It’s OK To Be SAD

SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly known as Seasonal Depression, gives the phrase, “Same shit different year,” a whole new meaning.

According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — it begins and ends at about the same times every year. For most people, symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often do people experience SAD in the warmer months, but it still happens!

Fall and Winter SAD

Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:

  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness or low energy

Spring and Summer SAD

Symptoms specific to summer-onset seasonal affective disorder, sometimes called summer depression, may include:

  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Agitation or anxiety

The Mayo Clinic also firmly encourages, “Don’t brush off that yearly feeling as simply a case of the “winter blues” or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own.”

It’s always startling to me how controversial therapy is. Over the years I’ve heard so many people say, “No, therapy is not for me. Tried it once and nope.” or the quip of, “I don’t need therapy” or even therapy being labeled as liberal poppycock is another quip that has the eyes rolling to the back of my head.

I have a very firm belief that anyone who hates therapy simply hasn’t had a good therapist. It’s so important to find the right therapist for you, therapist shopping is a thing! A sucky tiresome thing, I’ve learned in my adult life, but necessary.

The concept of therapy has never been taboo for me, it’s always been a common party of life and conversation – talking about going to see a therapist is as casual as talking about a trip to the mall, or a more accurate comparison is saying you’re going to the doctor for just a checkup to make sure all the parts are running the way they should.

I’ve been seeing a therapist since I was seven or eight years old. My mom had started seeing Suzie shortly after my parents divorced, but my sister and I weren’t brought in for a family session until a few years into my mom’s therapy journey. After one visit with Suzie, we began yearly visits until sometime in high school when it became abundantly clear I wasn’t doing ok and needed more frequent visits. Essentially, I have a habit of bottling up emotions and carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. I hate sharing or opening up, because I feel my problems are mine alone to bear, I don’t want to put them on anyone else.

But talking with Suzie became a such an outlet, and I will say – it was an incredible bonus that she was regularly seeing my mom, my sister, and even some other family members. This meant I never had to do a lot of the background family deep dive you usually do with a therapist – she already knew the deep rooted family problems and how they trickled into my psyche. Every visit with her was always this much needed cathartic release of emotion I had kept tightly sealed… she’s a blessing, honestly.

As I got older, moved away for school and what not, I still would hit a point about once a year where I’d be like, “DRIVING UP TO ANDERSON BECAUSE I NEED SUZIE!”

It took probably the second year of me only coming to see her in the dead of winter where she’s like, “Emily, I’m pretty sure you have seasonal depression.”

I was quick to respond, “No, no – I’m sad year round remember?

But she explained it, that yes overall I struggled with mental health, but my lowest points where I seem to be unable to take it anymore happen the same time every year – nearly without fail.

I still had a hard time agreeing with her, mainly because winter is my favorite time of the year, I love Christmas, I adore the snow (I swear I can smell it coming several hours before it actually snows), and I just love the coziness… there’s no way my favorite season would betray me so much. I couldn’t accept it.

But, she was right – it wasn’t really up to me to dispute the facts.

She also let me know that Indiana has some of the highest seasonal depression rates in the country, ranking number 3 overall!

Indiana 3rd in Google searches for seasonal depression | News Sun |  kpcnews.com
Source: KPCNews

Above is an image detailing states with the most google searches for seasonal depression – I think this graphic is most interesting because it shows how many people are wondering, “Do I have seasonal depression?” and looking into it; scouring WEB MD to see if their never-ending feeling of meh is normal. As you can imagine, seasonal depression, like clinical depression, often goes undiagnosed.

The ultimate “cause” of seasonal depression is unknown, but the Mayo Clinic says it could be:

  • Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
  • Serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.
  • Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, treatments for seasonal depression fall into four main categories that may be used alone or in combination:

  • Light therapy
  • Psychotherapy (this is talk therapy aimed to help develop coping mechanisms)
  • Antidepressant medications
  • Vitamin D

Light therapy may be the one to catch your eye (it certainly caught mine) and honestly it’s something that I had always been told about and it’s my mom and my aunt’s favorite form. The quick way to get some light therapy in high dosage is simply going tanning, which I know, I know, it’s not good for your skin. But I can tell you right now, when I excessively tanned throughout college, it always seemed to be the boost I needed that day.

That being said – there are non-harmful, safe for your skin, forms of light therapy available! Very Well Mind has compiled a list of the best light therapy lamps of 2020 – check those out and maybe invest, or ask for one for Christmas 😉

Over the years, the way that I’ve tried coping with SAD is to jam pack the winter months with activities. At work it’s the busiest time which helps, I try to make it where I get to see as many family and friends as possible, and then at the tail end of winter (that nasty February bit) is when it’s the absolute worst for me – so I always try to plan a trip abroad during that time. I find that for me the depression creeps in when I have idle hands and a dwelling mind, so I work hard to eliminate as many occasions as possible where the depression could take its hold.

Some days the depression still wins, making it hard for me to even leave my bed; but sometimes I do the winning and have great days – and that’s just the way it is. It’s a balancing act to get all those chemicals in your brain steady 🙂

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Ultimately, Seasonal Depression is real and not something to be taken lightly. It’s serious, don’t ignore it or brush it off – and don’t brush off your friends and family when they tell you they suffer from it. SAD can lead to serious issues like school or work problems, social withdrawal, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts or behavior, anxiety, eating disorders, and more.

Seasonal Depression is a real mental health issue, treat it like you would clinical depression, manic bipolar, bulimia, or literally any other mental health issue. Just because you don’t suffer the effects everyday, year round, does not invalidate the severity or the impact it has, or could have, on your life.

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If you or someone you know is in immediate danger due to depression, contact 911. If you or someone you know is in need of support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255); En Español 1-888-628-9454 or text “HELLO” to 741741 the Crisis Text Line.

An Ode to Jenna Marbles

If you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet – specifically YouTube or Tumblr – in the last decade, at some point you’ve probably run across Jenna Marbles. Considered to be a part of the original group of YouTubers, Marbles posted her first notable video in 2010 titled ‘How to Trick People into Thinking You’re Good Looking’. Instantly a star thanks to her witty humor, adorable pets, fun skits and relatable content, Jenna Marbles has continued to make thousands laugh every ‘Wednesday-slash-Thursday’, until now. 

From make-up tutorials to dog birthdays to drunk crafts, Jenna Marbles has been a constant in my life for a decade. There was a time recently, when I was deep in the waves of a gnarly depression spell, where the weekly videos she posted were the one thing I could count on to give me a brief moment of happiness. Just five minutes where I would feel okay – a few lighthearted laughs at whatever antics she pulled. Even if it was one of her less exciting videos where she dip-dyed Crocs just for the hell of it – it was everything to me. 

Her content has changed dramatically over the years. Starting out she was a foul-mouthed ranting 22 year old in the Wild West of the internet. She made some problematic videos which were removed over the years as she transitioned into her new style. She’s since become a much more calm, mindfulness-minded *32 year old lady*.

Jenna decided to leave YouTube, social media, the whole shebang, at the beginning of the summer this year after many fans brought back long-deleted videos where she was being problematic. She posted one of the most realistic and relatable apology videos (that has since been removed) that I’ve ever seen and trust me, I watch them all when I’m bored – shout/out James Charles for the never ending stream of them. This is my ode to Jenna Marbles.

Jenna,

You’ve allowed us unfiltered access to your life for a decade; through break ups, new pets, new homes, everything. You’ve created endless jokes and relatable content for a sea of greedy fish. While I’ve never met you and never will, you provided a light during the darkest times of my life and for that, I will be forever grateful. I hope that you feel as much love and happiness as you’ve given to us over the last ten years, even if you decide to never return to the internet world. 

Always a fan,

Bailey 

Finding Peace

This article is the conclusion to a journey I began years ago. I’ve shared some personal stories about domestic abuse, some destructive coping mechanisms I used, and now it is time to talk about the peace I found after it all. I kept reiterating in my previous articles how we are not the victims forever, and I stand by that to this day. I wouldn’t be where I am without these humbling experiences. I grew my own wings that my gut was trying to tell me to do for years. With the help of my friends and family and self-determination, I was able to be the woman I always knew I was.

Initially, I was scared. I had no money, no motivation, and felt like my career was in the hole, and I had to block out a lot of people in my life. But what was really happening was that I was saving money, building stronger relationships with my close friends, and truly focusing on myself for once. I found myself developing a skin routine and a forming a healthy diet. I planned my future. I went back to college and now am on a path to graduate in a year.

What also became a constant in my life was spirituality. I never had been a religious person and I’m still not. Yet, I found spirituality really explained and helped me with a lot of things that have happened in my life. We all say cliche things like “everything happens for a reason” and “there are no such things as coincidences.“ Heck, I truly believe all that now! I believe people are put into and removed from your life and it’s all apart of the journey. Some people are not meant to be along for the ride and that’s okay. I came to the conclusion that I could find peace in knowing the things I can control vs the things I cannot and should not force. I have everything I need in my life to make the difference I’ve always wanted to make.

I made a vow to not let another person, especially a man, ruin or disrupt my inner peace. Yes, there are days where that was very hard to do, but ultimately, I am happy without the stress and chaos. I truly am blessed to have gotten to know the side of a man that I never thought I’d see again. I had been given a gift in the form a gentle, kind, selfless, respectful human. My boyfriend was put into my life and I have cherished every waking moment with him. He is a significant factor that has played a huge part in my searching for peace. He helped me realize that just because I was a victim and enabler before, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen again and that is such a relieving feeling to know I’m still able to love and to be loved.

For the women or men that have walked in these shoes, there is happiness and success resting on the other side of this hill. Peace is found in many forms: a loving friend’s smile, a cup of coffee in the morning, and instead of thinking about your troubling past….you think about your exciting dreams, a week secluded in the woods watching the sunset, connecting with a religion or your spirituality, starting a self care routine, or even writing about your journey and being able to appreciate the things currently around you that you never thought would come from it. We all deserve peace and you will find it.

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If you or someone you know is being affected by abuse and needing support, call 1-800-799-7233, or if you are unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 1-866-9474.

You are not alone.

Honesty: Humility: Growth

This part of my story is pretty real and raw. This is the part I am not proud of. However, it’s important to share because even after I left John Doe, I struggled with self-identity, structure, discipline, and self control. I decided to make a few decisions that ultimately put myself in terrible predicaments and changed my life, but in some of the worst ways. I searched high and low for closure and answers, but all I found was temporary satisfaction, disappointment, and trouble.

There were weeks I spent several nights at bars, drinking heavily. I made many new friends and developed a social life I never had before. I was getting attention from people, but not all of it was positive. I decided to explore the dating scene and embark on a new adventure to “find myself”. Well I admit the alcohol abuse played a part in some, if not all, of my poor decision making. I found myself getting involved with a few people and making decisions I should not have done. I was naive and very trustworthy of people when I should not have been. They lied to me and I should have known better because I always have acted better in that sense; I have always preached to my friends about being safe and making good choices and not jumping into things without completely evaluating everything. I have always told them to think about the consequences before acting. I have failed to listen to my own advice. However, feelings and actions do not justify an individual hiding important information from a person.

I refer to these few months as me being crazy and doing things I never had the chance to do. So many people told me it was okay, and that this was normal. Now looking back, it wasn’t. Or if it was, I didn’t want my normal to be like that. I changed my behaviors and decided this way of life wasn’t for me; I stopped casually dating and became very selective. I have been left with physical scars now and life has been altered for me in ways I never thought would be. I never thought it’d be me. My advice here is never forget who you are. Try to stick to your morals and be very careful who you surround yourself with. Acknowledge that theses mistakes may be made and if they already have been, understand how you got there and try not to do it again despite the temporary satisfaction and attention.

One evening I was leaving a bar and I made one of the most terrible decisions ever, I chose to drive home. Well, that ended with me in jail for the night and with a criminal charge. I was beyond embarrassed. I did the very thing we all should never do – drunk driving. Thankfully, I was not in any accident or anything like that, but it still scared me and changed my life in many ways. I stopped drinking heavily and set limits. My advice here is clear, do not rely on substances of any kind to cope with heartbreak, depression, or grief. I know it’s harder than it sound, trust me, but this was one of the worst things I ever did and I have residual effects from it. Again, trust your friends, family, therapist to help you through hard times. Talk about your feelings.

Another topic to touch on is what I realized and came to accept and admit to. I looked back on my relationship and saw things I did that contributed to an issue, unknowingly. I realized I was going out to bars more, spending more money than I should have. I also acknowledge that listening to your partner is important and communication is key in working things out. In my recent article, I mentioned that I would ignore John Doe’s requests of being left alone when he was in a fit of rage, all because I thought that was the right way to handle it all. It wasn’t and it was wrong of me. However, being honest with yourself and others is a growing process too. I was also an enabler and turned a blind eye to a deeper issue at hand for years. Admit your faults. I will never deny what I did during and after my relationship because it was a stepping stone for me to find my peace and it allows transparency. Again, doing these things still do not give a free pass for anyone to be abusive. It is important to understand that.

I went down a path of destruction, and nothing I was doing was benefiting me. I was getting no answers. I had no closure. What was I even doing?

My decisions I made during and after my separation were wrong and foolish. I made choices and rolled the dice of life. I’m not perfect and I will admit this and the things I’ve done. I’ve used these experiences to help educate others who are struggling with coping from loss—that be of a loved one or maybe even a divorce, failing relationship, stress, etc. I was ashamed but again, it’s part of journey. It’s also to make people aware of how important it is to be honest with oneself and grow from these things. It’s a chapter in my life that has closed and left me with valuable lessons.

My advice here, is anyone trying to overcome such things like stress, divorce, separation, loss of a loved one, whatever it may be — should seek out help. This is something I never did until later. I could have avoided the trouble I got in after the separation if I just had better coping skills. My advice: keep communicating with people. I will say this time and time again, talk with your family and friends. Maybe seek out a therapist or counselor. Whatever you need to do to be safe and healthy while you heal from the wounds that life left you with.

What is just as important as healing, is being honest with yourself, learning from your mistakes, and taking back control of your life. We all have one chance at life, and we need to respect ourselves more. We are worthy of that.

If you or someone you know is being affected by abuse and needing support, call 1-800-799-7233, or if you are unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 1-866-9474.

You are not alone.

Winnie’s Story: Young and Diagnosed

On the outside, Winnie H. looks like any 27-year-old woman: beautiful, thin, tan and well put together. She works two jobs, like any other twenty-something, tries to go to the gym as often as possible, has an enormous library on her kindle and is completing a job certification. However, on the inside, she is in constant pain. Winnie has Fibromyalgia.

I met Winnie at the age of 14. I, like most other teenagers, was full of energy and eager to do anything for fun. I knew that Winnie had some sort of illness, but I never fully understood why she hated giving me hugs or why some days she felt like she couldn’t get out of bed. As I got older and talked more with her, I learned more about the “disease” Winnie had and why it affected her the way it did.

Today, I sat down with Winnie to ask her more questions about what Fibromyalgia was and how it affected her.

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How old were you when you realized something was wrong? What kind of symptoms were you feeling?

I was 10 years old. It was after I had my appendix taken out and I figured all of the pain I felt was because of that, but then it started to get worse. The pain got to be unbearable. I didn’t like the feeling of my clothes on my body. I couldn’t let anyone touch me at all. Even when family would try to hug me, it hurt too much, so I’d run away from them. I pretty much avoided “goodbyes” at family gatherings.

To describe the pain…on good days it feels sort of like body aches from the flu. On bad days, it feels like pins and needles, like when you sit on your foot for too long and it falls asleep– that numbness and needle-prick feeling. My legs were the worst back then. Sometimes they’d randomly give out on me.

The pain all over my body would get so bad that it made me vomit or would send me into panic attacks. I didn’t know what was happening or how to handle it!

How long did it take for doctors to diagnose you with Fibromyalgia? Were you wrongfully diagnosed at first?

Before they figured it out, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety, really anything mental because they thought the pain was all in my head or I was faking it. One doctor would say it was one thing and the next doctor disagreed and said it was something else! I was finally diagnosed with Fibromyalgia at 13, almost 14, years old.

What different kinds of tests or treatments have you tried over the years?

I went to many different therapists, like VERY different. One was super peppy and was all like “LET’S COLOR,” and another was just like, “here’s your meds, ma’am.”

I also tried these breathing treatments for awhile at the children’s hospital. It was actually kind of fun though, like a video game. They hooked me up to this heart monitor that was attached to a screen and I’d stare at a tree or build a bridge with my breathing patterns and heart rate.

In middle school, I had to wear a heart monitor for a week because apparently I had a heart murmur too, so that’s really cool. They had me wear this helmet thing too to measure my brain waves or something.

My back doctor wanted to try giving me shots in my spine but I was like, “HELL NAH!” That’s kind of funny though because now my back is where my worst pain is.

I tried a lot of physical therapy and massage therapy. Massage Therapy was my favorite. I also tried hydro-therapy where they change it from really cold to really hot but that was the worst! Extreme cold makes my muscles tense up. I can’t handle temperature changes very well.

What about medications? Did you experience any bad side effects?

Once I was on an antidepressant that made me hallucinate! I saw all kinds of weird stuff. I saw a glowing, blue, f***ing bird everywhere! It swooped down at me once at Walmart and I looked like a lunatic trying to dodge that damn bird. I always tried to laugh it off though.

The thing about medication is that if it has possible side effects, I’m probably going to get them. I guess I’m really sensitive to meds. Even the antidepressant I’m on now makes me so nauseated that I’ll usually throw up once a day. I just have to try a lot of things to see what works.

The biggest problem I had though, was that I went to like 5 different doctors at once and they never talked to each other. I took so many medications at once that I had these things I’d call “mini overdoses.” I’d be awake but lying there, unable to move or speak, and it was really hard to breathe! Those were the scariest moments of my life. As soon as I came out of them I’d run down to my mom, freaking out about how something was NOT right.

What kinds of medications or treatments do you use today?

By the time I was 18, I was on 22 different pills a day. My boyfriend at the time cheated on me and our breakup gave some sort of wake up call. I decided to go cold turkey on all my meds at once. I was withdrawing so bad that I was hugging the toilet and shaking for what seemed like forever. After that, I chose my own medications.

Now I’m taking a new antidepressant. There’s no “happy pill,” but this one really helps. I honestly didn’t plan on living past 18 years old. I had plans to kill myself. I still have some passive suicidal idealizations, but I want to live now.

Aside from that, I’m now taking Vyvanse, which is usually for ADHD, so it seems weird that I’d take it with Fibromyalgia. It helps with the brain fog, I call it “fibro fog.” I can sort of handle the pain nowadays, but I can’t deal with the fog. I literally have fallen asleep from it, standing up, at work!

“Fibro fog” is where you can’t think clearly or remember anything. It’s like my thoughts are moving through oil in my head. Answering simple questions like “What did you have for breakfast today?” are too difficult. I’d be like, “did I even eat today?” The fog is the hardest thing for me, even though my pain is still at an all time high. I hate it because I need to work; I need to study and think. It’s all too hard to do with the fog.

I also occasionally will take a muscle relaxer. My spine swells and locks sometimes at night and the pain keeps me from sleeping, so a muscle relaxer helps me get to sleep.

How does Fibromyalgia affect your mental health?

For so many years, people told me my disease wasn’t real and people still think that today. It really f***s with me. Even doctors who are educated on the disease have written me off like I was faking it.

I have severe depression. If I go into a bad swing of depression, my fibromyalgia flares up, because my mental health and physical symptoms tie into each other.

I used to have panic attacks that were so bad I’d black out at school and my mom had to pick me up and bring me to the hospital. My anxiety is still very present in my life today, but I struggle more with depression.

Has Fibromyalgia ever affected your ability to live a “normal life?”

I couldn’t get my driver’s license when everyone else did because I was having absent seizures. When my seizures got better and I got the OK to get my license, I too afraid to get it. I was worried that I’d have a seizure while driving and kill a whole family! Fibromyalgia has made me fearful of so many things.

I used to drink a lot to numb the pain. In middle school and high school I’d drink a vodka and orange juice before school even! I continued to take my meds when I drank too. Alongside alcohol, I used to smoke pot a lot to ease the pain I felt.

Maybe this is TMI, but sex is very difficult with Fibromyalgia! Having sex on your bad days is nearly impossible. On your good days, you’re in a lot of pain, but you can still orgasm. Don’t get me wrong, I love sex and still do it! It’s just very difficult to enjoy it as much as you could without Fibromyalgia.

Tell me about why you decided to pursue massage therapy.

I had a massage therapist in middle school and high school named Nina. She helped me through SO much. When she first got me, I would tense up and squeal every time she touched me. She helped me build up a tolerance for physical contact. She also truly listened to me when I told her I was in pain and really worked with me.

One day on her massage table, I looked up and told her I wanted to do what she does and she told me that I could. All of my doctors shot down my dreams and said I wouldn’t be able to do anything. They said I’d be in a wheel chair by the time I was 45. Nina believed in me.

I want to help people that are like me or even older people. One time I got to help a special needs girl who was ready to live on her own and get a job, but she’d never been touched!

I want to help people the way that Nina helped me.

What advice do you have for anyone dealing with Fibromyalgia?

Cry as much as you need to, but make sure to laugh it off.

F*** the people who say your disease is just in your head. It’s real. Don’t let them make you second guess yourself. No one truly knows what you’re feeling except for you. Fight for yourself.

I think the the most important piece of advice I have is to find your support group and hold on tight. If I didn’t have my mom who did anything and everything she could to make me feel better, I don’t know where I’d be. If I didn’t have such understanding friends who supported me and never let me be alone when I was sad, I don’t think I’d be here today. Being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia is not lucky, but being blessed with my support group was the luckiest thing that happened to me.

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Winnie H. has been through so many trials and tribulations due to her early diagnosis of Fibromyalgia. Her mother did everything she could for her, but still worried that one day she’d come home to find her daughter dead. Thanks to Winnie’s strong soul, determined mind and loving support system, this inspirational young woman is on her way to change lives. She has overcome the odds and will continue to do so throughout her entire life.

Those of you who are reading this and suffering from Fibromyalgia, know that you are not alone. Your pain is REAL.