SAD and Me

The beautiful uptown Somerset Ohio Square.
(Photo: OZinOH)

The shorter days and cooler temperatures darken my mood. My appetite increases and then I want to hibernate. I have felt this way each fall ever since I was a child. I used to think it was because school started again. That may have been part of it, but I realized that I was physically challenging to just get through the days. When I first heard about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) many years ago I was surprised. But I felt a bit relieved that my feelings were not specific to me.

When I first came to the nursing home, one of the nurses discussed seasonal depression and the fact that light therapy was supposed to help. She suggested I try it but I found that the cost for a light was prohibitive.

My sister’s Halloween visit at that time provided a respite from my SAD symptoms. Since it was a beautiful sunny day in the upper 60s she suggested that we go uptown to have lunch. It is no mean feat to get uptown from the nursing home. We headed out; my sister walking and I in my power chair. Uptown is half a mile away and mostly uphill. The two lane state highway leading there is busy. We went part way up the road facing traffic and then we used the sidewalk and traveled as far as I could go on it.

My sister played traffic cop during our trek. We had to be very careful with the cars and trucks whizzing by. But we made it. We had planned to dine at the small snack bar but found that it had two steps and no ramp. Luckily a table and chairs were set up outside. So we had lunch, got some sun, and soaked up local culture. My sister, a world traveler for business and pleasure, told me that the small town here is much like those in Europe where you eat in the town square with traffic buzzing around you.

Our lovely home-cooked lunch and chat made us feel happy and refreshed. Facility staff are always surprised that we like to go on these sojourns uptown. But it is nice having an adventure in the middle of an ordinary day.

My time is limited outdoors especially in bad weather. I need to be busy and outside I can only sit or ride around in my power chair. After an hour I am searching for something to do. Therefore, short weekly outings are better. On outings I enjoy riding in the parking lot. Recently I traveled the quarter-mile between a strip mall and a nearby restaurant by myself. Though I was not on the street I did cross access roads and negotiate steep driveways. I like to do this because it helps me fight the fear factor. During my ride my driver followed in the van at a discrete distance. I usually have no problems because most drivers are courteous. Setting out on my own alone gives me a sense of independence. I do really take responsibility for my own well-being. I think we need that at any age.

I have found other things that lift my mood. I get plenty of rest and I do not oversleep. Napping during the daytime disturbs my sleep pattern at night. For the most part, I stay away from carbohydrates. Sweets are scrumptious, but they slow me down. My body has a hard enough time coping with less daylight. I do eat a few sweets at holiday time but I really try to minimize them or eat fruit instead.

It is easy for me to fall into the SAD fog. I can’t hop in the car for a ride in the country so I compensate by doing beauty routines daily. I also try to take advantage of my version of aromatherapy. I use bath gels with tropical aromas. Since dry skin makes me itchy and nervous, the aides apply creams and lotions liberally. This daily sprucing really helps to improve my mood.

SAD is worse during the holidays. I have spent many holidays here that can be difficult. I miss my family and being home. It took me a long time to learn that I do not have to go anywhere on holidays and that home is a feeling not a place. I now make holiday plans for myself. This year on the weekend after Thanksgiving I will be writing, making my Christmas list, and window shopping online.

I do shop but I do not buy many Christmas gifts. My family usually visits me and we enjoy ourselves. That is our gift to each other. We exchange gifts of photos, mementos, or nifty items that are useful and practical. Since I have little to spend I have learned to be creative. This year because of the bad economy and higher store prices, I look around for the best deals. I also do not stress myself thinking about buying gifts. Instead I try to make plans to creatively decorate my room for the holidays. But I do enjoy thinking of my loved ones while I search for a useful gift to make them smile.

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