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Customer Discussions > Health forum

Am I screwed? I have seasonal depression and badly need help.

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Showing 1-25 of 662 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 12, 2009 3:09:51 PM PDT
Mia says:
I badly need some help.

Here is the background:

This stated by or before 2nd grade.

After winter break I started to hibernate... involuntarily.

Around mid-January:

I feel 'stuck' mentally.
I'm physically EXHAUSTED.
I feel sick or achy.
My energy, motivation, and work ethic plummets to basically zero.
I don't want to go outside.
I don't want to see my friends.
I don't want to work OR have fun.
At some point in April or May I realize that I'm okay again.

In grade school, I would get A's the 1st semester and C's or D's the 2nd. This was consistent every year.

In college, I would have stellar a Fall semester and register for Spring semester with confidence. But as Jan and Feb wore on I would lose all interest and motivation, stop going to class, sleep for most the day, and end up withdrawing.

In my most productive Spring semester I was able to do a pod-casted science class (from home) with a on campus lab that met once a week.

Just for context, I had 3.85 GPA. and was first in my department. In Summer and Fall I was Superwoman.

As far as employment, I am able to work a few in the Spring for a hours a week, but eventually I always get to tired and give up.

My mom had a battery of tests run on my every spring from when I was 9 or so to 18. She was always sure I had mono or lyme disease or something. Nothing showed up.

I was eventually diagnosed with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

I brought the $300 light therapy boxes. Didn't work.

I've read many many many self help books on topic.
I've tried to work out, be positive, etc.

I even tried literally every depression medication on the market a few years back. Only one helped a tiny bit, but the side effects voided any benefit. The rest were awful and made me a crazy zombie.

(I also have anxiety, if that means anything.)

Now I'm in grad school and its going to take me forever to finish because I'm missing 1/3 of the semesters.

I'm studying clinical psychology (ironic- I know) and hope to have a private practice.

What really worries me is that it seems the depression is getting worse as I get older.

I am so afraid of how my career and life will be affected.

How can I provide for myself and my family?

I'm not sure I can even function as an individual without the continuous help of a parent, sibling, or partner during those month.

Am I only going to be really living for 1/4 of my life?

I'm so over it.
I'm a smart, passionate, hard-working, and attractive 20-something woman, and I am sick to death of having this out-of order' sign around my neck.

I'd appreciate any advice,
EXCEPT "Just get up and do it!"
I'm not lazy and I am fighting as hard as I can.

Do any of you have any experience with this?
Is there anything else I should try?
Does this happen to any of you as well?
Could it be something other SAD, hopefully something treatable?

Thank you!!!

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 3:26:14 PM PDT
Ariel says:
Don't study clinical psychology! Change your major to mathematics! or a math-intensive discipline such as physics or engineering.
I'm not joking. Working math problems is the best cure for depression. The only side effect is that you might get a good job!

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 3:32:38 PM PDT
SAD usually starts around the fall and not mid winter. I had a mild form of it for a few years (simply because I hate cold months and love the outdoors in the summer). It sounds like you need some motivation around those months. Set some fun goals for yourself during those months you have trouble so it takes your mind off of what possibly might be bothering you.

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 3:37:00 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 12, 2009 3:44:54 PM PDT
My mom gets this (curse of being born in the tropics then coming to the US!) and for me, my sleep cycle would get totally screwed up as well.

The things I've found that work the best is Light Therapy. You can google it, and/or even just search it here on Amazon. There are articles about it on the web too. It's basically a light box that you sit in front of for 30 or so minutes a day. I've found that combining it with aromatherapy (essential oils) that are reminiscent of spring-summer are helpful too.

Way back before I discovered light boxes, I found that going to the tanning salon really helped (the old style UV rays). I would come out feeling like I just came back from vacationing at the beach all relaxed and euphoric.

At home (or work if you're stuck in a cube), full spectrum light bulbs may help too, but they are usually not strong enough. The light box works GREAT though. :-) Make sure to research it to make sure you're getting one that has the correct light spectrum that's been demonstrated to work in the clinical studies.

Good luck! Lots of us have been there and still visit occasionally. :-)

BTW, I used to work at a biotech research institute (not a scientist but project mgmt), and I'll tell you this. Studies on depression have shown that Light Therapy is the *most effective* type of treatment. Drugs only seek to replicate what light therapy causes to occur on a physiological level, and since light is not something that can make pharm companies lots of money on, it is not their chosen route of development.

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 4:21:49 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 12, 2009 4:36:12 PM PDT
Mia says:

"Don't study clinical psychology! Change your major to mathematics! or a math-intensive discipline such as physics or engineering."

Would you believe I have Math-based LD??

To be honest, I'm not actually doing Clinical Psych. I tweaked the kind of MA program just to not give out too much more personal info than I already have.
My program is related, but not Clinical Psych. (With the LD I couldn't do even DO Quantitative Methods!)

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 4:27:30 PM PDT
Mia says:

"SAD usually starts around the fall and not mid winter. I had a mild form of it for a few years (simply because I hate cold months and love the outdoors in the summer)."

It depends on where you live. It doesn't start to get cold and dark here until December.

"It sounds like you need some motivation around those months. Set some fun goals for yourself during those months you have trouble so it takes your mind off of what possibly might be bothering you."

Thanks. I've been doing that this time, and it has been a little better. I'm a bit more mentally motivated, but the physical stuff is the same.

I just wish it was ALL better...

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2009 4:35:03 PM PDT
Mia says:

I've actually had a light box for a few years. I did my research and got a well-respected one.

I tried using it for various minutes a day, but it really hurt my eyes and I didn't feel better either.
It hasn't been that helpful for me.

I know that the idea behind SAD is that the lack of light makes some people depressed.
But for 3 years I've lived in a loft with giant skylights, so I get tons of sunlight every day.

This is one of the reasons I wonder if I'm dealing with something other than SAD.


Posted on Mar 12, 2009 5:46:54 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Feb 16, 2010 4:31:26 PM PST]

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 7:08:15 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 12, 2009 7:15:54 PM PDT
Mia says:

I dance and do yoga.

But when it is not so possible to do ANYTHING vigorously when you can barely move around the room.

I'm not weak or out of shape.
It is not a matter of will power for me.
It is pain and a literal lack of strength.

Edit: Thank you, though!

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 7:26:22 PM PDT
Glit says:
I will say I have suffered from episodes of depression for most of my life. They are worse starting in late fall until spring. The same therapy I've had to deal with depression has helped me deal with SAD as well. It can help you break negative thought patterns etc. and at least help you be able to do what you need to do. I will tell you as a teen, a couple times of week at the tanning bed did help. I started going because for some reason it helped with my winter skin problems (my grandmother works at a tanning salon and suggested trying it), but found it made me feel so much better. The only problem with it is of course the concerns for skin cancer. :(

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2009 7:39:18 PM PDT
I've been helped big time by taking 1000 units of Vitamin D daily.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2009 7:39:30 PM PDT
directions says:
Seasonal affective disorder needs to be diagnosed by a psychiatrist. It may not be that and other forms of depression are treated with anti-depressents. Lightboxes can work but this needs to be supervised by a clinician. Tanning machines definitely do not. In addition to medication, talk therapy and cognitive behavioral can be of help. Here's a website that might be of use:

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2009 7:55:30 PM PDT
I go through this every year
I figure it the lack of sun and in the past few year I just gone tanning once amonce from january to march
it works for me- good luck.cgb

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 8:01:16 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 12, 2009 8:03:11 PM PDT
Glit says:
I wouldn't say tanning beds can't help at all, they do generally include both the uva and uvb spectrum, uvb helps the body produce vitamin d. However you don't need much exposure for your body to produce an adequate amount of vitamin d. Sometimes that's all the body wants. Lightboxes have an entirely different function(related to circadian rhythm etc.) and a tanning bed is certainly no substitute for light therapy.

HOWEVER.. and this is the big however. I do agree that SAD should be monitored by a mental health professional, and I do think that talk therapy etc. can definately help.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2009 8:15:22 PM PDT
Lupus says:
I get SAD too, but I try not to let it get debilitating. It was once observed that German philosophers tended to be a gloomy lot, and largely because of the dull and cloudy winters!
Working out is good, but may I suggest you try meditation? It sure helps me cope with SAD. And take up writing a journal. Meditation, well there's lots of books around on it, and it's largely about NOT THINKING but just becoming aware (aware of your breath, then aware of your mind dogging you with all of those depressing thoughts, etc.). Be aware of your thoughts and where they come from and learn to handle them. If working out and changing lights and meditating and journal-writing don't help you, then you should seriously consider getting professional help. Sometimes it may be due to a chemical or hormonal imbalance and there's not a whole lot you can do about it. But I would try the physical work-out routine along with daily meditation for 15-30 minutes.
Good luck. Me, I write for my own enjoyment, and writing seems to help me work my way out of the blues. Then, too, you want to make sure there's nothing physically wrong with you, so get a good medical check-up if you can.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2009 8:19:35 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Feb 16, 2010 4:31:25 PM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2009 9:10:29 PM PDT
Mia says:

"Fatigue, joint pains, muscle atrophy, weight gain, lethargy, hair loss, nail problems, inability to concentrate, depression and a host of other complaints, yet, the physicians say its not thyroid because the values are "within normal range."

I had my thyroid checked once (not during a SAD episode, though now that I think about it), and they said it was within normal level. But it was my OBGYN... I've never even seen an endocrinologist! I don't think I ever got really sick as a kid and I've never been pregnant (especially before 2nd grade! LOL), but do you think I should still look into it?

I've also occasionally thought about seeing a rhuemtologist, and I've wondered about fibro-myalgia and chronic fatigue (is that even in the PDR?).

The severity of the problem has ALWAYS made me question if it could really be all psychological.

Thank you for all the good information!

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 10:12:14 PM PDT
blueskies says:
Omega 3 helps in depression. You have to take 6 grams of it a day. Watch what brand you buy, or you will be burping
up fish oil taste. Also, a lot of depression is a sleep cycle disturbance, according to research done by Nurenberg at IU School of Medicine. You can help regulate that by low dose of melatonin. (But, you should be evaluated for bipolar illness before you
take melatonin.) Don't take anything that you are allergic to, of course. Exercise,according to reliable research, is just as effective as antidepressants. You need 30 minutes, 3 times a week, at least.
Best of luck.

Posted on Mar 13, 2009 8:54:34 AM PDT
R. Lundregan says:

I also have been diagnosed with SAD. I was diagnosed recently, but I can recall feeling depressed during fall/winter from an early age. At first I took a small dose of Zoloft. It was helpful, but only to a point. I then began light therapy, and for me, that was extremely useful. After a while, it started bothering my eyes as well, so I started counseling with a therapist who took a cognitive behavioral approach. We developed a few behavioral strategies that I could use to help mitigate symptoms. For me, strategies that have been helpful have included a diet that includes lots of veggies and fish at least 2-3 times per week (I prefer this over supplements for omega 3's). It took a while for me to like fish, but I have found a few recipes that I really enjoy. I happen to enjoy spicy food, and hot peppers have been shown to help ease depression. They have an anti-inflammatory quality, which helps to reduce some of the physical pain as well. If you don't like hot stuff, I believe that there are capsaicin supplements available--talk with your doctor first. I also make a point to schedule activities with friends/family throughout my depressive period before I become depressed. My close friends are aware of my issue, and they know that they will sometimes need to twist my arm gently to get me to socialize. I also have taken a part time job that involves physical activity (I teach rock climbing) as a way of ensuring that I get social interaction and exercise. And I run or ride an exercise bike regularly. Between physical activity, "mandatory socialization", and careful diet, I now only use my light a few times per week during my darkest days. I hope this is helpful for you. If you have any questions (or need some good fish recipes), please feel free to ask!

Mia, I know that it is hard to make yourself do these things, and I have called off from my part time job and tried to blow off friends many times because I physically hurt or just didn't have the energy to get up. For me, the keys have been surrounding myself with supportive friends/family, and being proactive--scheduling activities while I am in a good frame of mind.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 13, 2009 11:57:59 AM PDT
You don't need to look at the light. It's the light also hitting your skin. Be sure that you're not wearing turtlenecks in front of it. :-) But anyway, perhaps you've got some psychologically depressing associations with the winter months such as a death, divorce, loss of friends that you've forgotten about that happened way back? You wouldn't necessarily need to even remember the events. Either way, yes, at this point, I would definitely recommend seeing a doctor. It may help to make a list ahead of time of the differences between what you do in the winter vs other times... vacation time, eating differently, certain activities, seeing friends, holiday blues, certain visitors, etc. Creating new associations with the winter months may help such as taking a vacation to someplace sunny, or maybe even up in the snow and get yourself skiing or something. Good luck though. I hope you find some answers soon. :-)

Posted on Mar 13, 2009 12:35:53 PM PDT
I too want to hybernate in winter, sleep all the time, no motivation to clean or start or finish projects. I started going to a nutritionist and had a full blood panel done. I'm anemic for one, and he thinks I have adrenal gland fatigue. So, I'm taking many supplements, will take a full month hormone test next, and an adrenal gland test after that. I also go tanning about once a week making sure there are UVB rays and have been working out a few times a week. Feeling a little improved, but it hasn't been long.

Could you move south? The first chance I get I'm going! My family can visit me there and enjoy the warmth and sunshine. I know I will!

Posted on Mar 13, 2009 4:36:29 PM PDT
texellence says:
I concur with the posting about thyroid

Posted on Mar 13, 2009 4:45:24 PM PDT
it sounds like you have a predisposition for anxiety and worry. I would recommend you see an Integrative Medical Dr. Look for one with great credentials and do your research. Look for someone who does Amino Acid Therapy but make sure you are seeing a Medical dr. and don't make the mistake of Self diagnosing and self medicating.

Posted on Mar 13, 2009 5:23:48 PM PDT
Wow, where do I begin? I am so sorry you are going through this and understand it completely. I work full time during the night by the skin of my teeth, have chronic pain which causes secondary depression. They say I have RA and fibro, but Lupus has also come back positive a time or two. Its frustrating when you have something that is hard to diagnose....people look at you like "you look fine", but they don't see you without your makeup on at home how pale and sick you really are. It does cause severe anxiety knowing you don't feel well and wondering if you can make it through each day. I think I may try the tanning bed idea even though being out in the sun bothers me, this may be different. I wish there were something I could suggest to help. Heating pads help me immensley. I hope you find more answers than I have.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 13, 2009 6:33:31 PM PDT
R. Smith says:
I am sorry you are dealing with SAD, it seems it was a particularly difficult winter - especially for those living in the northeast.

SAD is fixable. Visit your doctor and tell him or her exactly how you feel. I take Celexa for SAD and it's totally changed my life. Lexapro is also prescribed for SAD.

Please don't struggle with this, it really is fixable and in two weeks (took me 5 days) you will feel SO much better.
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