SAD Times

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(This blog post discusses my experiences with Seasonal Affective Disorder, and how God provided in order to heal me from it. Its been such a long time since my last blog post. Now that I’m fully healed and no longer living in chaos it’s about time I share how God pulled me through every dark time.)

Its that time of the year again.

Fall is such a joyous time of the year. The fluorescent and tranquil green colors of leaves transition into the multitude of classic autumn colors that amaze the eye.

My eyes are in awe, they are fixated on the new colors. Shades of yellow, orange, violet and scarlet, come together to create this beautiful blend of colors that are foreign for most of the year.

What an incredible creator we have, giving us variety and a change of scenery. A different type of beauty that shows the vastness of his ability to constantly awe his little images.

Before we move on to the season where the grass withers and the flowers fade, Christ provides for us a beautiful season of transition. And that is true for the season and for us.

SAD season has come. And therefore a new season of life with it.

Seasonal Affective Disorder comes with the season, and boy does it provide a change in scenery.

The grass is shining with luminescent green, the puddles glisten with the reflection of the sun, the air is brisk with a coolness that is fresh to the lungs and content for the soul.

But I can’t enjoy it.

And I so want to.

Life feels empty again. A longing begins in my heart for a time where I felt at peace. A time where I was confident, joyous, hopeful, and warm inside. That was 24 hours ago. Now the darkness is coming back. A type of darkness that takes over the conscience. One that gives the desire to murder ones-self. Depression is back, and its stronger than ever.

“What is going on?!” I thought while I’m taking down lecture notes to teach in my Supplemental Instruction Session. “Why am I feeling suicidal again, I haven’t felt suicidal to this degree since around last year… why is the world around me slowing down… why is my mind slowing down… I can’t think of the past or the future. The present… what is that… I can’t even tell time anymore… Why do I feel as if everyone has abandoned me… Why do I feel hopeless when I know there is nothing to be hopeless about… Why is this happening… why… what the hell could it be?!

Those thoughts came crashing in like a wave, and the questions of what caused it came up too. I was determined to find the reason and the solution.

“No, I did not come so far to end up back here. Years of pain, medicinal experimentation (so much of which only caused more pain every.Single. Day.), suicidal thoughts, and years of thinking God abandoned me. I did not fight so much alongside God for my functionality to be reduced to almost zero in an instant. To end up back here.

So what the hell could this be… Did I take BH4 today? I did, okay! How about 5htp? Have I eaten? Did I sleep enough? Am I still suffering from some unresolved grief within me? How about exercise… I clearly haven’t been doing that enough lately and everyone can see that… wait… what day is it?”

October 12th, but what about the month. Its October. Something drastic happened last year around this time.  Wait I know what it is… how could I forget.

SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder.

A depression of the seasons. Caused by the change of seasons. A season of major transition for those who suffer from it. Scientists say it’s caused by the change in the amount of sunlight that winter brings, which explains why it lasts from the beginning of fall to the end of winter.

The type of depression it brings isn’t a type of low-grade version either. For some people, it can be low-grade, but for many, it brings about a monstrous type of darkness. Low energy, loss of interest, hopelessness, brain fog, agitation, and even suicidal thoughts can arise. It depends on the person, but for many the onset of it is rapid. One day you’ll be feeling stable, then the next day when it hits it feels as if your entire life is crashing down even if nothing traumatic has happened.

To add to my own experience, I also experienced depersonalization, a disorder/symptom. The best I could describe it is it’s like you are watching and doing life through a window. Consciousness becomes nonexistent, emotions are sapped from the mind, all things that you see through your vision are a blur, while you are stuck in a constant state of mind that is akin to being catatonic.

It’s hard to move. It’s hard to even think. The process of thought its so slow, so stagnant, that the actual process of how a thought is formed can be felt. How did I get reduced to this in an instant… How did I even solve this last time… After six months of being healed from my illnesses why am I being plunged back into the hell I just left…

The rest of the day was a disaster. I facilitated the worse tutoring session I had done this semester. My students saw something was wrong. I wasn’t as cheery as usual. I wasn’t talking as much and was being very stand-offish. They noticed that I wasn’t being as quirky and dorky as usual, a true sign that something is wrong. I’m so thankful that God gave me amazing students that didn’t place a stigma on me when I told them what I was going through. I told them this should go away in a day, all it will take is an adjustment in medication. That’s what I needed, at least I hope.

 For some people it can be low-grade, but for many it brings about a monstrous type of darkness. 

An adjustment of an old friend. Lithium.

“To this day we don’t truly know why the seasons cause such a change in behavior.” My psychiatrist stated. “All we know is that it happens with the change of the season, but that doesn’t explain the why.” I remember my psychiatrist telling me this last year when it first occurred. Last year I found out I had SAD on October 28th, when I was doing my daily night run at the college rec. The pleasure and high of my 3-mile run was stolen from me before it began. It became a grueling death run, with the desire to just fall to the ground of the track and never come back up being constant. All exercising that night became something I had to fight through, all pleasure and satisfaction was gone. The desire for suicide was constant, even though there were no thoughts or simulations of it in my head. Exercise hadn’t felt that bad since 2017, the worst year of my depression and myriad of mental disorders.

When exercise no longer feels pleasurable, you know you have some severe form of depression. When you have suicidal thoughts during exercise, you know you need help and fast.

Amazingly, last year’s remedies worked wonders. With a tweak in the dosage of lithium and a second round of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) for supplemental help, SAD was defeated. But TMS is too expensive to get every year. I need to see if the Lithium alone is enough.

As I walk to my car in the brisk cool air and the light shining through the clouds, I can’t help but notice that I can see that everything is bright and full of life, but I myself am unable to feel the vibrancy of said life. Its as if my body’s ability to sense feeling has been temporarily shut down. The drive back home was alien, driving while depersonalized is the worst. It’s so hard to focus when your sense of focus is non-existent.

As I arrive at my house I hope for the best while knowing that I must accept the fact that it will either work or fail. Years of counseling have made that truth a comfort instead of an anxiety. Years of failures and successes in treatment have taught that you win some and lose some, and all suffering should be viewed as an opportunity for growth. 

I cut the tablet in fourths, pray to God that this isn’t a loss, take one, and down it with water… the results are questionable.

After taking the Lithium. I felt as if I were on emotional stilts. My emotions came back, joy, happiness, anger, and sadness had all come back… but it felt like they were being propped up. Artificially created is a better term, but doesn’t quite catch the picture. When I told my Bible Study Leader how I was feeling that day, I had replied with the notion that my mind had been beaten up harshly, and that it had been given crutches in order to function for the rest of the day. Every feeling that was being produced was being sent through neuronic channels that were leaking, and the droplets that would fall through the cracks would result in mental pain. Happiness was being felt, but it was rather painful. A rather strange experience. 

I was tired. My brain was tired. It was injured and was healing up slowly while the lithium healed its wounded neurons back to life. It took a few days of waiting, but the crutches finally came off.

The experiment was a success. A raise in the dosage of this little salt, Lithium, even if it was such a small amount, did the trick.

The darkness had fled, thoughts of suicide ceased to be constant. I was able to feel life again, not just observe it.

Many people treat Seasonal Affective Disorder in different ways. The most common ways are to buy lights that simulate sunlight or to up the dosage in your daily Vitamin D intake via supplementation. Others use antidepressants and counseling in order to solve the issue. Or a combination of all or one can be used. None worked for me though. Antidepressants failed me for over two years (though not for other people, I’m just an odd case) and my body only absorbs about 20% of the average person’s vitamin D. I have to take 20,000 IU’s of extra vitamin D daily in order to match normal levels. Just like Dr. Martin stated,

“To this day we don’t truly know why the seasons cause such a change in behavior.” My psychiatrist stated. “All we know is that it happens with the change of the season, but that doesn’t explain the why.”

If the lack of sun or vitamin D didn’t cause it for me… what did?

I don’t know. I have no idea. Perhaps I never will. All I know is that a boost in that little salt we call lithium did the trick. If that’s all I need to know that’s fine with me. As long as I don’t have to go back into the darkness. Especially to the time when the darkness was too much. 

God always has a way of reminding you of things. 2019 has been the best time of my life. For the first time ever, I can feel emotions to their full extent. I can enjoy things, I can feel the full joy of exercise, the full joy of having a massive crush on someone, I can worship Christ through music… that’s something that I’ve never been able to do in my life.

Emotional breakthroughs were made this year. But I was reminded that I’m not invulnerable. Life is funny that way. In the midst of my emotional high of a year, God has reminded me who was the one that orchestrated everything to work out for His good. Through SAD he has reminded me that I am weak. That I am human. That I am flawed.

Like all things, I am dependent on the creator of the universe for my needs.

Being dependent on something in our society is seen as a downfall. But if that dependency is through God, who gives order, guidance, growth, strength, resilience, providence, faith, hope, and love. Is that dependency a bad thing? The truth is a resounding No.

Through my SAD ordeal, God reminded me that I am in constant need of Him. He reminded me just how far I and Him have gone on this mental health journey. He reminded me how much progress has been made, and with this little bump in the road, He reminded me how far I’ve come so that the bumps in the road are temporary roadblocks.

He reminded me that He was and is the one that provided all the tools in my mental health toolbox, whether that be doctors, counseling, or medicine. And yes. Even Lithium. It’s odd to think how sensitive that toolbox is, one med or counsel I don’t do or take can lead to disaster. One more reason to lean on Christ all the more. There may have been a tiny tiny bit of pride this month where I forgot God was the one that orchestrated it all… but the SAD episode(s) helped to put an end for that.

The darkness was fought and again we won. Chemicals that were extremely low were now back to their normal levels. But what if “normal” levels kept rising… what if they kept rising and never came back down…

If Lithium is taken at such a depleted level, where the chemicals are so low that once the brain gets a hold of normalcy again it will try in all its power to never come back down… it begins to up the ante’. It goes into overdrive… they call it… mania, in my case, hypo-mania.

(The Next Article Will be discussing the very few experiences I’ve had with medicinally-induced hypomania.)

 

 

When the Darkness is Too Much

forestsh(This article was fully typed on October 25th, 2017. It was a work in progress to finish. My severe feeling of depression in the article does not mirror how I feel today.)

Today was the type of depression that felt like I was literally drowning. As I was walking toward the Rec center at the university to get my daily spike of serotonin on a curved treadmill, I couldn’t help but literally gasp for air. The mental pain tried to physically manifest itself, as often it does with depression.

The worst part was after the workout.

The sensation of drowning, all my hopes, all my dreams that had been shattered this year (in large part due to the depression), and every little sensation of joy was simply snuffed out by the crashing wave of depression.

It felt like God had left me, abandoned me to suffocate in this dark and drowning vessel of a failing body.

My mind compelled me with a thought that not only felt so comforting but also gave me the drive to do it. I wanted to do it.

I wanted to commit suicide.

I so wanted to kill myself, the waves were just overwhelming, the darkness was so blinding. It felt like I was drowning in pure darkness and the darkness was infiltrating my soul, attempting to take control of my entire being, forcing my very will to desire suicide.

I began to cry all of a sudden as I walked through the parking lot. Crying of great memories, crying of how life was before my depression, crying of why I am like this, crying of how my life has always been influenced by this disorder, crying of my current situation, crying of why I have to suffer from a genetic form of depression that I never knew I had until the past eight months before.

As I got into the car I began crying even more, and keep in mind this whole crying in the parking lot-car-thing was something out of my control. It’s not like I expected or wanted to cry, the pain was just beyond unbearable that somehow the tears just poured out.

Driving was even worse than walking in the parking lot. I truly desired to die, and now I was in a machine that if I turned in the “supposed wrong” way I could truly end it all. It didn’t help that the university was located literally on a 60 mph highway.

At this point, my will was seemingly fully oppressed. My mind was dead-on doing a forgivable yet irreversible action… but as I prayed to God “Abba, why, why this dreadful pain, please. I want to die… please help me get out of this. Help me.” I was reminded I wasn’t supposed to do this. This wasn’t the way I was supposed to escape this chemically-desolate tragedy.

And I didn’t, I just kept driving home. Which was extremely — extremely — hard because the desire to kill myself did not let go one bit. But for a time it seemed like the lie that depression controlled my will was lifted.

That night the darkness of it all was surreal. In total, the depression didn’t even revolve around memories. It simply was just there. Total and complete hopelessness, emptiness, worthlessness, with no reason or trigger that could have brought on those feelings.

As the night continued no amount of Gods truth satisfied my heart. Even reminding myself of His Glorious death on the cross and His Gracious and Amazing Love was unable to lift my chemically lacking Spirit. I felt completely alone, exiled, forgotten, lost, and as if God had completely left me. It was a true simulation of hell.

Within this darkness I had to push through, I had to keep on going. If I couldn’t push through it meant that I could literally– literally die, and not by natural causes but by my own hands.

The darkness was so engulfing that I cried multiple times that night, not getting the relief I desired. But throughout my journey on fighting this biological depression, general anxiety, and obsessive/intrusive thoughts, if there is one thing that I’ve learned is to not trust my feelings. My feelings tell me that everyone has left me, that nobody Loves me. That I am a failure, that I am lost and that God has exiled me away from his presence.

But this is all a lie. God is and was always there for me. He’s been screaming at me in the midst of my sorrows “My child! My son! Hold my hand! I am here! Don’t listen to the faulty feelings and what they cause your mind to think. Don’t believe the thoughts that the demons or your brain says to your conscience, listen to my truth, my child! I am the truth.I Love you beyond comprehension! Please, listen to my truth. I am, was, and will always be here for you even when every single part of your life crashes to the ground. You are not alone, for I am with you to the end of the age.”

Those thoughts did not necessarily alleviate the immense and monstrous despair that I was feeling. But it did give me the will to push on and count on God to push me through. I did not feel better at all thinking those thoughts throughout the night, but I knew the next day could and would be a completely different day; with new feelings and desires to arise. To be honest, my mind, body, and soul were completely dead-on not surviving the night. It felt like it was gonna be my last day on earth. It was literally impossible in my head to imagine the next day. That’s how desolate my mind was of chemical.

But on that night that’s all I needed, a push. I needed to be reminded that I could never trust my feelings or my thoughts. I needed to be reminded that this wasn’t the end, even with my will to live exhausted and my will already persuaded to just kill myself already.

I must push through my feelings and thoughts. Not doing so could literally mean death.

I learned a great lesson that day. One that would be a massive breakthrough in my recovery for my depression. Or you know what, it was probably a lesson I already learned and was just reinforced by God and His awesome sovereignty.

In the midst of a darkness so great, when the darkness drowns your very soul and infiltrates your very being; God is still there. His truth remains the same even when your mind, body, and soul tell you otherwise.

In the midst of depression, it feels like the very Messiah that died for you has left you. But oh how that is a lie from Satan and a sinful — fallen body. It took me eight months to realize that God didn’t really leave me. That I was still saved and Loved by Him.

Jesus Christ is always there. He’s always there even when the mind and body signal otherwise. I know this for certain as I go through more depressive/anxious episodes and remind myself in the midst of the darkness that He is there, crying with me. Within the times when my soul is devoid of emotion and life, Gods voice has constantly comforted me.

It’s amazing how reminding yourself of Gods presence is so key to recovering from depression. It doesn’t get rid of all the pain. Trust me… it doesn’t, and it’s not supposed too. But its meant to fight the lies that depression often tells you. If it can give you even a tiny bit of relief or allot of relief (depending on whether your depression is biological, situational, spiritual, a combination of the three, and other factors) that’s what counts.

Gods Love is far greater than you know. He’s a God that cares, a God that shows compassion, a God that knows you and deeply cares about you and your depression no matter where its roots lie. He’s there to be that voice of comfort, his verses are there to push you through to fight and dispute the negative thoughts that can pour in during a depressive episode, his grace is there to remind you of just how much he cares for you. And in the midst of this journey of depression God has shown me that all that has happened this year because or greatly influenced by the depression is all part of the great journey he has still in store for me. That He is working all things for the good of my being.

I am excited.

I can’t wait for what lies ahead! Even in the midst of this recovery.

Welcome to a window into my journey. A window into my life. An authentic and honest view of how I am growing with God (Whether through a lesson being learned or through depression). As God has helped me throughout this time to grow closer and stronger in Him, I hope that I can be of any help to you through all my experiences.

Welcome to a window into my life, a God-blessed, awesome journey that I Love being a part of.