Winter/Summer SAD

So yesterday, after a horrible week of feeling unable to settle down, I sat under my therapy light for the first session of the season. It was also a sunny day, after a few rainy days. A crisp, cool, perfect autumn day, but I didn’t venture outside until the afternoon, so I’m not sure how much that affected me, but it should be noted.

Those two small changes — weather and the lamp — were enough to put a new skip in my step. Nothing else changed. I still had to leave the house (although I got to stay at home for the whole day and didn’t go out until the evening, to something I always enjoy, teaching knitting). But I felt sooo much better.

The anxiety subsided, even though I’m still waiting to hear back on my proposal. The pressures that I’d be trying, with no success, to let go of, finally melted away. I still have about 10 projects on the go, all of which I normally enjoy but were feeling like a weight around my neck. But now, after sitting under my lamp, they feel fun again. I feel back in charge of my life, able to set things aside and choose just one thing to do. I call that a success.

Apparently, it isn’t unusual to feel the effects of the light therapy so quickly. It can take longer for some than others, so I guess I’m lucky so far. Or maybe it’s my high sensitivity kicking in to help me.

The Winter Blues book has alluded a couple times to people who are more sensitive to certain things, like weather and cloud patterns, temperatures, and the changing seasons. I wonder if there’s a connection between being an HSP and having SAD. Some days, I wish I were a researcher because I just have so many questions! Instead, I’ll admire and be thankful for the people who have the  ability to stick things out and explore their subjects so deeply. I will read as many words from them as I can.

But this question of whether having sensory processing sensitivity is connected to mood in this way (in addition to the ones Elaine Aron talks about in her book, The Highly Sensitive Person) is enough to make me wonder. I’ve been wanting to start a journal detailing environmental factors — like the weather, length of day, what I eat, sleep quality and length, how much coffee I drink, whether I go out or not, the state of tidiness in the house — and how they may affect my mood. Maybe now is the time.

In Winter Blues, Dr. Rosenthal classifies a couple types of seasonality. I was really surprised to read that some people feel worse in the summer, not the winter. And there is another group of people who feel awful in both winter AND summer. At first glance, I wrote those categories off as “not me,” but the more I read about it, the more it dawned on me: before we installed our central air conditioning, I hated summer. I basically existed as best I could and tried to endure it, but breathed a sigh of relief when it was over. My ability to function and deal with life in general decreased during the summer months, too. I think I might be one of those winter/summer seasonal people. Which means that my best times of year are spring and fall. But in fall, my winter SAD starts around October, so my windows of feeling-great-time are really small. And they’re easily interrupted by the high sensitivity acting up if I don’t really limit my stimulation.

This explains so much of my life.

I’m sooo glad I know these things now. I can actually do something about them to make my life flow better! Tomorrow, I’ll start writing about the things I’ve been doing that are helping me.