SAD, Depressed Christians.
I have some friends who love this change in the seasons. They LOVE winter! For them winter means cozy nights by the fire sipping egg nog, snow angels, beautiful lights and Christmas displays decorating the neighbourhood, hockey games on TV, weekends spent skiing and snowshoeing, SUPERBOWL!!!!, family get togethers and gift exchanges and joy to the world and peace on earth.
But for others…
…winter means darkness…
As the days grow shorter, their feelings of despair grow bigger. As the temperature drops so does their happiness.
I am one of the latter. Give me sun please.
For most of my adult life I have suffered from seasonal affective disorder, or “SAD” for short. Aptly named, since those who suffer from SAD are clinically depressed, to varying degrees. For me it is usually quite mild, just a feeling of discontent with life circumstances and an increase in my desire for carbs and sugar. Usually, for me, SAD does not kick in until around the end of January, and it only lasts a couple of months….and last year I did not really experience it at all. This year however, the effects are kicking in really early, starting already a number of weeks ago.
I have tried to figure out why this is. There are lots of possibilities:
- About 7 years ago, I was diagnosed with PTSD and moderate depression, received counselling therapy for both, and changed my lifestyle to include exercise and healthy eating. Also, I have grown a lot spiritually since that time. So I do have a history of depression, but since that time, I have not presented any symptoms of depression except for during my mostly mild SAD episodes.
- There have been a couple big life changes: New Job and new baby.
- Also, I am not exercising much.
- My office at work is tinted with mirrored glass, so there is no natural light getting in. Could that be it? I don’t know.
As my turn on this merry go round begins, I will keep my focus on Christ and on God’s promises to us in his Word, because every trial is designed by God to draw us closer to him. And that is my hope in this trial. If history is any indicator, mine won’t be that intense, or even that noticeable, unless you are married to me…ahem…
But if you do happen to notice me in my melancholy, or have a loved one who suffers from depression, whether it is SAD or otherwise, here are some tips for you if you want to help.
- Pray. With us. For us.
- Just because we can see it starting does not mean we can stop it or even really do anything about it. Yes I will go to a counselor or my pastor if it comes to it. Yes I will pray. Yes I will read my Bible. Yes I will try to go for a jog and use a blue light…just shushshush…shhhh. Stop with the advice! (Although if a loved one is suffering from major depression, you should lovingly and carefully point them to help.)
- Please do not judge us. A depressed person is not lazy. A depressed person not weak. A depressed person has depression. Just because I want to sit in my shorts and do nothing does not mean I am lazy. Depression often manifests itself as an inability to do the things one normally does. Depression is not that she just doesn’t feel like doing anything – she actually can’t do it.
- Please don’t tell us to snap out of it, we can’t just snap out of it, and we may snap at you (if we have any energy at all… )
- Don’t take my being distant personally, or blame it on my introversion. If you reach out, I may pull away. Just go with it. Don’t leave, don’t turn your back, don’t think I am mad at you. I love you, but not right now please. And please keep trying….and bring baking…
- Stop trying to fix me. Just be there. Bring coffee…and baking…lots of baking…and leave some when you go…
- If this year ends up being more severe than just my typically mild SAD moody sugar cravings, please don’t let my problems drain you. Set boundaries. It is important that you don’t let another person’s depression consume you. Carefully point out the symptoms and direct them to seek help.
- Read this book by David Murray: Christians Get Depressed Too
- Bring baking…
The mere fact that I took the time to write this is indicative that my SAD is still pretty mild…although I should be writing my final term paper instead of this blog post…
In the coming weeks, once the semester is over, I won’t read or blog much and I will spend less time on social media. When I feel this coming on I know it is time to relax my mind, seek peace and quiet, focus on personal devotions, be with family, exercise daily, eat well, and sleep well.
Time to get back at my term paper. Oh…and If you enjoy this time of year, enjoy it! Don’t let me bring you down. While you enjoy your skiing, Christmas lights, and hockey games…. I will be pining for summer. One thing I do like about winter other than all the baking?
Bitterballen. (It’s a Dutch thing)
Lots of it.
Please leave some when you go…
Also please note that I am not a counselor or a therapist, I am just a guy who has dealt with it on a small scale in his own life – if you are struggling with depression ,and it is affecting your life, please seek professional help.