S.A.D.

I have S.A.D. That is Seasonal Affective Disorder. It can’t have taken much thought to come up with that acronym, but I expect it was satisfying for the inventor. I have had it my whole life, but I didn’t know until they gave it a name, and after I was found unconscious on the floor a couple of times. Then people started suggesting ‘I get a lamp’. Trust me, small lamps don’t work.

Moving to Australia helped a lot. Generally you feel healthier, but there are seasons there too and if I get a run of dark days, I am ready to curl up in bed and never move again. And this thing is not tied to seasons either. A lot of sufferers get it in summer too. Mine kicks in about August/September. Unfortunately, I made things worse by working backstage in the Opera House, with whole days in darkness for weeks at a time. I found it comforting to sit under the stage lamps when no one was around.

I was hoping my recent trip to Portugal, and the sort of temperatures I am accustomed to, would really help. Sadly, it made things so much worse. I can’t explain this, but I think the transition from one light level to another over a short period was so disruptive that it reduced me to a miserable, non-communicating puddle curled up on the floor at the airport. The thought of coming back to the weaker light levels of the UK left me feeling suicidal. The clocks going back in a month’s time is an event I am approaching with real terror.

It is so hard to explain to the people close to you what is going on with you when you simply withdraw from them. The chances of them sympathising or understanding is nil. You are seen as being anti-social or ‘sulking’. If you explain the problem, you get the helpful ‘lamp’ suggestion.

So what do I do? Eat lots of fish and take vitamin D; in the long term it helps. What seems to ease things is to be in front of the computer, where I can control a consistent light level. My virtual world is a sanctuary I retreat to daily. Television is out of the question as the flickering sends me mad with rage, and fluorescent ceiling lights will make me curl up like a dying flower and bite people. My virtual retreat is frequently the only alternative to sobbing helplessly. When I came to the UK, I don’t think I had considered how bad it might become as I had been overseas most of my adult life. Here the light levels change hourly. The cold is fine, as long as I get a consistent brightness throughout the day, which is hardly ever. Australia is more consistent but I still have to deal with the artificial light of a working environment.

Lots of kind doctors and therapists over the years have regarded me like I am a small alien creature in unfathomable pain. Sometimes I cannot explain why it hurts or where; I just know it does. They suggest diets; okay done – tick that, and what about drugs; no won’t take them, I get side effects – uncooperative patient. Once these things are considered you get an information sheet and are sent away to buy an expensive lamp that does not work, for me anyway.

So what to do? It seems we need a place, where all the S.A.D people can live in houses with huge windows and daily helpings of fish. I check potential new locations for sunlight hours per day. It is really all I can do anymore, other than cope with a condition that you can’t see or effectively treat, in a world where no one understands where it hurts.