Goodbye January, Goodbye SAD Sack

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This weekend we say goodbye January 2016. I for one am over the moon with this. January to me is the worst month of the year. Despite never having been formally diagnosed, I am fairly confident that I suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). In November and December I have Christmas to keep me busy and distracted, so the change in weather and the perpetual darkness of winter are manageable. However January feels like the longest, darkest and coldest month of all. Throw in a few horrible virus’ and you have a witches pot of crap to drown in for 31 days. Only if you let yourself of course.

The arrival of SAD Sack

I would say that since I was a teenager I have always coped with varying degrees of difficulties with my mental health. However, I am horrific during January. I wish that at 1 minute past midnight on New Year’s Eve, I could just say goodbye to all my loved ones, go and snuggle down in my bed with the left over Christmas chocolates and hibernate until the 1st of February. I wouldn’t sleep all the time. I would have someone deliver me comfort food like warm chunky broth with crusty bread, hearty stews and dumplings and warming chilli and spicy ragu. I would watch the box sets of all the television I never have time to watch during the year. Generally I would just wait for the day that the sun rises earlier again and I can motivate myself to face life again. Of course this is never going to happen so I just have to find a way through the darkness and into the light.

Let’s be clear about what SAD is. It is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons. Amazingly it does affect some people at different times of the year, not just during the darker months. The symptoms of SAD include a persistent low mood, loss of pleasure or interest in life, irritability, feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness, feelings of lethargy, difficulty getting up in the morning and a craving for carbohydrates resulting in weight gain. I can safely say that in January I have all of these symptoms, although some are more obvious than others. It’s like a never ending hangover. I feel angry about everything, my clothes seem to shrink, my body seems incapable of motivation. I become quite literally a SAD Sack. Sighing becomes my immediate response to everything, followed by a muttering of “for f*#ks Sake”. Since becoming a parent my symptoms at this time of year have changed. Normally able to manage late night duties, such as night feeds and wet bed emergencies, I find myself unable to cope. Flying into a whirlwind of expletives and flailing arms. Any kind of virus compounds my unhappiness. The virus doesn’t even have to be mine either. I struggle to sympathise with any other family member suffering ill health either. It is all too much of an effort in January. I become incapable of managing myself and my day to day. I neglect my hair, clothes and general upkeep. In so far as I emerge in February with a fabulous beard and matching bushy eyebrows. Before you start imagining some filthy smelly yeti type creature, I do still shower on a daily basis. It’s all in the strategy to combat the SADs. Get showered, don’t indulge the sadness.

What SAD Sack taught me about me

The day that I first discovered that I had SAD was like a light going on in my life. A friend was discussing her symptoms and mentioned the condition. I went home and googled it and read everything that I could find. Everything I read felt like me. Having a name for it empowered me and gave me the tools to cope with the next time it raised it’s dark and angry head. I could now prepare myself for the feelings that would arrive with a crash on 1st of January and take steps to minimise their impact on me and those around me. It is now possible to establish a steadier and calmer persona, capable of managing day to day throughout the month of January. I am still not happy about it though.

This year particularly, I have felt the symptoms strongly. The post Christmas fog, where the volume of generosity can be suffocating and the lack of homes for new things sends the thin threads of control into termoil. One of the reasons I set my year of challenges was to take on the feelings of self doubt, which I always feel but are more acute during January. A reason to get out and make myself feel good about myself. Set off a few fireworks of endorphins in my brain. Have a few minutes of freedom from the million and one duties and responsibilities. The chance to return home and be the mummy I want to be. Capable and secure. I made this plan not just for others but for me. My strategy to overcome the darkness and keep my mind out in the light. Carefully planned strategies, reflective thinking and hyper awareness of how I might be affected. That way I can be positive and confident that I can achieve my goals.

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Today it was windy but the sun was shining and the sun went down closer to 5pm than 4pm. I took this picture of BM enjoying a jump in front of the TV as I took 5 minutes out for me. The older monkeys played in the garden and despite the cold, spring felt closer. I felt like I could breathe again, which is always helpful when you’re ready to run. The knee is improving so maybe it is time to put the spring back into my step and , slowly, get back to it. I know I am ready for the challenge.

 

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