It is early this year, but the absurd weather patterns incumbent with climate change are wreaking havoc on my health once again. I’ve blogged about this in the past:
There is a thing called ‘Season Affective Disorder’ or SAD which ties depression to the lack of light and seasonal changes. It effects about 4-6% of our population according to Web MD. About 10% of those people are impacted in reverse – they, like me, get depressed as the weather gets nicer. I’ve had this happen for years. The only times I did really well were the springs and summers where I was very busy – the year I ran track, the summer I interned for Rick Santorum, etc and had lots of structure to keep me going.
Other years, I remember spending a lot of June sitting in my room. Alone. Sad and acutely aware that something was not right about this. I just thought it was me. I would usually improve in July and feel a sense of panic about summer passing me by. I didn’t realize that the return of the fall was calling me back to my even-keeled self. It was an odd disconnected sensation that did not reflect how I thought I was supposed to feel – happy in summer, sad to go back to school, etc. I knew that crying in my room during June for days on end was probably not typical, but I just assumed the problem was ‘me’ – not a disorder.
I am very much coping with this right now. I feel this low grade anxiety coupled with depression and some irritability and anger. I should be feeling great because my hysterecovery is going great. I’m able to do more, to feel better physically than I have been in a long time. I should be feeling great because I have allergies, not the flu and can cope as best as possible, knowing that they won’t get worse. I should be feeling great because I’m nominated for a national award, my grant proposal enters a second round, and I’ve been able to blog.
The best I can say is that I recognize I should feel great about those things and I’m trying not to beat myself up because I don’t really *feel* anything. Just sad. And the occasional desire to punch someone in the face when they act overly chipper about global warming.
And to be transparent, things are tough. My therapist left Persad in December. The replacement I was all set to work with ended up being a smoker which no one thought about until the last minute (I have asthma) so I got randomnly assigned to someone who uses an entirely different modality and — then — I had to take a two month break because of my surgery. So my safety net is stretch thin right now. I don’t feel supported by Persad. I do get to see my psychiatrist tomorrow and I really like him so I’m sure that will help. I also know some med changes might help. So that’s what we call some hope.
If you are feeling anxious and depressed this time of year, you are not alone. You are not an anomaly. You are not doing something wrong. And while it may just be life’s pressures, it may not. I encourage you to be honest with yourself and try to be honest with someone that you trust, then reach out for professional support. You deserve it. You can’t fix this with more exercise, more wine, more vitamins, herbs, or essential oils. You might be able to alleviate some symptos that way, but talk therapy and medication therapy can make a world of difference.
I’m not sure exactly what I need to cope with this so much earlier in the spring than before, but I do know that being transparent with my treatment team matters. A temporary bump in anti-depressants can do wonders. An adjustment to sleeping meds. But so can eating regular meals, not trying to do all of the things, and recognizing when I’m on overwhelm level 10.
How do you help someone you love who is experiencing this? Do the things that you know that they love. Cook a meal, spend some time with them where they feel comfortable, be willing to listen, don’t offer unsolicited advice, offer a ride or to help research suggested treatments, call. Add to the safety net, but don’t put demands on the person. And don’t make promises you can’t fulfill.
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions, help is out there. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has a robust website with resources, links and contact information for individuals and people who love them. The National Suicide Lifeline has a toll-free number and online chat supports.
In Pittsburgh, you can call Persad Center (412) 441-9786 which is not an emergency number.