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Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Winter Blues

I want to tell you a story.  Are you sitting comfortably?  Then I'll begin....

I have always said that I'm a summer person.  Maybe it's because I was born in July.  I like the bright sunny mornings, late evening sunsets; and, hopefully, the sunshine in-between.

Like most people, I'm not a great fan of winter.  Dark, cold, icy, wet, windy, miserable days.  Oh, sure it's not bad to look at from the warmth of home, watching the trees being blustered about and the rain lashing down against the windows.  The logfire burning in the fireplace, lights turned dow..... oh, please!!
The reality is, it's dark, cold, unpleasant, and no-one enjoys it.

A couple of years ago, around this time, I started feeling down.  I mean really down. I just wanted to curl up and be left alone.  I couldn't concentrate on anything.  Reading a book (something which I love doing) was hard work. Actually going to work was no pleasure.  I also had a constant headache.

I couldn't put it down to anything in particular.  I knew it was happening,  but didn't know why!  I did know that they were the classic symptoms of depression, but I didn't want to take any medication.  This was a sudden onset, and I wanted to see what happened.

I decided to visit the doctor, who was happy enough to sign me off work for 2 weeks; for stress.
I told friends and family I was working from home.  They know me as a happy, cheerful kinda guy, and this would have worried them.

During those two weeks, I had an epiphany.  I was going to give up my job and "go it alone".  I spent the days researching business, speaking to agencies, planning my new start.

With my two weeks almost over, and still feeling depressed, I went back to the doctor, who had no hesitation in prescribing me another fortnight.  That took me to the end of January.  By the end of the month, I had created my business, written my letter of resignation and was all set to go.

Still, I had no idea what was wrong.  Sub-consciously I started to feel brighter, maybe because I had made such a life changing decision.

At the end of February, I left the company I had spent 13 years working for and 3 days later I started life as an independent freelancer.

You'll notice that it's almost springtime.  The mornings were brighter, and so was my mood.

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Following those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, we'll now jump forward until the end of 2008.
The beginning of December, in fact.

Once again, my mood deteriorated.  I was cold, wanted to be alone, and at times just wanted to cry.  My headaches had returned.  Now I was stumped.  I recognised this was a repeat of the last year, and I realised that it couldn't be because of my work.  I'm my own boss now, something that I love.

What the hell was it?

I remembered hearing about Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) and did some research into what it is, and how to deal with it.

Another trip to the doctor later (and this time not wanting time off work, or medication) he agreed that it sounded very much like it.  He suggested the use of a light box; to help boost the hormones that keep me 'up'.

The lamps I had seen were big and unwieldy. I wanted something small and unobtrusive.  The lamp I use is shown here, and it's portable enough to fit into a small bag.  It has been a life-changer.

I started to use it again, last week, to combat the dark mornings since the clocks changed.  I can honestly say that I have no feelings of depression.  I'm not curling up, I don't feel chilly and I'm not ready to burst into tears.  No headaches either.

I still don't like winter. But at least I can now get through it with a smile on my face.

Next time, I'll write about S.A.D. in more detail.
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