When Seasonal Depression Accompanies Major Depressive Disorder
I’m just going to say it: winter sucks.
It’s dark. It’s cold. You people may see snowflakes, but I see the devil’s dandruff falling from the sky. The air hits my face and it may as well be freezing shards of glass. And what’s more fun: I turn blue after a few minutes outside because I have terrible circulation.
For the people out there who are in their glory this time of year, I will never, ever understand how you can manifest such joy from this evil weather. But it’s OK; we can agree to disagree… I guess.
But on a serious note, subzero temperatures are amazingly not the worst aspect of winter for me. The worst is the visitor that drops in around Thanksgiving-time and decides to stick around until mid-April. You may be familiar with seasonal depression.
I know several other people who experience this, but I know few who struggle with both major depressive disorder and seasonal depression. Depression is a constant battle, but it becomes even more difficult when you are suddenly trying to get a grip on two types at once.
Every year, I am hit with that same feeling of shame and defeat. I find myself venting to my loved ones: “I was just doing so well. Why does this have to happen?” All the progress I made with my MDD in the previous months seems to slip away from me.
So, what does this entail for me? Well, it becomes impossible to make it through the day without at least one nap. My appetite increases. My caffeine intake doubles to function on a minimal level. Motivating myself to do something as simple as laundry or dishes is like pulling teeth. Putting on a “grown-up” outfit instead of my now usual sweatpant/T-shirt ensemble is something I actually congratulate myself for. Socializing, or even holding a casual conversation, can take every last ounce of energy I have. Also, my other “year-round” difficulties that MDD brings are significantly intensified.
So, yes. It is frustrating. It is exhausting. It is even scary for me. Feeling myself unravel and fall back into this each year is never something I can prepare for, and it is not something I can just “snap out of.”
I know there must be others out there who also deal with these issues. For those people, I want to share a few strategies I’ve learned that help me alleviate some of the struggling. They aren’t magical fixes unfortunately, but they can make daily life a little easier.
Number One: Go to the gym.
I know this could potentially be the absolute last thing you want to hear (it would be for me at least) — especially when climbing out of bed is a tremendous accomplishment some days. But seriously, the power of endorphins is an amazing thing. Force yourself to go, or have someone else motivate you. It may absolutely suck before and during the workout, but the feeling afterward for me is unlike anything else.
Number 2: Eat healthy.
If you eat garbage, you’ll feel like garbage. Trust me, I know more than anyone that there is nothing more enticing than lying in bed and eating six bags of chips and an entire cheesecake. But unfortunately, eating that crap makes me sluggish. Ditch (most of) the junk, and eat some veggies, and dammit, be proud of yourself for it too.
Number 3: Socialize as much as you can.
I know this can be really, really tough. But constant isolation is not healthy. Humans are meant to be interactive; it’s in our nature. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. Grab coffee with a buddy for an hour. Get some laughs and hugs in, and call it a day. A little love from someone you’re close with can do wonders for you.
Number 4: Make sure you laugh every day.
Go out of your way to make it happen. This might sound a little silly, but it is so important. If you really can’t make any of the previous suggestions happen one day, it’s not the end of the world. I’ve been there; I’ve had my fair share of days when I’ve only left bed to use the bathroom. But this tip is something you can accomplish. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably confined by the chains of Netflix on most of your bed-ridden days, (although I fall victim to its reign every day at some point). Listen closely: put on something funny.
In the unlikely event you don’t know of any funny shows or movies, ask your friends for ideas. I’ll even be annoying and promote my personal favorite. Watch “The Office.” That show has gotten me through some of my toughest days. (Quick aside for Office virgins: Jim and Pam will make you believe in love again and Steve Carell is the G.O.A.T.).
My friends, I hope with all my heart that these tips will help you out. The winter season is not easy by any means, but we can do it. We will power through, just like we do every other year. March is among us; spring is approaching quickly! We’ll be basking in sunshine before we know it.
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