The Re-Ignition of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Here we go again, another blogger with a ‘mental health’ issue, you say. So many bloggers over the past couple of years have shed light on their problems and allowed thousands of people an insight of their sufferings – and with that so many people have rolled their eyes and exclaimed that these bloggers are seeking attention and making it up. What do I think of this? I think raising awareness for invisible mental health conditions which are ridiculed and overlooked is the best thing the blogging community has ever done, and with that I need to come forward myself and stop being so worried about what everybody else thinks. Talking about something so personal and so internally handled is the most difficult thing to overcome. Even trying to put it into words and type is the most challenging writing task i’ve ever set myself (pressing publish by far being the most anxiety inducing part). Let’s face it, making a feeling literate is something only the most talented writers are capable of.

So here goes with the long story short. Growing up I was a difficult person (I kind of still am), I found it so hard to make friends and I grew up confused as to why I thought so much. Why everything provoked me and why other kids didn’t seem to understand that. I challenged people and I had a lot to say about how I felt, and others just put it down to rebellion. It wasn’t until my teens when I suffered an eating disorder that it was more apparent that I was suffering from Bipolar disorder. I was angry, and then I was high – there was no in-between and I hardly knew who ‘neutral Laura’ was myself, never mind others around me. I would lose control like a crazy person and not understand the implications that it had on the people around me, it was worrying and confusing and it was regrettably out of my own hands. Trigger after trigger happened as I continued to grow up which didn’t help matters at all, and by the time I got to university I thought it would be over – that I was just an angsty teenager that had acted like a bit of a muppet and that all teenagers behaved that way at some point. I was very wrong.

University it such a renowned time for people to suffer with anxiety and I was one of those who did. For two years I watched as it got worse and worse with the stress and one particular winter, I checked myself into hospital worried for my own health and safety. I was at breaking point and I genuinely thought I was going to die and crumble under the pressure of my own mind and feelings. I was such a mess – I had a constant shake, heavy chest, my vision blacked out, I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t see and I was petrified by it – and worst of all, I lived alone and had nobody to calm me down. The only time I slept was when I knew that there was a nurse around to help me and I definitely cherished those moments that I could take advantage of just to feel a little better the following day. I was officially diagnosed with Bipolar and on my way I left to deal with the matter alone with an order to visit a GP. Knowing what was going on with my body made it much easier to finish University, but dealing with the symptoms was still the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with. What I didn’t know was that SAD can come along with these things and that I was particularly affected by this.

The end of September comes a new season, and with that season comes cold, rain, the realisation you need to put away the Oakley sunglasses and dig out last season’s fur coat collection from the loft… and SAD. What also comes with it is a ton of people disliking the fact that they have to go to work on Monday after a heavy weekend out on the town and telling everyone they have SAD – but no hun, you’re just a lazy shit who can’t be bothered to do your job and drank a few litres of vodka too many on Saturday night. A common misconception is that SAD happens to everyone in the winter and that the cold chill just makes us all a little blue until the sunshine reappears in our life, which sure it sucks – but – I hate to break it to you, waiting for Ocean Club to open again for your annual Marbs holiday is not suffering from SAD.

On a more serious note, Seasonal Affective Disorder hits early Autumn and it doesn’t shift until we start to see green in our trees again. It’s a long, dark period of self hatred, exhaustion and irritability. You can’t drink alcohol or caffeine (yep, it’s the end of the world – no coffee in winter!) because it makes you dizzy, you can’t sleep because your brain is working on overdrive, you can’t focus at work because you’re seeing in waves. You shake, you can’t see, you panic, there’s too much noise, too many people, and you experience anxiety and depression – but amplified. It’s basically like the worst acid trip ever. SAD is a companion of depression, just another reminder that your life is shit, but hey, let’s make it shitter. It’s a black hole that you feel buried in alone until the warmer months pull you out and you can be you again. Every year around October time the disorder re-ignites – even those who have had an episode free Summer can be weighted down by SAD and have to start back from Square 1 which hits worse than having a shit year from start to finish with it’s unexpected arrival. No one likes to be punched in the face unannounced, and that’s exactly what this feels like.

It wasn’t until the second year in a row that I realised the pattern, that every winter those sleepless nights returned with the exact same anxiety symptoms that I thought i’d never experience again. The thought of another Christmas without Baileys hurt to my core and that’s when I knew I had to do something about it. Taking control is the best thing I ever did and leading a healthier, more active lifestyle has been the one thing to credit for my sanity. My advice to anyone who feels like they have to hide out alone is to come forward and grab it by it’s weak spot. You control your mind, your mind does not control you. And if you see someone acting a little off and agitated lately, give them fudge. Everyone likes fudge. Moral of the story, hiding things is not the answer.

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