Being greeted by absolutely glorious spring weather after a miserable winter makes me feel like a butterfly emerging from a dark cocoon prison. Judging by social media these last few days, it has cheered up most of the nation too.
SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) affects around 22% of the UK population according to SADA (Seasonal Affective Disorder Association – a charity) as we simply don’t get enough sunlight between September/ October and March/ April. The lack of light passing through the eye to the hypothalamus produces symptoms such as:
- Poor cognitive function
- Prone to winter illnesses
- Sleep problems – oversleeping, insomnia
- Overeating & weight gain
- Reduction/ loss of sociability
- Reduced/ loss of libido
I’ve touched on it before (Card Therapy for PANDAS) although not discussed it in more detail, but I’m certain I have suffered with SAD since I was a teenager. Some years are worse than others, because of the many other factors that affect mood – life events, lifestyle, stress, sleep quality etc but I think this winter has been particularly difficult. Again there are a multitude of factors at play, but I have felt my mental health has deteriorated over the last six months and particularly over the last six weeks. Despite my resolution when I started this blog, to be open and honest about my mental health experiences, I must admit that I am not always. Part of it is the ‘mind over matter’ stance, and I think that if I can be more positive and less ‘dwelling’ then I will feel better. The other part of it is the ‘keeping up appearances’ stance – “good” is my standard response to “how are you?”. I am supposed to be ‘recovered’ so I should be fine now and I don’t want to be a moaner. Ha. Therein lies the two main problems affecting sufferers of mental illness: The pull yourself together attitude and fear of stigma.
As with most things, the aim should be somewhere in the middle. Of course telling yourself how miserable you feel and how useless you are will lead to a negative spiral of detrimental thoughts. You can also be quite certain that if you went around telling everyone who would listen how depressed you are, people would start to avoid you. It’s only natural because people also want to protect themselves and too much exposure to negativity would affect anyone. Taking positive baby steps will help – a walk, eating right, etc meanwhile confiding in someone who loves you, letting true friends know you are having a difficult time, and not forgetting to go and see your GP will lead to the path of recovery.
I am confident my mood will lift now March has arrived, although it won’t obliterate my pms symptoms unfortunately, which are an additional factor for my mental health status. There are also family circumstances that I must learn to cope with as they will be present for my entire life and I struggle with these often. Now my youngest is about to turn three, I think it’s fair to say that I can’t keep thinking I am still ‘recovering’ from postnatal depression! I had suffered depression before having my children and I think I have an underlying lack of resilience which is leading to a resurfacing of symptoms of depression for me. I have come to the conclusion that I may need to change my antidepressant, which my GP and I have already discussed, to one which is more appropriate for my current situation and symptoms rather than simply continuing on the one that was right for my postnatal depression. I am however, neither a believer in a ‘magic pill’ nor against treating depression with medication, I know it needs a combined approach. Although I felt thoroughly irritated when we saw the pms specialist who told me that changing my lifestyle would improve my pms (Blogpost: Dreadful Diet) and said the same to my husband – “but if I felt better I would want to exercise/eat less/socialise more/be less irritable etc – I just don’t feel like it!”. I argued that it’s like the chicken and the egg, which comes first? You have depression so don’t look after yourself, or you don’t look after yourself so you get depression? He said something very helpful – “it doesn’t matter which comes first, what matters is that you take those positive steps”. He’s right, I know he is. This post is about telling myself as much as anything.
So this morning I went on my third walk of the last few days and soaked up the glorious sunshine, even though I really didn’t feel like it before going. We spent all day in the garden yesterday which was lovely, and I’ll be taking the boys to the park after nursery. I have also downloaded a new album, a soundtrack to my spring which I must highly recommend. I found it after googling who did the music for the Thomson advert with Simon the ogre, who goes on holiday and becomes himself again! Turns out it is The Piano Guys who have combined Beethoven’s 5th Symphony with One Republic’s ‘Secrets’ and come up with the most beautiful piece of music. The rest of the album is amazing – a classical and modern pairing – there is ‘Cello Wars’ – Star Wars Parody, Titanium/ Pavane, and many amazing piano/cello covers of modern hits such as Christina Perri ‘A Thousand Years’, Coldplay’s ‘Paradise’ with Swahili vocals and even One Direction’s ‘What Makes You Beautiful’. You’ve got to hear it to believe it. Stunning musical arrangements.
Settle down and prepare for the most uplifting 5 minutes of your day:
For my crafty followers I shall post my latest creation tonight! I’m off to get some more light to my hypothalamus.