Monday, October 3, 2016

SAD - It's not depression, it's a throwback

What if Seasonal Affective Disorder (for winter, at least) is actually a coping mechanism? I mean, think about it...  A lot more of human history happened by candlelight than by electric light. When there was more night than day and the weather was bitter, people did as little as possible outdoor work, then kept themselves and their livestock indoors where it was warmer and safer. They slept more, which helped to conserve their often meager resources through that season. If a person had their normal levels of energy, cabin fever would be a serious problem, but S.A.D. would help avoid that situation. 

S.A.D. feels different from my other depression, too. During other depressive episodes, I experience self-loathing, sometimes suicidal thoughts, insomnia, and irrational anger/annoyance, in addition to my lack of motivation or energy. During S.A.D. episodes, I feel like sleeping more, eating things that increase my personal layers of insulation, and sitting quietly indoors, but I don't feel badly about myself. My genetic background includes a lot of German along with a smattering of other northern European influences. In other words, people who would have spend half of the year sleeping more, eating high-calorie meals, and staying indoors as much as possible. So maybe my S.A.D. is not a disorder at all--it's an evolutionary coping mechanism for conditions that no longer exist. Because we have electric lights, cars, and better heaters, we are now expected to continue "business as usual" all year long. But my system is geared toward a season of withdrawal and quiet, so continuing to keep up with everyday life is difficult for me.

Maybe this winter, I'll try to find a happy medium. Exercise just enough to stay strong, go to bed a little earlier, and schedule some time to sit quietly and read every day. I'll give myself permission to rest and retreat a little more and cooperate with my instincts.

Apparently, winter drools a little...

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