Mental health

#BellLetsTalk About Seasonal Depression

It’s February. For me, this month and the one after it are very tricky. My depression hits during February and March of every year since around my second year in university.

My second year of university I was having a bit of trouble with my mental health. I was up, I was down, and I was constantly anxious. I was living alone and had no friends on campus I could confide in. I was managing things well for someone who had no idea what was going on or why she felt or thought the way she did. On February 15, my car broke down with roughly $500 worth of repairs and my boyfriend at the time wanted to take a break. It was enough to send me even deeper into my depression and I became suicidal. I’d already recognized that I was depressed in the days leading up that day and attempted to seek help, but the wait lists were long and the places I could get into I couldn’t afford even with the sliding scale rates.

After the car got fixed and I went back to campus, I was struggling. It got to the point where I had a plan on how to take my life. I don’t recall the events leading up to it, but I ended up being moved back home and placed on antidepressants. I continued my studies, got better, eventually got off of the medication a year or so later after my situational depression, as it was dubbed, subsided. Since then, I’ve been pretty well.

That said, I have noticed something in the last few years: every year around February and March, I struggle. I used to call it the Spring Semester Curse because every spring semester in undergrad, I’d end up with an awful professor that made things much harder than it should, something in my life would go awry, and it’d generally be a rough semester. Once I entered grad school, the professors were much nicer and easier to handle, yet spring semester still required me to put in much more effort than other semesters with similar workloads. I noticed that things would get better by the time April rolled around, and my dips in mood and concentration—my depression—wouldn’t come back until the following February. It was curious to me. I assumed I was down because I had to start courses after a holiday, and that I felt better because the semester was almost over. I never actually looked into it. I recently learned about Seasonal Affective Disorder and how it can impact those with fibromyalgia, and suddenly a lightbulb went off.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is basically depression that rears its head around the same time of year every year. I was under the misconception that it only happens during the winter. I thought there was no way that I could have this as the climate where I live doesn’t necessarily have what some would call a typical winter with cold and clouds. In actuality, SAD may occur during any season or time of year, including the summer. It seems that my seasonal depression crops up in the early spring between February and March and dissipates by April. I’m not sure why it’s chosen those two months. Part of me can’t help but wonder if that stressful time six years ago has something to do with it. Perhaps my therapist can help me get to the bottom of the cause.

Towards the end of January, I could feel my mood and thoughts beginning to shift in the way they’ve done every year before. It sounds strange to say, but by knowing that SAD exists and pinpointing that it’s what I’ve been experiencing, I prepared for the depression going into February. I made sure I had the music that best helps me ready for listening, I’m writing poetry daily, and I made an appointment with my therapist. In previous years, checking in with someone weekly about how I felt and writing got me through the dip. I added the extra step of texting friends I trust and let them in on what’s happening and told them to keep an eye on me until it passes. For me, this is enough. If it’s not, I’m prepared to get a doctor involved and weigh my options for antidepressants.

I’m telling my story for two reasons. One, Bell Let’s Talk occurred on January 25th, and it’s important to continue the conversation about mental health even though the day is over.

Two, because Seasonal Affective Disorder isn’t given enough attention, and when it is, it’s often brushed aside as something that only occurs in the winter. I believe it’s important for others to know that seasonal depression can happen any time of the year. If you notice that you feel depressed every year during the same time of year, you might consider if you have SAD.

Finally, if you’re feeling depressed, anxious, or having any mental health troubles, talk to someone you trust or speak to someone professional if you have the ability. Remember, you’re not inconveniencing anyone and you are worth it.

#BEllletstalkAbout SeasonalDepression

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