(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.)