Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder - The Bipolar Question of the Week

John McManamy Health Guide
  • It’s that time of year to be mindful of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Those of us with bipolar are sitting ducks for this condition. Last week, we turned back our clocks and the lights seemed to go out. The sun went down way too early, and when it deigned to reappear it hung lower in the sky, dimmer and less inviting.

    One of my worst experiences was a year I spent in Vancouver, BC back in the mid-seventies. Vancouver is a beautiful city, but for a good deal of the year it is shrouded in dank Stygian gloom. This was long before I was aware I had bipolar. Likewise, back then, the experts had yet to connect light to mood. I found myself descending into a state of functional madness, somehow able to work and stay in a relationship, but completely out of sync with the world around me. Slowly, the darkness closed in.

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    I could never have survived another year like that. Perhaps I would have adapted, but I’m not about to experiment with that. My next move found me in a New Zealand spring, and suddenly my world turned right side up. I was going to make it.

    I’ve been living in southern CA for nearly five years, only about 15 miles from the Mexican border. Not uncoincidentally, my time here has coincided with the best mental health of my life. You would think that SAD wouldn’t be a problem here, but yes - even though winter is virtually non-existent there is a discernible shift in the seasons. Our sunlight supply has been rationed and even we in California need to adjust.

    A light box is not part of my SAD strategy, but long afternoon walks are (which also kill several birds with one stone in the form of exercise and fresh air and stress management). I work from home, and also make it a point to step away from my desk at regular intervals and out into the sunlight. These blasts of light work wonders for me.

    Those of you living in harsher climates face far greater challenges. So maybe you can help us out. Question:

    What is your strategy for coping with seasonal affective disorder?

    Please feel free to describe your experiences in detail. Comments below.


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Published On: November 13, 2011