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  • Southside

Why I’m no longer SAD

Thursday, 12th January, 2017 7:59am
Why I’m no longer SAD

Grainne Clancy

Why I’m no longer SAD

Grainne Clancy

RECENTLY it was mentioned to me that depression was being talked about everywhere.

Depression is not easy to live with; seasonal adjustment depression (SAD) is a type of depression caused by a lack of sunlight. I used to live in Aberdeen, Scotland and worked as a staff nurse in a stroke rehabilitation unit. Getting to know and be involved in supporting the patient and their family was a rewarding part of my job as a staff nurse. I worked shifts, which meant working until 9.30pm and starting the next morning at 7. Getting to work involved two buses to and from home.

One day I became upset when a patient fell, this was not an unusual occurrence, but my reaction was, and I cried and blamed myself.  I was sent home and advised to contact my GP.

I had suspected for a couple of years that I had SAD.  A Google search listed the symptoms.  I love Christmas and particularly putting up my Christmas tree, but each year it felt like I had a mountain to climb to get the energy to put up my tree. 

When I met my GP, I explained what had happened and my reaction at work.

“I do not know if it is a recognised condition or if you have heard of it,” I said to my GP, “I think I suffer from SAD”. Her reply “I have it” brought such relief to me.

My tiredness, irritable, anxiety, craving and lack of motivation were not due to stress but by an actual condition.  If I had a diagnosis, then I could proactively manage. This involved buying a dawn simulator and a light box which at that time I had to sit in front for 20 minutes, sometimes more.  

Sunlight helps with the amount of serotonin in our body, a necessary hormone which helps us to sleep.  There have been times for me when I required a Selective Serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) for the winter.

Stigma surrounds the idea of taking an antidepressant. We have no hesitation in taking an antibiotic if we have a chest infection. For me, SSRI made life manageable. I feel fortunate that the dawn stimulator, light therapy and regularly taking breaks from work mean I can live my life to the full

For me accepting I have SAD and do not have the same energy levels has made my life easier. Yes, I do have SAD but before I would have felt that I suffered from winter blues.

Previously I did hate November; my anxiety levels rose, and I could not wait for the month to be over. Now I like going to Dublin City Centre and seeing all the Christmas tree lights. There is an air of excitement in the city!  

Living here in Booterstown these last five years has made a substantial difference to my life. The sunset in Booterstown compared to Aberdeen is an hour later. I now have a portable light box. I stick the lights into my ears and go on my way. I no longer work shifts and finally know what that Friday feeling is about! The best investment for me was a dawn simulator which mimics the sun, so I never wake up with the noise of my alarm clock and wake naturally. 

My work as a counsellor/psychotherapist has resulted in my increased ability to mind myself. I enjoy spending time walking by the sea or going down to Seapoint to watch the ocean, regardless of the weather. I have learned to work at my pace, to take time out when necessary and to acknowledge my limitations. I have my blood taken twice a year at my GP surgery to check my Vitamin D levels are optimum as too high is as bad as too low.

Do not hesitate to contact your GP if you feel your energy levels and mood reducing as the daylight reduces. I have lived with SAD for about 12 years, and no longer dread the shorter days.

Grainne is a counsellor/psychotherapist in private practice in Dublin 4.

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