Thursday, February 27, 2014

Average Jane

Wednesday morning was not good. For starters, I didn't sleep well, so I got up at 6:30, showered and got ready for a full day of work. My only consolation was that my planned activities promised to be very enjoyable, even running on no sleep.
Then, while eating breakfast, something happened that rendered my entire plan for the day impossible. Just like that, boom, a whole day went out the window. Now I was sleep deprived AND unable to look forward to fun things. I was frustrated, furious, and sad. I begrudgingly finished eating, then went back to my bathroom to change into an outfit better suited to my rearranged day. Then I discovered a giant cat turd on my front door mat, which I had to clean up. Finally I sat down on the couch, emailed a few people asking for prayer, and put my head in my arms. I did not feel up to facing any more challenges.
But, the self-help habit is deeply embedded in my life now, so even as I longed to crawl under the covers and pretend the world didn't exist, my brain was working. Prayers ascended to heaven and helped out. God reminded me of people that I had committed to pray for, and I prayed for them. Gradually I reclaimed my own power over the situation. Yes, my schedule had been overturned, but that didn't mean I couldn't put it back together. It would just look different from my original expectations. I made other plans. I promised myself grace: I wouldn't strive to be superwoman today, I would just strive to be Average Jane.
When I went into my daughter's room and saw her face light up, I remembered how much fun could be had in an unscheduled day. She invited me into her "tent" (under the covers) and I snuggled in, ignoring the piercing odor of leaked urine. So what! I would change her clothes later. We went to the library, then the doctor, then out to lunch. During her nap I took one of my own.
It's not easy to take responsibility for your own life. It's much easier to blame other people and let life happen to you. I get that, I really do. And without the prayer support I got, I'm not sure if I could've even begun to salvage that day. But I did, with the help of God and my community. So maybe, in a way, my Average Jane day was better than my SuperWoman day would've been. Who knows?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Seasonal Affective Disorder

I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD. This means that when the days get shorter, my brain chemistry gets messed up and I become sad. I treat this by using a lightbox, which is a small box that puts out thousands of lumens of light. So what is SAD like for me? Does it mean that I'm just depressed? I can tell you, because generally in early September, the symptoms kick in.

  1. I get very irritable. PMS levels of irritability kick in, no matter where I am in my menstrual cycle. 
  2. I can no longer sleep through the night. I begin to wake up 2 or 3 times in a night, as in, wide awake and not a bit drowsy. 
  3. I cannot summon up the energy to get out of bed in the morning. Getting out of bed is the hardest thing I will do the entire day. If I can't think of a good enough reason, I simply will not get up. Hearing my daughter call to me, the cats meow at me, even my husband talking to me is not enough. I crave sugar. If I can't think of a way to get a giant amount of sugar into my body immediately upon rising, I will lay in bed. 

Not everyone with SAD is like this, of course. It's a unique experience for everyone. I am fortunate, in that 20 minutes in the morning in front of my LED lightbox resolves all my symptoms. Within a week of light box usage, I am no longer irritable, no longer unable to get out of bed, and most importantly, sleeping through the night.

SAD is on top of my existing high levels of anxiety, which I currently treat with both medication, meditation, and talk therapy. Do I think I'm crazy? No. I think I'm healthy, but that I have to take action to maintain my mental health. Don't let the ridiculous stigma attached to mental illness keep you from getting the treatment you need!