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With the change of seasons …


Something was wrong. Sheila could feel it but she just couldn’t define it. She should be happy. She had a husband who went to work everyday. She had two children she loved with all of her heart. They bought their first home. What more did she want? She was 26 years old and certain that, by spring, she would be dead. She began to remove herself from the picture so that when she died she would not leave a hole in the fabric of the family.

            She would never commit suicide. She had been convinced that God would never forgive her or let her into heaven if she killed herself. And really, she did not want to die.

            The holidays were coming. The decorating, parties and family gatherings distracted her but when all of the Christmas lights and glitz were packed away in early January, her mood slipped again. She began , again, to distance herself from the people she loved.

            What was wrong with her? What was her purpose in life? How could she fix whatever was wrong with her if she couldn’t define the problem?

            The problem began as late summer daylight grew less and less and winter was not very distant. The time change in early November shortened daylight by another hour. But, in January the magazines that she read regularly explained SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder or otherwise known as winter blues. When she recognized her symptoms and could attach a label to the problem she could understand and begin to help herself, to find her way back to her contented state. She breathed a lot easier.

            SAD is a type of depression that causes some people to experience serious mood changes, advises the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). There isn’t enough natural sunlight. Symptoms vary from person to person and include:

  • Sadness, anxiety, empty feelings
  • Hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feel guilty, worthless, helpless
  • Irritable, restless
  • No longer enjoy things that you used to
  • Fatigue, exhaustion
  • Hard to concentrate, remember details and make decisions
  • Can’t sleep or sleep too much
  • Weight changes
  • Thoughts of death, suicide

NIMH says light therapy may help, but about half of those who try light therapy do not benefit from it. Sometimes anti-depressants and talk therapy are also needed. Women are more likely than men to experience SAD. The symptoms begin in late autumn and winter. To manage SAD, NIMH recommends getting enough rest and eating healthy. If medications have been prescribed for the condition, start them and manage the side effects. If depression worsens, get help right away. Don’t use drugs or alcohol because they will just make the problem worse. Talk to someone you trust about how you feel.

When the seasons change, the condition will right itself, but with treatment things improve more quickly.

The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) now provides a crisis text line in Ohio. Text the keyword “4hope” to 741 741 to be connected to a crisis counselor. Any person in need of help in coping with a stressful situation can use this free service.

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