resort.

But things could be a lot worse. I get this vision in my head of ancient people huddled in huts, enduring winter's harsh ways, waiting, just waiting for the light to come back. Worse yet, at some point they didn't even know about solstice, that the the days would lengthen and the warmth return. They couldn't drink a little Pepsi and keep right on going. Talk about doom and gloom.

When December 21 rolls around, I know I'll be jumping up and down. To combat the energy drain in the meantime, I use a broad spectrum light (some use light boxes). SSRI meds can be used, including prozac and paxil (I prefer Pepsi). I just read about negative ion therapy for SAD, another effective treatment. Lately, I've given myself Reiki, a form of energy and light work. Rather than kick myself in the nether regions, I've started being thankful for all the wonderful things in my life--gratitude therapy. Chases the dark thoughts far away.

I'm thankful for all of you, my friends, and wish you only the best during this season of love and light. I hope the dark days don't touch you, but if they do, want to spend the winter in the tropics?

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of moving to the tropics as a cure for SAD. I suffer from it, too. Used to call it the winter blahs before some genius gave it an official title.

Do you think if we chartered a jet and soared off to Aruba to kick the blues and finish our novels that we could write it off as a business necessity on our taxes???

Anonymous said...

I don't suffer from SAD, but I'll gladly join you in the tropics!

Annette, that tax off is well worth the experiment, I think.

Who's calling the travel agent? *grin*

Nancy said...

Great post, Cathy! I have struggled with depression all my adult life, and I must be extra vigilant in the winter months. Lots of outdoor sunshine, working in front of a window and stepping up the exercise all help---but not as much as that trip to Aruba!!

Cathy said...

The Sisters' Tropical Retreat Center for the SAD and not-so-SAD. Yes, the tax deduction is a must, but I'm also seeing male hula dancers as we sip drinks with umbrellas in them by the sea.

I'm going to work. Be back later. Go ahead and pack your bags.

Gina said...

The hotel I stayed at in October on the Mayan Riviera has a conference center -- maybe we can have a retreat there! [With sunshine and the Caribbean, it's as good as Aruba.] And the proximity to Chichen Itza might help spark some creativity.

Seriously, I've often thought we humans were meant to hibernate. We're just too busy to spend the winter lying down, but it would sure feel good. Plus, you get to wake up in the spring really skinny, without ever having to diet or exercise. Of course, there may be a cub to care for . . .

Tory said...

I hate to burst your bubbles, but living in the tropics does not eliminate SAD. When I was in Hawaii in September a couple of years ago, my bed and breakfast host suffered from it and was whining about the days being shorter in the fall.

I have to say, she didn't get a lot of sympathy from me!

But keep our thinking caps on, I bet we can figure out another way to make the trip tax deductible. What about researching SAD in the tropics?

Kristine said...

Okay, I must be the oddball here because I love the darkness...shorter days, longer nights...bring it on. Perhaps I'm nocturnal.

But I'd still like to join you all in the tropics.

Cathy said...

Gina,
The Mayan Riviera sounds oh so nice. I vote for there or anywhere.

Tory,
My information was from Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, about SAD and the tropics. You know, if it's in a book, it has to be true. We're just going to go out there to the tropics and conduct some original research. Maybe your B&B person needs to read Wikipedia, maybe she's a hypochondriac. Do you think I should sue the Wikipedians?

Kristine,
You're the first person I've heard of who prefers the darkness (other than the vampires). What about the snow and ice and cold? Do you like that, too?

Your season has arrived, and I'm glad you like it.