Thursday, January 7, 2010

Winter Blues

For three years in a row I spent half a day sitting in the doctor's office waiting to hear an opinion on what might be ailing me.
My symptoms were as follows:
insomnia, tears at the drop of the hat, explosive words of anger, a feeling of gloom and dooom, lack of energy.

By the third year of crying out to my doctor, I saw an advertisement in a magazine that listed these same complications. Come to find out these are all symptoms of depression.
That doctor's visit was always in January.
I started thinking....
"What would cause these particular symptoms to emerge during January?"

And, the answer seemed all so simple and yet so dull am I, during this time of year, that I rarely saw it coming.
The past few years I have been ready...
to push myself out the door into the frosty, cold air to exercise.
to make myself drink lots of water.
to put away the sugar that so dominated the holiday season.
to head for sunlight
to take my suppliments
to pray without ceasing.

The past two nights I have found myself awake the majority of the night. The other day I was discontent with just about everything in my life. I have an overwhelming feeling to just run away and/or throw everything away that is laying within my reach....a general over-reaction to anything and everything.

It wasn't until yesterday that I realized that all these were signs. Symptoms telling me to be aware of what is going on in my mind. I had slept a full one hour the night before. My dear husband wanted me to sleep in but to no avail. I was just miserable. So, when he came in to tell me that he was taking the kids to the park I asked if I could go with them.
We walked hand-in-hand and then hit a few tennis balls....something I have not done for some twenty years! I ran home while they stayed at the park. When I came home I realized that I felt refreshed and a bit more "awake" to life.
That was when it hit's January.
It is gloomy outside. I have had a very unstable workout routine and my eating habits were not so good. I not only had the aftermath and emotional let-down of the holidays but a wedding to boot. And, to top it off, Eric's birthday was on January 4th and we are soon approaching the two year mark of his death (January 29th).

So, I am being deliberate. I am planning on visiting the ocean or mountains a few times in the next couple of weeks (we live in a valley where we get socked in with fog). I am forcing myself to at least walk if not run. Water, water, water is a must. And, I am doing a detox for a couple of weeks to help eliminate all that yucky (actually, rather yummy) holiday food. Most of all, you will find me on my knees (sometimes prostrate) asking the Lord to help me face this yearly giant called depression.

By the way, you might have noticed that I have not mentioned prescription drugs. I do think that there is a place and a time for these. But, for me, I have decided to try supplements instead. I use 5-HTP and take a bunch of vitamins.

If you find this article reflecting your life right now please talk to your spouse or a close friend and ask them to help you assess your condition. You might need to go visit your doctor to see if all is okay physically. But, most of all, dive into the Word. Saturate yourself with the Scripture and pray without ceasing.



Alesha said...

Excellent post, Heather! I suffered this cycle of winter/January depression for years before I figured it out.

Your plan sounds like a good one. We are on a vitamin regimen, too, for the first time ever in January. I am hoping that it does the trick for me this year.

I have also recently added 3 drops of oil of oregano under the tongue each day (followed by orange juice or other juice to wash it down). I feel that is has been very helpful to me the past 2 weeks, while I was recovery from a winter cold. I am going to continue using it, even thought the cold is gone, because I feel it has been so good for me. (It works as an antiseptic.)

Thanks again for sharing this!

Victoria said...

Way to be open and honest!

I'm sure that most of us go through times like this. I can speak for myself in saying that around January or February is when I get to feeling like this. Like you said, these are months when we're stuck in winter, often inside, and just not taking care of ourselves (physically, nutritionally, or spiritually) like we should.

I'm taking the challenge, and hoping to beat those blues this year through the strength and grace of our Lord, for His glory and my joy!

Erik Wait said...

As your ex-boyfriend Phil (now husband) can tell you, I am a bit of an emotional roller-coaster kind of guy so I can empathize with what you're going through, more than you know.

The last two years have been one trial after another with only a few who have been "in the know."

I find that rarely are such deep low times the result of just one thing. We're complex and multi-layered beings whose body, mind, and spirit are interdependent and we’re living in a broken world.

What affects the body affects our mind and vice versa, and if we allow ourselves to be out of balance it is easy to allow our mentally and physically weakened state to affect our spiritual health as well.

I think this is why Jesus allowed himself to come to His weakest physical state by fasting before combating the devil in the wilderness. (Matthew 4) In doing so He succeeded at His physically weakest state when so often fail and in doing so He became our Champion and showed us how to overcome.

What we need to be aware of is that being out of sorts can affect our perceptions of things (I tend to over react) which can then affect our relationships with others (especially those closest to us)and then the whole thing just sort of snowballs and the enemy seeks to use the occasion to look for alternative saviors (alcohol, drugs, relationships, entertainment, whatever). Anything that will promise to take away the pain... even if only for a moment.

Exercise helps (some), changing diet helps (some), and using the means of grace (Scripture, prayer etc.) helps a whole lot.

But it is also in such times that we find that we cannot win these battles alone, we need the body of Christ and it is why I am so thankful for my brother Phil, Dave G., and others. I don’t know how I would have made it this far without them.

You've got a good husband who is loyal to the core. He's certainly been patient with me.

Sis, you’re in my prayers!

Erik W.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for being so honest, as always! I have suffered in a very similar way... I know what I should be doing but it is so very hard to just do it! I bought one of those seasonal affective disorder lights from Costco last year and strapped it to the treadmill... I figured I could do the exercise, light & lots of water all at the same time. Can't say I used it long enough to know if it works but I really need to do something about it again this year!!
Rebecca in Canada :)

Nan said...

Oh sister... how I know what you are talking about! Much love to you and prayers are being said on your behalf. Winter is hard in culmination with so many other things...

Not only are you dealing with this two year anniversary of Eric's death... like you said, you just had a wedding - on the roller coaster of life, that is the apex. And after an apex there is the dip and like any good roller coaster that dip can pretty much take your breath away and make you feel like you are being pressed into the very core of the earth. Eric had much good wisdom to offer. Let the gravity of all your emotions press you not into the core of the earth but into the heart of our savior. And may your heart hear the words of encouragement from friends and family and rejoice.

Proverbs 16:24
Pleasant words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Love you.

Anonymous said...

Just weighing in for the Rx route. There may be some reading this who feel condemnation because they are on an anti-depressant, in light of all the natural remedies mentioned.

I do think in many, many cases depression can be seasonal or circumstantial, and then the above ideas work wonders (especially trusting the Lord and following His word). That being said, in a small number of cases, there is an actual chemical deficiency, and one should NOT feel guilty for using a prescription.

Depression has been thorn in my flesh for many years, and it is related to another physical condition I have. I feel not one iota of guilt for the medication I take!

I know that one day the Lord will deliver my ENTIRE body from the curse of disease and death, either at His return or in the Resurrection! I long for that day.

Anonymous said...

Yep! Happens to me just about every year. However, I have plenty of tools that God has given me in my tool box to help me work through it. I was just noticing some of these symptoms this week and said to myself, "Yep, it's January!"


Jennifer A.

Kelli said...

Hello - new to your blog. I think as woman it is hard sometimes to find what is causing our inner workings. I have pretty severe PCOS which keeps me sometimes from knowing if it is just part of the vicious cycle the disease makes or if it is something else.

I agree - be in the Word and Pray, pray, pray. We must always seek Him first.

I have also found journaling to be of great assistance to me. God has given me amazing clarity during my journaling time. I don't journal everyday - just when things are "off" and I need help understanding what is happening inside of me.

I also take a viatmin D suppliment since we don't get a lot of sun in the winter time. I also take vitamin B super complex too.

When my mind is really muddled I get on my knees and pray and claim God's promise: God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power, of love and of a sound mind.

Blessings to you in the new year!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your honesty and openness and for sharing this. This post has been very helpful to me. I thought I was going crazy and it is good to know that I'm not alone with this struggle.

Many blessings to you and your beautiful family!

Anonymous said...

In 2005-2007 I suffered through the darkness of depression...It was the darkest time in my whole life. I didn't want to eat, sleep or do anything. I went to the doctor and he wanted to put me on medicine and now when I look back I probably should have been on some along with some good biblical counseling.

The only thing that kept me here on this earth is reading my Bible everyday soaking up Gods word and His love for me.

I am now doing so much better and I still read my Bible from the beginning to end. I have learned to take care of myself...I get outside everyday even if it is for a few minutes, drink lots of water, I take a few supplements which have helped a lot. I also have taught myself to knit and that has been such a blessing to is a quiet,relaxing and something creative for me to do when my mind is full of "stuff".

I will be praying for you!! Keep thinking good thoughts spring is right around the corner!!




Lazy D Ranch said...

Thank you all for your words of encouragement and ideas...many will benefit just reading the comment section.

Journaling is a GREAT idea! Hence the blog! it! I put away all the other crafty things in this season of my life (scrapbooking, quilting) and took up knitting instead. Portable and keeps the brain and hands moving. Starting on another project excited!

Anonymous said...

Me again... don't want this to become a big "depression medication debate" but I feel I should add that at one point I DID go on medication and it did not work for me at all. I still had to do all the "non-medicinal" things in addition to the medication, and the side effects were very bad for me. So, now I have resorted to battling this with the Lord's help and all the other resources mentioned! Medication has a time and a place but I do believe that our culture is too quick to want a quick fix, not wanting to take the time to "do the work" that needs to be done. I hope I have not offended anyone with this -- just my opinion!
Rebecca in Canada :)

Anonymous said...

No offense taken here! I am confident that mine is a chemical deficiency. I tried to do without the meds for several years (after condemning comments from others) and barely made it through. Finally, after a long talk with a grace-filled sister, I decided to go back on the meds, and within two weeks, I felt like a completely new person. I wish I could make up the deficiency with sunshine and vitamins, but I can't. Of course, in either case, I rely on the Lord as my *true joy*. :)

Amanda said...

I stumbled on your blog today and also wanted to add that the best thing for SAD (seasonal affective disorder) which it sounds like you have, I do too. Is Vit D3 it is one of the things our bodies do not get enough of this time of year. The winter sun is not as strong as the summer sun. Hang in there and I hope you give Vit D3 a try it is by far the best thing I have found. This article talks some about vit D

E.T.'s Mom said...

Thank you for this post. Blessed be His name, whether we're in the wilderness or on a mountaintop.

kbbryant said...

I've been a lurker for a long time(I would just load your page sometimes to listen to your great music. This year I have purposed to take more time to comment on the blogs I visit.

Have to say that I too live in this foggy central valley and I have not even seen the sun in a week. We don't suffer from a less intense sun, we suffer from NO sun! So I think our precious bodies get all messed up because God made us to need his sun as well as His Son. I never experienced this seasonal stuff when I lived in So California. The first step is recognizing what is going on when you start to feel those symptoms! You are doing all you can to be proactive. Vitimin D is also very important.
Blessed New Year.
Thanks for the music.

Kathy b

Anonymous said...

No one has mentioned tanning. . . sounds really hokey, but hey we are willing to try all kinds of things to make us feel better. . . Januray is like this for me. . . . ten years running. . . in college I started to go tanning, once a week for those four weeks and never any other time of the year. It really helped. Anyone else tried it?

Christine said...

5 HTP has been a lifesaver for my foggy thinking. I rarely go to the back of the house anymore and wonder why I'm there lol.

I also found that I was low on D3 and it has made a big difference. (a blood test can detect this). I believe that many people could be cured of their depression by taking more D3 and although you can get too much, it is nearly impossible to do.
Also, our chocolate babies need more D3 too because their dark skin don't absorb it as easily. I'll give my 4 1000 iu's every other day or so.

Anonymous said...

Seasonal depression, like other people have said, is related to lack of sunlight, meaning lack of vitamins D and A (your skin makes them from sunlight). If you supplement with cod liver oil it can help a TON - it has me. And it's pretty much impossible to overdose on it with this method.


Carey said...

I agree with anonymous. Some people have no other option but meds. I personally have tried it all. Unfortunately depression runs in my family - we seem to be lacking a chemical or two. So try natural first but don't feel bad if you need to take meds. Me and my whole family prefers me "sane".

Lisa said...

What has helped you with your insomnia? That is where I just can't stand this part of the winter blues. Lack of sleep is awful.

Mary said...

I am new to your blog. This post brought me to tears, though our situations are totally different I feel your pain. I am a single Christian mom of 2 struggling with depression. God has really been speaking to me lately and encouraging me to find my strength in him. Thank you so much for opening up and sharing your life with people like me.
God bless!