Living with Seasonal Affective Disorder

I’ve mentioned before and, if you follow me on social media, you’ve probably seen me mention my seasonal affective disorder (SAD) once again rearing it’s head as we head into autumn.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. Generally speaking, it is more common in the autumn/winter and less likely to occur in the spring and summer months.

Symptoms can include low mood, irritability, feelings of despair, a lack of energy, sleeping for longer and gaining weight due to eating more. For me, it is mainly feeling a sense of dread, which is worsened on days when the sky looks white (from heavy cloud cover) and it often peaks during late afternoon, just before it gets dark.

During autumn and winter, I find it harder to look at the positives and any small thing can trigger spiralling thoughts which make me feel like there is no escape. It’s incredibly hard to write about in a blog post as I can’t even fully remember how I feel after these thoughts have passed. I know that it felt awful, but I can’t recall the exact sensation until I’m back there again.

I think one of the hardest parts of this illness, as with all mental illnesses, is that it is in my own head. It makes me feel like I’m crazy, when I know deep down that I’m not. It is an isolating illness. Loved ones try their best to understand and to help in any way that they can, but it is difficult as I don’t even know how to stop the feelings myself. It helps just knowing that they are there, and that I feel safe to ride it out in their company.

A couple of years ago, my SAD became very hard to cope with, and it was then that I went back on to antidepressants for my anxiety and low mood. The tablets have really helped me over the past two years, but I have also found Vitamin D supplements to have a positive effect too. Seasonal Affective Disorder is linked to a lack of vitamin D, as this is less readily available in the UK during autumn/winter. I take one capsule a day, alongside my medication, and I honestly think it has a positive impact.

Living with Seasonal Affective Disorder, as with any mental illness, is challenging at times. I wish that I didn’t have it, but it’s not something that is likely to go away. I am grateful that it usually only occurs a few months a year, and that I have been able to cope really well during lockdown and the pandemic in general, up until this point, but it is always an uphill struggle at this time of year, and the current state of the world is hardly going to help this year.

Still, I am strong, and I’ve been through this before, many times. I know I’ll get through it again. The important thing to remember, if you are suffering with SAD or any other mental health issue, is the importance of talking, of gaining support from others and knowing you are not alone. Feeling alone with your thoughts can make things seem 100% worse. Don’t be afraid of judgement, your loved ones and friends would rather you reached out than suffered in silence.

For help and advice around SAD, visit the MIND website.

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