Having done a lot of research into Seasonal Affective Disorder I wanted to hear about other peoples stories and find out how it has affected their life and how they have learnt to cope with the disorder. After publicising a post on Facebook, explaining I was wanting to find someone who suffers from the disorder, so I could hear their story. The post was shared by many and I got a lovely message from Diane.
Diane’s twenties were unhappy – a blur, she says. Married with a job she felt she should be content but she wasn’t. She drank heavily and left her husband when she was 29 years old to sort herself out. She sobered up, saw her doctor and was diagnosed with recurrent depressive disorder. But whatever she did, she ended up in the same bad old place, feeling useless, low and unable to do anything.
Three years ago Diane took up running to improve her fitness. ‘It was spring and I was full of energy – hyper almost – a bit like a mad march hare,’ she says. By the time summer ended, Diane was running about six to seven miles in around 90 minutes. Come September she inexplicably stopped. ‘I had no energy and felt as though I was wading through treacle.’
Next spring she perked up and started running but in the autumn stopped again. The pattern repeated itself until September 2011. ‘Everything was going so well. I had just started a new job and was studying two evenings a week,’ Diane recalls.
Six weeks later she had a breakdown, was tearful, couldn’t concentrate, was forgetful – and again too exhausted to run.
The crisis drove her to do research on the internet where she came across a condition called SAD (seasonal affective disorder) – winter depression linked to lack of sunlight. The symptoms matched hers and she realised there was a pattern to her depression. She took the information about SAD to her doctor who agreed her symptoms fitted SAD – which is a form of recurrent depressive disorder.
Knowing she has SAD has helped Diane. She feels more in control and life isn’t as bad as it was this time last year, she says. Since the beginning of 2012 she’s used a light box to increase her light levels, and she walks outside in daylight as much as she can. She tries to keep her stress levels down and to curb powerful cravings for carbohydrates which she gets in the winter. ‘There’s no cure for SAD, it’s a case of finding out what works best for me. I try not to beat myself up when I can’t do things.’