Many people have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. It’s commonly known because approximately 4-6% of people in the USA get depressed in the fall & winter months (according to Web MD’s site). According to the same article though, less than 10% of people with SAD have a reverse version of it, where they feel good in the fall & winter, sad in the summer. Maybe because relatively so few people have reverse SAD, not a lot is known about it.
Some say the increase in sunlight is responsible for the depression- maybe some are oversensitive to the sunlight. Others say it’s the heat that brings people down. Still others blame the change in schedule (particularly for parents) & financial burdens such as vacations, babysitters, etc. And yet others blame bad memories attached to the season, such as the death of a loved one, divorce becoming final or a traumatic event.
Personally, I think all of these may be possible, but it depends on each person with reverse SAD. Causes vary even more than the symptoms do.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve gotten depressed, irritable, angry & anxious in the summer. My energy levels go very far down, practically non existent. My appetite fluctuates, although usually I don’t want to eat. My normally messed up sleeping patterns get even worse. Being exposed to the intense summer sunlight makes these symptoms even worse. I just want to hide in a dark, cold room until October. As a child, my narcissistic mother thought it was funny. As I got older & was obviously depressed during summer vacation, my mother would ask what she could buy me to make me look less sad. *sigh* My sadness seemed to annoy her…just not enough to seek help for me.
As an adult, I’ve come to believe that my SAD stems from three problems: trauma in my very early life that I barely remember that happened during the summer, I dislike heat, intense sunlight & long days, & my mother has shamed me my entire life for preferring fall & winter over spring (her favorite season).
If you too live with reverse SAD, please know you aren’t alone! There are quite a few of us out there who live with this disorder. There isn’t something deeply wrong with you- you’re just a little different than most of the population. Different does NOT equal wrong. Also, there are ways to manage this disorder. You may have to try several to see what works for you.
When I first found out this was an actual disorder, I researched SAD to see how people handled being depressed in the winter. Some ideas sounded like they could help me, but some would only make things worse (like full spectrum light. My husband has the more common SAD, & full spectrum light bulbs help him but send my mood rocketing downhill). Below are some suggestions that may or may not help you. I would suggest trying various suggestions that sound appealing, & see what happens. If they don’t help, try others.
- Avoid intense sunlight & heat as much as possible. During the summer months, I stay indoors constantly. I also keep curtains mostly closed to block out as much light as I can. I also keep the temperature around 70 in the house. Not necessarily good for the electric bill, but it does help my mood a bit having it cool inside.
- Prepare for what you know is coming. It’s a summer thing & summer comes every year. This means you can prepare for it ahead of time by taking antidepressants starting a month or two before the warm weather really kicks in. I prefer the herbal route & take St. John’s Wort (readily available at most places that sell herbal remedies) for depression, valerian root (also readily available) for anxiety & lemon balm tea (I grow my own- lemon balm is super easy to grow & to dry for tea) for sleep troubles. I read this morning that melatonin levels are affected in those with summer SAD, so I may begin taking that at night again. Melatonin helps you sleep, although some people (me included) tend to have very odd, vivid dreams when taking it. If you prefer, talk to your doctor or counselor about adding an antidepressant or antianxiety medication. Or, upping the doses you’re already taking during the summer months.
- Make sure to get enough sleep. Not easy at this time of year, but try to go to bed & get up on a regular schedule. If you need help falling asleep, there are many, non addictive medications you can take for this problem.
- Eat healthy & exercise as usual. It can be so easy to want to stop eating or eat too much when depressed, but you need to eat healthy especially when depressed. If you exercise do so gently- don’t push yourself!
- Be gentle with yourself. Reverse SAD is a true disorder- treat it as such! Respect the fact you have a problem & stop trying to push yourself harder & harder. You may need to relax more often than usual when it kicks in- do it, & don’t feel guilty. If you had a broken leg, would you feel guilty for taking it easy while healing? No? This is no different!
- Journal about your feelings or talk to God or a safe person. Get your feelings out. Have a good cry. Tears are cleansing to the soul.
- Beauty. Whether that beauty is a lovely scented candle, looking at a fresh garden in full bloom or elegant classical music, beauty can do wonders for helping alleviate depression. I have a thing for lavender incense. Lavender is known for its ability to help promote relaxation, plus the scent is just lovely.
- Pray. Most importantly, I believe, is to maintain your relationship with God. Allow Him to help you & to tell you what you need during this dark time. When I’m depressed, I want to avoid everyone, including God, but isolating too much isn’t healthy.