SAD is one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with

For those who don’t know, SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. Sometimes known colloquially as ‘the winter blues’, this chirpy nickname can be misleading. SAD is, ultimately, when a period of major depression recurs every winter – it’s more than feeling a bit down that you aren’t on holiday anymore.

Not many people know about SAD, or truly grasp the seriousness of it. Most people feel a little bit worse in winter – and there’s no shame in feeling down because it’s not as sunny and the days aren’t as long! If you’re feeling upset in the wintertime, bogged down by the dark and cold, you shouldn’t feel as though your feelings are no longer ‘valid’ or ‘important’ in the face of those suffering from SAD. It still sucks to be sad, even if you’re just sad without experiencing a serious mental illness.

But people need to understand that it’s more than just missing summer when you’re in bed crippled with lethargy, unable to see the point in getting up, hardly able to wash and dress.

For me, the worst part of SAD is knowing that it’s coming and being completely powerless to do anything. Right now, I’m at one of the most stable points in my life. I’ve got the best friends, I’m in a great place mentally, and I’ve got exciting plans for the next few years. But I just know that in two months – if I follow the pattern that’s been in place for the last six years – I’ll be lucky to get out of bed before midday.

As I said, I’m in a good place right now, so I’m trying to stay positive, and I’m hoping that maybe this year it won’t happen, or it won’t be as bad. But I’m sure you can imagine that waiting with bated breath to see if I’ll feel suicidal for four months isn’t exactly pleasant anyway. Arguably, I’m more anxious about it this year as I feel I’ve worked so hard to stabilise my mental health that there’s a lot more at stake this time.

As I mentioned, SAD features a lot of lethargy. But what does that feel like, exactly?

The best description is feeling as though I’m wading through mud when trying to do anything. Literally anything. Often, when doing something simple such as making a cup of tea or dressing, I’ll watch my hands and feel as though I’m moving in slow motion. Last year, my SAD was the worst it’s ever been, and I felt so exhausted that even just standing in the shower proved difficult and I’d usually have to sit on the floor.

And that’s just the exhaustion that comes from existing and looking after yourself. So consider the exertion required to do something like go to work or uni and actually concentrate.

So keep an eye out for your friends who seem a bit quieter than usual this winter – you never know what they might be going through.

If you’re struggling, visit your GP to see what they can do to help you. And you can always chat confidentially to mental health charity Mind at any time, day or night.

Serena Smith

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