Category Archives: Health

My Yearly Battle with SAD.

sad

It really is a battle each and every year—no matter what I do or don’t do.

You would think after so many years of this same war, I’d be more prepared and aware, but every year it seems to slip up on me, unawares.

It usually starts in late Autumn, but I only can tell that by looking back at it from a few weeks/months later—and only if I’ve somehow managed to get a little better, to climb back up and part way out of the valley. I live in U.S. Mountain Time, and every year right around the switch from Daylight Savings Time, my life begins a descent.

The problem is, though, because the decline is so gradual, I don’t realize anything is happening until I find myself lying at the bottom of that deep well—crumbled, depressed, anxious—unable to even look up, much less stand up and begin climbing.

My Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) manifests as a weird, confusing combination of anxiety, depression, fear and defensive, angry negativity.

I spend whole days wondering where joy has wandered off to, and why I am feeling so listless and hopeless—and so unnecessary and useless, why nothing and no one seem to inspire me anymore. Mornings, as I rise (angry, frustrated, sad), I lament out loud, “Now why am I doing this?”

Where “this” means: life.

Tears burst quickly up and forth, but only briefly, because I tamp them down, knowing from experience that I shouldn’t travel too deeply into that well-known morass.

Why am I once again rising out of my bed in the early dark to start another day? Why am I forcing myself to eat, to get dressed in clothes that annoy and irritate?

Nothing seems to matter. Nothing makes sense.

I feel like I’m in a fog and like I can’t force my mind to make sense of why I am doing such useless, repetitious, soul-sucking, day-to-day crap that only serves to perpetuate my physical existence on this Earth (like that’s somehow the goal? Why is that so highly valued, anyway? Why are we here, working, eating, shitting, sleeping—lather, rinse, repeat?).

I become hypersensitive and jumpy. Everything I put on my body seems to burn and itch and frustrate. I am always cold—except when I am hot flashing and sweating like a pack mule. My skin is dry and feels raw—except when I am drenched in cold sweat.

My clothes are too hot, too tight, too loose, too short, too scratchy; they chaff, they bind, they irritate. Every seam, every tag—everything—is too rough. I tug, scratch, stretch, squirm—have to stop myself, close my eyes and force myself to breathe slowly, deeply, calmly, in fear of doing harm to my skin or to the clothes.

Every noise seems too loud and abrasive on my ears and senses. I jump at normal sounds and shrink from noises. It seems like everyone is shouting and my system can’t handle the overload.

I find myself thinking things like, “This is useless…” about almost everything, because I can’t find good, hopeful reasons for doing anything—it all seems pointless and/or stressful and like too much trouble to bother with.

Then I feel guilty, because I know my life is not a bad life. In fact, when I’m not SADing, I feel my life is fantastically wonderful, and I am happy.

But when I am SADing, I feel like I am somehow babysitting my own irritated, recalcitrant inner toddler who has reached the too-late-to-turn-back stage and is in constant almost-tantrum mode (I am a mother; I know of which I speak).

I torture my poor man with repeated bouts of sadness. I am tired. I am cranky. I am way too sensitive and too eager to find fault, blame and to argue. I catch myself stopping to breathe and calm myself way too often—it becomes debilitating, interrupts our life together.

He evidently has the proverbial patience of Job to deal with me each Fall and Winter. He is my rock and safe landing place.

And I love and trust him to the extreme, blind point that just thinking of him reminds me of why I am here and why I am alive and what I have to do next—which is usually something normal like get out of bed in the dark each morning and go open the dog door for my two weenies (Dachshunds) and one-eyed, feral cat who are usually still sleeping next to me, under the covers in the bed.

Deep in the abyss, several weeks into dark, cold, cloudy weather, I’ll have a good day for some unfathomable reason and realize: “Oh my god, I am SADing again! This is SAD! How did this happen again without me realizing it?”

And I begin to claw my way back out and up, trying with my foggy brain to remember my winter routine, the things that have helped some in winters past.

Some Things I’ve Tried that Help

I click ahead in my Google calendar and put “SAD?” on the calendar for next year on several days in the Fall and early winter, so I am (hopefully) better at identifying it next time.

I sit in direct sunlight with my bare skin. Windows in cars and houses have UV protection. In order to get direct sunlight and the UV rays needed, you will need sunlight on bare skin and the back of your eyes.

I take the screens off my windows in the winter to get more light in the house. Every morning I try and remember to turn off the heat, close my bedroom door, open the window, and sit on my bed in the sun with a bare face and arms. I keep my eyes open (I don’t look directly at the sun, of course).

Yes, it’s cold. I do this even when it’s cloudy, raining or snowing, because the sun’s up there somewhere, even if I can’t see it, and I am still getting the benefits.

I take careful amounts of vitamin D3 (remember, it’s a fat-soluble vitamin, so dose accordingly). I keep to my exercise routine even when I can’t seem to understand why I should. I meditate a lot—at least once a day (usually more)—to de-stress and calm my overactive, over-stimulated nervous system.

I drink water like a fish. I get outdoors and in the sun as much as possible—including riding my bike as much as possible—even in the cold, snowy weather. I eat healthy foods, to include getting the right amount (for me—I’ve experimented a lot) of carbs/starches that insure my brain has the ingredients to make the “feel-good” chemicals.

When I drive in my car, I blast the heater and lower a window as far as I can stand in the cold to get fresh air and as much natural light as possible. I use expensive, full-spectrum light bulbs at work on my desk and at home in several lamps/fixtures—but not too late at night so that my sleep patterns aren’t interrupted.

If you go the full-spectrum bulb route, make sure to research and check for the correct lumen number/count.

Last year it got so bad, despite my best efforts, that I resorted to a natural supplement to help me out. I am taking BriteSide by Solaray as directed. When I went to my local health food store and asked the nutritionist there for help, it was one of the remedies she suggested.

I’ve noticed a brilliant difference since beginning to take it. I stopped taking my individual Vitamin D tabs and only take the BriteSide, which contains plenty of D. I actually feel like myself again—thank God!

When I can come up out of the fog enough to remember to do these things, I feel better. The winter is more bearable. Neither my man nor I like the cold weather where we live anymore. Maybe we are just getting old. I don’t know for sure. We do know, though, that the extreme, ultimate remedy is to move to a sunnier climate.

When, through the fog, I remember our plans to move somewhere warmer and sunnier in the next few years, I am able to get up and keep going again, even while producing and carrying around my own fog

I have researched natural remedies and have my winter routine (when I can remember it through the fog). These ideas are not meant to constitute medical advice or remedies. Do your own research, go see your doctor, get on meds if necessary.

Take care of yourself, even as I try and do the same (she says, from her bed while watching snow fall outside on a cold, dark, grey, windy afternoon…sigh).

A version is also on elephant journal.

 

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I’m Allowing Myself to Gain Weight.

flowervagina

Because everyone knows that no woman in her right mind wants to gain weight, right?

I’ve made some major shifts in my life in the past few years—always in the pursuit of happiness.

I maintained a rigorous “happiness” routine until June of 2013. At which time, I began to be drawn to connecting with the Divine Feminine (DF), and my life began to change again. I say “drawn to,” but it was really more like an insistence.

I felt like I didn’t really have a choice.

I had been warned, in the DF research I was doing, that the DF tends to turn lives upside down before the proverbial dust settles. I can testify to that.

The First Shift

In 2011, after taking a depressing and sobering look at my life (a ¾ life crisis?), I knew I had to do something—anything—to change my life into something more authentic, something happier. It was way too depressing to think that I had so little to show for my life up to that point.

So I got busy redecorating and redirecting my life. It was not easy, and I did not like the process. But after experimenting for several months, I finally—through trial and error—hit upon a routine in late 2011 that seemed to provide the right combination of all things to produce and sustain my happiness.

I worked out in some fashion, as well as riding my bike to work, every day. I did cardio three times a week for at least 30 minutes (usually longer) and yoga twice a week. I meditated every day.

Due to health issues, I was only able to eat a high protein, low carb/glycemic diet—no grains, no starchy carbs, very few fruits, no sweeteners of any kind—except for stevia. Plenty of fats and meat and low-carb veggies. Is that a paleo diet? I have no idea. It doesn’t matter. It was necessary.

I became physically fit.

I didn’t look like a body-builder or anything, but I was strong. I have the type of body that when I work out a lot, I don’t bulk up, I just get very wiry and essential. I weighed more than I have ever weighed at 148 lbs. (I’m 5’8”).

But I was also wearing the smallest clothing size I had ever worn as an adult.

The only reason I know the specific pounds of my weight, was because I ended up having to go to the doctor for a checkup. I very seldom see my doctor, so when he came in and looked at my chart, he instantly (and wisely) asked, “Have you been working out?” I said yes; he (again, wisely) didn’t say anything else.

When anyone called me “skinny,” thinking that was some kind of complement, I was offended. I would usually come back with something along the lines of, “I am not skinny. I am substantial. I may look skinny to you, but I am not; please don’t call me that. I’ve worked hard for this body, and to be this happy.”

I didn’t exercise to lose weight or even to gain muscle mass. I did it because the endorphins made me happy. It felt good.

It had been a long, winding road to figure it out, but I finally liked my life. I liked my body. I felt healthy. My body was not perfect by any standards, but it was the most fit and strong I had ever been.

Mostly, I was relieved to have finally figured out how to be happy.

And while it had not been a conscious decision to mold my body into anything specific, somewhere in me it registered that I had finally gained the body I had always wanted.

I had finally “mastered” my body. I had beaten back the flab, and along with that, the worry that my body wasn’t good enough. I felt victorious and strong—proud.

The Divine Feminine

But in June of 2013, as I began exploring the DF and how to embrace it and call it up in myself, I gradually became aware that I didn’t like rising at 5 AM every day to work out. I didn’t like having such a hard, masculine body.

Some mornings I woke and started crying when I heard the alarm. It felt like my inner drill sergeant was pushing me around, and I didn’t like it.

I did not welcome this new unhappiness into my life. It was doubly depressing because not only was I no longer happy, I didn’t know how to get back to happiness.

Desperately—and quite frantically, I began experimenting again; I didn’t know what else to do.

I began to sleep late on some days. I skipped exercising sometimes. I was still riding my bike everywhere, but I was not doing much other than that. I began to notice that my clothes were fitting tighter. I began to get rounder.

I began to worry.

Part of me desired to be softer, rounder and more feminine. I desired to let go of the strict, debilitating ideas about women’s bodies that I’d soaked up all of my life—beginning in childhood. I wanted to be able to gift myself with this allowing, this permission to just be a woman, to simply be soft if I wanted to be soft, round if that’s what I wanted.

I felt like it was the DF speaking to me, through me, inviting me to relax into my body just as I was allowing my mind and beliefs to relax. I liked that I was beginning to trust my own body, letting it settle at whatever weight, roundness, muscle-to-fat ratio it wanted to without trying to force it somewhere it maybe didn’t want to go—maybe had never wanted to go.

Another part of me was terrified at the roundness, the bulges. Every day, for several weeks, I would end up in front of the mirror with my hands on my growing ass, laughing or crying—usually both, asking myself, “Do you really want to do this?!”

The answer was always, “yes.”

Looking back, I think it was more the energy of my body that seemed hard and masculine. I now describe it as a type of “armor” I was wearing.

The Test

During that time, I was taking a women’s class on feminine manifestation. We met once a week for six weeks, and I have to say it was one of the more powerful things I have ever done for myself.

It was a sincere, sacred space every time we gathered. I looked forward to every class, and the women there were amazing.

I had made up my mind to give it my all, to show up ready to learn and grow. My plan was to remain as authentic and honest as possible even if it was painful, awkward and difficult—in fact, especially if those things happened.

At the beginning of each class, we always had check-in time, when we related how our last week had been, what changes we were noticing in our lives, what we were feeling.

Several of the women had, at some point in the progression of the classes, mentioned they wanted to lose weight. As the class advanced, I was getting rounder, softer.

I was doing the crazy mirror thing almost every day, noticing how my roundness seemed to be keeping pace with my new femininity.

It was a big part of my life, this new softness, this allowing that I was gifting to myself. It was something that I should have been sharing at check-in.

But I was afraid to share it, despite my beginning promise to myself to be all in.

I didn’t want to be the only one who was trying to gain weight. It felt wrong somehow, like I was betraying them, betraying women in general.

Because everyone knows that no woman in her right mind wants to gain weight, right?

And yet I really wanted to share what I was going through. I wanted to talk about that scared part of me—the part that was freaking out to allow myself this.

Finally one night I had to bring it up. It was just too prevalent in my life to ignore. I knew that in order to be true to myself, to honor my dear body, my DF journey and the major work I was doing on so many levels, I would have to speak of it.

I deliberately stayed in my heart as I spoke, treading slowly and gingerly. I told them what had been happening in my life with my body. I explained my mirrored confrontations.

The way I daily went to the full-length mirror and ended up exclaiming in some form thereof, “Oh my gawd, this ass is huge compared to how it was just a few weeks ago!” Sometimes I would laugh, sometimes I would cry. But it still always felt like the right thing to do.

I told them all of this. I opened my heart. At one point, I noticed one of the women smirking and looking around at the other women, as if she wanted to say something funny and was, with that smirk, asking the other women to join her.

To their dear, sweet credit, and my great relief, none of the other women reciprocated her smirk and no one accepted her tacit invitation.

She finally became serious when she noticed no one was joining her. I was grateful. I finished my check-in, feeling relieved that I had been able to share such a big happening in my life with them.

I wonder now if I should have gently confronted her. Maybe I could have just asked her what was happening in her own body and heart while I spoke.

Perhaps it would have lead to even greater depth—for her and for me. I still don’t know the answer to that one.

So now I like the roundness, the softness—sometimes. Some days I don’t. I have more fat on my belly, a bigger butt and thighs. When I sit, I have some fat rolls on my stomach. It feels more feminine.

I don’t feel like I am wearing some kind of hard armor to protect myself anymore. I feel open and soft and more relaxed.

I can’t yet draw any wise (or even any funny—which is my usual MO) conclusions from this, my newest journey. I don’t know where I’m going to end up. I don’t know what to expect. I continue to vacillate between humor and fear about it.

I only know two important things: My body seems to be getting happier, and I seem to be getting ever more comfortable with the idea of being rounder, softer and more feminine.

***

Also published at Medium.com