Last night I had a hard time sleeping. I tossed and turned until finally I did what you’re never supposed to do: I reached for my phone from my bedside table. I began browsing about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and it confirmed what I’ve suspected for several years now. I struggle with seasonally affected moods. I learned that I have many of the hallmarks of SAD:
- Begins in September-October with a noticeable dip in mood
- Worsens until March
- Disappears with an elevated mood and renewed energy almost overnight – within 1-2 weeks when spring arrives in April/May
- Characterized by carb cravings, decreased energy, increased sleeping, general sense of irritability and loss of enjoyment in previously enjoyed activities
- 70% more likely for women than men
- Less common in countries close to the equator (Might this include states, too – any of my Florida or So. Cal. friends struggle with SAD?)
The next question is what to do about it? The almost unanimous agreement is that light therapy is the #1 way to combat it. (Outdoor exercise and healthy eating are also helpful.) So next on my list is purchasing a light lamp. For you my readers, do you have any experience with a light lamp? Any particular one you would recommend or not? I have a friend here who loves hers, and says as long as it’s 10,000 lumens, I’m good to go. Worth noting from my middle-of-my-sleepless-night research is that optimal light therapy looks like 30-45 minutes of exposure to the light lamp first thing in the morning, with noticeable results within 3-5 days and for as long as you continue with light therapy.
This got me thinking about what’s the spiritual benefit of my struggle with SAD. What SAD does for me is reveal my heart, exposing aspects of my life that I wouldn’t choose to see if I stayed relatively emotionally “happy” or positive most of the time. I came up with 7 heart-revealing truths about SAD:
- SAD exposes my tendency to overly depend on my emotions instead of God
- SAD reveals how I idolize happiness
- SAD demonstrates my over-desire to escape all forms of suffering instantly (get me a light lamp STAT!)
- SAD reminds me that my natural bent is to turn inward and isolate myself instead of reach out for help to God and others
- SAD forces me to accept the reality of a world in which all is not perfect – where brokenness and literal darkness exists
- SAD shows me in living color the way that I try to blame those around me for the problems within me (exhibit A: increased irritability toward my kids and my husband)
- SAD becomes a metaphor for life without light – a built-in reminder that as much as my body and emotions need physical sunlight, even more so my soul needs the Light of the World, the Sunrise from on high, to dwell within me and illuminate my life.
I will continue to research a good light lamp, but I want to also engage God with my heart – bringing to him my struggle, complaints, irritability and asking for grace to repent, to reach out in love to others even when it doesn’t feel as “easy” as in summer, and to humbly remember my place as dependent on Light in all its forms.