Posted by: ImpendingDawn | October 26, 2010

S.A.D.

Seasonal Affective Disorder.

S.A.D. is defined as a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or, less frequently, in the summer, spring or autumn, repeatedly, year after year. An apt abbreviation, is it not? (and oh yeah, yay for Wikipedia!)

I was first informed of this disorder by my mother, who felt the need to tell me about it after I admitted that I have been struggling with depression for a fair amount of time now. While I do admit that my symptoms of depression are more pronounced in the winter months (and during dreary weather in general), one of the criteria for this disorder is a lack of non-seasonal major depressive episodes. Being that this past summer has been one of the most violently depressed times of my life, it doesn’t seem that S.A.D. is completely applicable.

So, while I would love to say, “Okay, the reason I’m feeling this deep self-loathing and hopelessness and have cut myself five times today is because the weather is shitty and I have Seasonal Affective Disorder,” I just can’t do that in good conscience. Those feelings don’t just disappear on sunny days. Sure, they’re easier to deal with, but – as much as my mother might want me to – I can’t just hide under this fancy name.

Well, that’s what I thought at least.

Then today, I spent a wonderful afternoon with a friend. I was feeling more unmotivated and under the weather than usual (no pun intended!) but I pushed those feelings out of my mind. …And then I got home. I looked at the snow and the slush and the dreary sky and became so tired I could barely move. My head was pounding, numbness permeated my chest, and I wished for all I was worth that I had not made a commitment to stop cutting. 36 days was too long to go without some release.

My dad chose this time to tell me he wanted to sit and have a nice conversation with me. I declined, telling him I thought the weather had made me feel worn out and I just wanted to go to sleep. He looked at me with a blank expression on his face. “Dad, have you ever heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder? Mom thinks I have it.”

He snorted, looked at me with a mixture of irritation and contempt. “No you don’t. You’re being ridiculous.”

And there I was, bristling, stuck between tears and anger. I had been caught hiding under a disorder. I had done exactly what I most loathed other people doing: classified my feelings and trapped myself in a box. 

Why?

Why do we, as humans, have such a compulsion to justify our feelings? Why is it so important to have a name, a disorder, a reason? Why are the feelings themselves never enough?

I’ve been considering the idea of counseling for a few years now, but have never actually gone through with it. I sat down the other day and tried to figure out why that was. With help, I might be able to go for a whole day without needing to convince myself to not cut. I might even be put on medication and told that I really do have clinical depression and it’s amazing that I’ve lasted this long without professional attention.

But I might be wrong. They might tell me I’m perfectly normal; I have no disorder. They might take away every illusion I’ve surrounded myself with and tell me that I really am fine and there is absolutely no reason why I’m plagued with such feelings of despair and self-loathing.

Why do we feel that we need permission for our emotions? So maybe I don’t have S.A.D. and maybe I’m not clinically depressed. So what? That doesn’t change the fact that I can’t seem to banish this despair. That doesn’t change the fact that I have experienced deeper feelings of depression on dreary days than clear ones.

But I suppose if I need the permission, here it is.

I, Alexandria, hereby give myself (and anyone else who feels they need it) permission to feel anger, despair, and self-loathing. Along with this comes permission to feel happiness, hope, and love.

Well, there you have it! Permission from a stranger to feel emotions you felt already! Don’t you feel honored?!

…No? Well, you should. And that, my friends, is that.

(From strangers to friends in two sentences. Don’t you wish it was always that easy? Okay, I’m seriously done talking now.)

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