Seasonal affective disorder and winter depression
Welcome to the lovely Tamara’s month-to-month depression diary. She’s suffered from S.A.D. and her mood changes wildly over the year – from anxiety and insecurity in September through to depression in December and mania in January. She got help from loved ones after trying to kill herself. Read more.
I have a bit of a story to share.
Just over a year ago, I was a bit of a mess, to put it lightly. I have suffered from severe S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder) all my life. It’s like a kind of like depression in the winter months, and may sound easy to deal with, but it’s not. I experience many, many symptoms, and I am affected in a different way depending on what time of year it is.
Here’s a basic calendar of how S.A.D. makes me feel:
August: Great. It’s sunny, and I’m, bubbly, excitable and happy. However I often feel like everyone else is going reeeeeaaaaalllllyyyy sllllooooowwwwwllly, while I am bouncing off the walls. This makes me frustrated sometimes. But generally, the summer’s fine.
September: At the start of September, I get infrequent panic attacks. I also get really paranoid about stuff. Actually, paranoid is a more serious thing. Okay, I get insecure about stuff: friends, boys etc.
October: The anxieties in September mean that I have lower self-esteem by now. I tend to make up for this (stupidly) by putting other people down. I’m not proud of this, but it’s true. I insult my friends, torment my brother, and generally am an angry girl. I’m lucky that my friends (a few especially) understand my feelings and don’t blame me for them. My parents are a different story, however. Last year, my constant rudeness meant that I was arguing with my mum almost every night and morning, before and after school.
November: More of the same, except I am sinking into more of a depressed state of mind now. In November 2006, on one particular occasion I broke my pencil sharpener (I was in school), took out the blade, and went to the toilets, where I sat in the cubicle and cut my wrist. I want to clarify that it wasn’t any ‘Emo’ statement, I wasn’t trying to get attention, although I was later called an attention-seeker for it. I was actually trying to kill myself. I was in a kind of trance like state. I screwed up my face and closed my eyes, turning away as I sliced. I cut a vein, and I bled like a fountain. This made me snap out of it. There was blood all over the floor, all over my clothes – I panicked like crazy. I remember calling out, “Help!” to the girls outside the cubicle, none of whom I knew. They were in the year above me. I changed my mind about getting their help, pulled my sleeve down, leaving the cubicle covered in my blood, and left the toilets to find a friend to help me. I wasn’t crying. The stuff afterwards is a bit of a blur, but I remember approaching a group of my friends, and according to what I was told later, collapsing just before them. I don’t know whether it was the loss of blood, or just the shock. I remember being back in the toilets with my friend who washed my wrist under the tap and bandaged it up, while I stood and shook. I remember another friend throwing up in a cubicle after seeing the blood.
After all that, I can understand the labels I got given. It was all very dramatic, and I guess from another person’s point of view, pointless. I didn’t have a good reason, no-one had died, my family was together, I wasn’t being bullied. But I hated myself, I hated myself so much, but at the same time loved myself so arrogantly that it drove people away.
December: Depression, and an inability to get out of bed for most of it. But, the end of December/ start of January is an amazing time, really. I lose all inhibitions. For the most part, this is a good thing; I wear bright, sparkly make up, equally bright, sparkly clothing, I run, I laugh, I’m loud. But I’m also pretty much mad. I talk to imaginary people. I confess, I do this most of the time, but in this instance, they become more than imaginary. I spent two days over New Year last year (06-07) when my parents were away, with Noel Fielding and Russell Brand, and my Nelly Furtado album on repeat, dancing and chatting away. I woke up on January 2nd covered in paint. Seriously.
January: After my mad period, I go back to depression, and a feeling of guilt even though I may not have done anything wrong. I also get a overwhelming urge to escape. I travel on the school bus, looking out the window wishing I could be free from my monotonous life. Wishing I could run, and see the world. I’m not thinking clearly or logically. I don’t think about how I will eat, or where I will sleep.
February: Last year, on February the 14th , at two in the morning, I went out the back door and walked to the next village in my dressing gown, bra and jeans with two of my lovely, but a bit rough around the edges, boy mates, one of whom I really fancied, the other who fancied me. They had alcohol, and I got very drunk very quickly. I did end up naked. I got back home without my parents finding out, but I felt terrible all day, both physically and emotionally. Then a week later, on the 20th, I actually climbed out my window with a bag packed and ran away. This story is so long I will save it for another time.
I got home eventually, but I really hurt both my parents, my mum especially. She’s never forgiven me. It was a school night, so she came in the morning to wake me to find a open window and an empty bed. Knowing that I did that to her makes me want to cry. I love my mum. I was a selfish, horrible bytch. I never did it because of her. I wasn’t thinking, straight or otherwise.
That’s last year. On October the 15th 2007, one of my friends asked me out. I’d been out with him before, but never really liked him like that. He is such a sweet guy, but at that time that just wasn’t attractive. I liked good-looking, arrogant guys. I never loved them, but I lusted like mad. Anyway, back on subject. He asked me out. I said yes. It was October, he knew about my S.A.D. and I was hoping he would take care of me. And he did. I called him up countless times, crying, shouting… anything. I screamed at him, I hit him, I blamed him. I pretended to love him. He never yelled back, if I hit him he would hug me. He would listen to me rant and rage all night, never complaining. He told me I was beautiful, even if I had mascara all over my face. Even if I said he was an ugly, fat bastard (which I did on one occasion).
I’d heard about a herbal remedy that made S.A.D. manageable. I wanted a lightcube, but I couldn’t afford one. My boyfriend bought me a bottle of the medicine, even though it was expensive. He said he would do anything if it would help make me happy. How, HOW, did I not adore him then? I took the medicine every day. I went out with my boyfriend to the same town every Saturday. We would walk, talk, make up things to do, build up rapports with stall owners and shop keepers, listen to music on our iPods, and I would dance and sing in the street. He would go in antique shops with me (what other 16 year old boy would do that?), sit by the river with me, we would have picnics and talk to ducks. We discovered something new and exciting every weekend, and have coffee in Costa.
Yet it was only recently I realised I did love him, and that when I told him I wasn’t lying.
I know in this article I haven’t come across in the best light, but that doesn’t matter as long as he has. I stopped taking my medicine after a few days. But I no longer suffered with S.A.D. as strongly as I had. I barely realised it was there.
I’m not sure he realises how much I have to thank him for. He has changed me for the better. He was in that group of friends who I collapsed in front of. He saw me at my worst, and he still wanted me. The day after I ran away, he came to see me. I had no make up on, my hair was a mess, and my eyes were puffy from crying and sleep deprivation, but all he cared about was that I was okay. He bought me sweets. I have seen him every weekend for months. I can still talk to him about anything. He still loves me just as much as he always has.
My message at the end of this long, drawn out story is this: they may not be the most exciting, sexy boys, but you should be with someone who loves you no matter what you look like or how grumpy, sad or crazy you are. Someone who knows you inside out. I’m a lucky girl.