Seasonal Affective Disorder

sarahs!!

So there’s the real case of seasonal affective disorder. Mine typically falls in the summer. Most everyone else I know has it during the winter. But y’all, for a woman with a diagnosed sweating disorder summer is zero fun in the south…ZERO. So summer tends to be on the grumpy side for me in some ways, but alas, there’s not a thing I can do about the seasons except wait it out and look forward to fall.

The same holds true in seasons of life we find ourselves in. I was thinking about it this morning, as I am wrestling with a particular season I am finding myself in. I am attempting to wrestle my way out of them but just like the weather seasons, I am seeing I have to work through them and be patient for the next season of life.

What I am finding out though is that deep sadness about the changes of season are overtaking me, just as they do for those with S.A.D. in relation to the weather. I have wanted to socially withdraw, and have for a large part over the last few months. I have chosen a mindset of hopelessness rather than being filled with hope at the view of the season. And very similar to S.A.D. it is caused most commonly by the lack of Light.

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation-whom should I fear? The Lord is the Stronghold of my life-whom should I dread? (Psalm 27:1, CSB)

 

In the season I am currently in, the lack of Light that I have allowed to affect me has been rather unsettling. It’s led to some old behaviors I thought I had turned from years ago, and much of my former self is starting to seep back in…a self that was about controlling the outcome and future, a self that was reliant only upon itself and not upon God, a self that chose it’s own whims over the priorities of God and the urgings of the Spirit. It’s been a season of quiet in many regards that has left me wondering whether I am alone in this, but finally realizing that I have chosen that for myself…and only for self has that been the choice.

When I reduce the Light I so desperately desire daily in a season, then I become akin to this disorder and the hopelessness that it exudes. Seasons are hard to navigate in life, and some last for far longer than we’d like, much like summer in the South. One thing remains though, the need for the Light in our lives throughout the season, to give hope, to draw us to one another and to fight the lies that we are alone in the heat of it all.

Behind These Hazel Eyes

Yesterday I had to laugh at the irony of that Kelly Clarkson song coming on my iPod as I struggled to walk on the treadmill. Last week I started run-training again after giving it up for 10 months. Every day I promised myself, “Today’s the day you start back training. You’re gonna be a runner, at least for 5K.” So in the midst of a busy season of life I need to reign in my mind and get back to running. Even though I have allergy and sinus crud beating me for the last week, I ran three days last week. I felt my normal self creeping back into the picture and I never felt better, mentally.

That’s when I normally trigger…when things begin to shift back into good. For years I have battled and struggled with this ugly word no one likes to talk about. The moment you say it, you see people look at you differently, you see their minds shift into diagnosis and images of straight jackets. I have a very mild form of anxiety. I am lucky, and I count myself in that category often. It could be so much worse, and I could be non-functioning and paralyzed with depression far more often.

In total, up until now, three people knew this. My family did not even know. I went to a counselor for a few years prior to moving to Nashville…and have not gone back since. The move to Nashville seemed to push the anxiety away, and really stayed at bay.

Until this last month.

I have had two panic attacks within the last month and I should have seen it rearing back up. I had gotten to a place where I would only talk halfsies, as my counselor used to say. I would get out half of what was going on in my head, and allow the other half to stay whirling and mutating inside. I grind my teeth, clench my hands together, and get intense migraines. Those are my coping mechanisms for my anxiety. Most people just think I do those out of habit…yes, it’s a habit of coping.

The one most people don’t know, and I never talk about, is why I felt the need to write this post. My other coping mechanism goes against the grain of who most people know me to be. I am normally extroverted and chatty for the most part. Yesterday though, on top of still not feeling well, I coped through quiet introversion. It’s the worst coping method I use from what my counselor used to tell me as it tends to make me come off angry, snobbish, or rude. I had someone comment yesterday that they thought I was mad at them because I hadn’t spoken to them. If only this individual knew. If they knew that the moment I opened my mouth to speak to them, I feared losing it. I feared my anxiety letting loose and everything coming bubbling out. (Yes, I know that’s exactly what I need to be doing, but in that moment of yesterday, I couldn’t…I just could not) This person knows me well enough that I couldn’t fool them with an “I’m fine” response and walk away. For better or worse, I could not get away with that facade with them. I love that I have that kind of person in my life, just not on days when I am fighting hardest to keep my anxiety tightly locked behind my eyes.

So now, here I am, telling the entire interwebs something deeply personal because it’s something I am currently struggling with. Something that, in the South and in the church, we don’t like to discuss. We like to keep our secrets quiet, lest we be the town and the church fodder for gossip. I am a functioning, loving, human who believes in God. I love my family and church, friends and neighbors. But I struggle with anxiety.

Today you may find yourself in a similar struggle. Know that it is okay to talk about it, to seek counseling and not bear the burden alone. That is the greatest lie this world will tell you about mental illness…if you would talk with someone about treatments when you have a cold, why not when you have a mind issue? Today you may encounter someone who is in this struggle. Who wonders if they should talk about it, who believes the lie they are all alone in this struggle. Be kinder. Be gentler. But most of all, be understanding that this is a hurting world and we are all carrying around a load we wish we did not have to bear alone.