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October 20, 2009

Seasonal affective disorder: Is it real, because…

Well, the Diagnostic and Satistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (better known as the DSM-IV) lists it as “a specifier of a major depression.”

Or as the Mayo Clinic says, seasonal affective disorder (also called SAD) is "a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. If you're like most people with seasonal affective disorder, your symptoms start in the fall and may continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody."

Hmm. I never thought I had SAD before, and I used to be very happy and energized this time of year. The rains starting, the leaves changing color, in this “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness/close bosom-friend of the maturing sun.”

Sorry, to go all Keats on you, but I loved the way this sad, Romantic, dying-young 19th century poet described this favorite season of mine in his “Ode to Autumn.”

The fall always signaled new beginnings for me. This sense of starting anew goes back to my school days. I also always developed new crushes, or, on a couple of occasions, fell hard in love in the autumn. That would include with my husband. The autumn we started dating and fell in love is the best of my life.

Then again, before he came along, those autumn loves usually didn’t go according to my wishes, usually winding up in the category of unrequited love on my part.

Funny, but perhaps significant, I had a dream last night involving my first major love, a boy I met my junior year of high school. He was a little awkward and geeky, but also smart, funny, kind, and with soft brown eyes. He would grow into his looks in a few years.

We became friends doing a play together the fall of my junior year. He said something appreciative about my figure—probably in response to something joking and self-denigrating I said—and that was that. He had noticed me in a certain way, or so I thought, and I was hooked. I was excited when he asked me to homecoming dance. He learned that I was excited, and took me on a drive after the end a rehearsal one evening to set me straight. He told me that he was sorry to lead me on, but that he had a girlfriend, a girl who had graduated the year before. The next day, nosy gal that I am, I asked around and learned that this relationship was news to others.

He learned that I learned he wasn’t really going out with this girl, so he took me for another after-rehearsal drive. He must have sensed that I would be sympathetic, because he confessed to me something he said he had never told anyone else: that he thought he was gay. In fact, he told me, he was probably in love with his best friend. We sat in his car by the side of the road near our high school for a long time, steaming up the windows--but with talk, punctuated by his tears, and not much else.

Silly girl that I was, I was deeply moved by his sensitivity and became even more flattered that he had singled me out for his confession, and I fell even more in infatuation.

Let’s say, I was in love with him for the rest of the year, wanting to be near him, willing to be his sounding board even if I wasn’t getting what most girls would get in return from such a devoted companion.

Funny, to dream about him for the few hours I slept last night. But it is autumn, and I fell in love with him in the autumn.

And it’s autumn again, and the leaves in the maples outside my office—with their “rosy hue” in the “soft-dying day”—are beautiful. (Yes, Keats again). These leaves were especially beautiful in the rain yesterday, when the rain was falling gently. The beauty of those trees, and of the rain, breaks my heart right now, because there’s a part of me that can’t enjoy them, and look forward to all they mean, not like I would in past years.

Over the past couple weeks, I have become sad and moody and self-doubting—even self-hating—and full of regrets. I haven’t been sleeping well. Actually, this moodiness descended on me at the same time last year. And my therapist even asked, does this usually happen around this time of year, and I said, no, it really doesn't, because it never had before.

But now the moodiness has returned. And I’ve been awake much of the night, thinking, ruminating. I did fall asleep, and I dreamed about a boy I fell in love with--but who couldn’t love me back. How self-defeating is that?

In the dream, we were at some party, and we were aware of each other. I think, though, we were no longer in high school, but older. Adults. Even the age we both are now. He was watching me, while talking to other people, but didn’t approach me. Still, I thought--assumed--we would leave together, and I was happy to linger, taking my time, to gather up my things, so that I would be ready to leave when he did.

I woke up before that happened.

14 comments:

Masterlock said...

That's funny, I had an overwhelming sense of nostalgia yesterday as well because of the weather and was thinking about all the great things that have happened during October in my life while I was walking the dog. This is definitely my favorite time of year.

Name withheld today said...

Thanks for sharing. Behind the smiles, you would never guess my own sadness. We struggle everyday. Find an outlet. Do the best you can. Yes, SAD is real. So is the toughness and uncertaintly of life. Read. Write. Have an outlet. Dream. Hug your boy and your husband (your love.)

Anonymous said...

I experienced a bout of sadness several years ago. It just came over me suddenly and lasted for a couple of months. I would find myself sitting by our front room window watching our bird feeder for long periods of time, just being sad.

I talked to a doctor who said he was willing to write me a prescription for an antidepressant. He then pointed out to me that while most people today want to be happy all the time, it used to be o.k. to have the blues, or to be melancholy. Just as you pointed out about Keats, how much of literature -- stories, poems, music -- portray that sad, melancholy state of mind?

Anonymous said...

maybe try melatonin for sleeping - just tried and it worked like a charm...

now I'm ready to hit the day and log in some positive critical thinking!

Anonymous said...

I get sad also at this time of year. I start to think of all the things I had planned for my life and how most of them never happened. I feel as if I am a failure as a father because I cannot provide my daughter with the things I had hoped to give her. And now the grandchildren will have to do without because of wrong choices along the way. But life goes on and I know they will survive.

Anonymous said...

Working out every day helps with SAD.

Soccer Mom said...

In some ways, that was "dark night of the soul" writing. I wrote this and, by the time I published it, my husband was awake, and I told him. Then I did go out for a run. Not too long. I was tired from not much sleep, but I did it, and it felt wonderful to be out in the crisp air. Yes, as Anon 2:38 p.m. said, exercise is pretty crucial to me. It's something I need to do every day actually. In the morning, first thing, ideally. It really does lift my mood. I'm glad I got into that habit a long time ago. We'll see where this goes, how it progresses this year or not.
But definitely, for me, writing, exercise, and opening up to someone helps.

LeftCoast said...

It's the time of year, and in some cases our lives, where we explore roads not traveled, choices not made, and loves that did not last...because it wasn't meant to. Bittersweet comes the later years of our lives when even those whom we have chosen to be close to don't always match the memories of what was to be. Without the melancholy the joy is diminished. But then that too is life.

Or maybe it's just midlife crisis, I can never tell which.

Anonymous said...

The cure for SAD is exposure to sunlight or at least intense bright light. Even if you go out on an overcast day, there is enough bright light entering the eye to cure SAD. Going for a walk or a run during daylight is a great way to get yourself feeling better.

Anonymous said...

actually i wrote that about melatonin without knowing that it is actually prescribed for SAD. I also was having trouble sleeping and was feeling generally annoyed with everything, so I tried L-trytophan, but that wiped out my day even though it clamed my head a lot.

The melatonin I took at night right before bed and had a really good sleep. Today I feel much more calm and focused. Anecdotal but hey, we're all experiments...

Anonymous said...

yawn

Anonymous said...

yawn yawn, melatonin rocks!

Anonymous said...

doesn't it just suck when they are gay? too many men, too much left over karma

Anonymous said...

And today, with the sun, did everyone feel better?