Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The waning light

Candles light up the dark (1)

The year is winding down. The morning light doesn't come until almost 7am, and it's dark by dinner time. Each night is a bit longer, each day that much shorter. Soon it'll be the longest night... but not yet.

I used to have real issues with depression in December and January. I would be horribly down and prone to crying throughout the entire time. Sometimes I would blame it on external issues (family fights, stress at work, missing a loved one) but that really wasn't the problem. The problem was that my body wasn't dealing well with the low levels of natural daylight and the resulting drop in vitamin D levels in my system.

I would be miserable, and I would drag everyone else along with me. I would snap, shout, burst into tears without warning, and generally make everyone walk on eggshells around me. I don't do that anymore, though.

Part of my getting better was admitting that I had an issue. I started taking an anti-depressant, which has helped me find my own humanity again. I still have ups and downs, but they're not spikes and extremes. For a long time, I felt shame over "failing" to improve my body's chemistry on my own. I think that was a part of the depression, too. Now, I take my pills and slowly work my daily magic to get myself to a place where the pills can go away. But not yet, and not without careful consideration.

The other part of my getting better was that I added things to my lifestyle designed to make me feel more human. Once the darkening days set in, I switch out my usual bedside lamp for a "daylight" lamp. It provides the right kind of light for my body to create its own seretonin and vitamin D. I use it each evening as I read in bed, or work on my cross stitch, or watch a bit of something on Netflix. It helps. I also eat better, exercise, and take a vitamin D supplement. Goodness knows that those three things have done as much for me as anything else!

No matter how good your intentions, though, it's hard to exercise and eat well when you're down in the dark doldrums. It's a cycle, an unfortunate and terrible one. The darkness makes you depressed, which makes you not want to eat right or exercise or do the things you ought to, which makes the depression worse. There has to be a break in the cycle in order to get out of it. For me, the ladder out of my depression pit was my anti-depressant. Armed with a bit of mental space, I was able to make the changes that would begin the slow repair of my body and psyche.

I still have dark days. I cry when I miss my daughter, and I sometimes regret old decisions. I get upset over things, or frustrated with family members. Those dark times are nothing, though, in comparison to what I used to experience.

December is the time when the most people commit suicide. The holidays, when there's such terrible pressure on everyone to look happy and buy buy buy!... well, it doesn't do good things for the depressed person. If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, don't hide it. Reach out. There are people at the National Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255) all the time.

I know it's scary. I know it hurts. I know it seems impossible. I've been there. I know that the idea of having to be strong for one more minute is a type of torture. Please... don't give up. There are people who care about you. *I* care about you. Hold on, and don't hesitate to ask for help if you need it.

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1) Image by Michael Henderson / Wikimedia Commons
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