The days are growing perceptibly shorter now, for all that the temperature has stayed relatively warm. And the quality of the day is changing – the sunlight seems paler, dimmer, weaker. Colours do not shine so brightly in it. I can feel myself growing paler along with the sun.
Last weekend, the leaden feeling in my limbs and the pit of my stomach grew too strong to ignore. I had to get out the light box. I resented it bitterly, even as the light lifted my depression. September is too soon to feel this way. And in the back of my head is an uncomfortable calculation. If I need the light three months before the year end, I’ll probably need it three months after the year end as well. That’s half the year chained to the light box, prisoner of my [Seasonal Affective Disorder|SAD].
I have just received a light visor, which should reduce the “chained down” feeling by allowing me to go about my daily life. And I’ve just bought a desk lamp for work, where the illumination is too dim to keep me awake. The last three winters, I was working (when I was working) in a building where desk lamps were available, and they made a world of difference to me. The building I’m in, though much better located, doesn’t have desk lamps. I could have requested one from my line manager and played the disability card to bolster my argument. But it seemed simpler to buy my own, and the cost (£10, including a spare bulb) was not exactly prohibitive.
But starting light therapy has its own price. My body was just settling down for a nice winter’s hibernation. I’d even gained a couple of kilos to feed off of during the long sleep. Then, suddenly, the bright lights came on, and my brain was jerked rudely awake. My metabolism is struggling to cope. Symptoms of that struggle include:
- rampant insomnia
It’s taking me a long time to fall asleep at night, and I’m waking more easily. It’s true that I’ve been staying up to finish the bookbinding stuff I wanted to put onto sunpig. What’s different now is that when I go to bed, no matter how tired I am, I can’t get to sleep. Even sleeping pills are having very little effect.
Insomnia and staying up late contribute to this, of course. But the tiredness is deeper-seated than that. I simply have no energy, and struggle to get through the tasks of the day.
The first week of light therapy is always accompanied by a dull headache. It’s never blinding or throbbing, which is fortunate, because it’s also resistant to painkillers.
- body temperature fluctuations
I’ve only just realised that this is probably related to the light therapy. It strikes mostly at night, when I’m trying to sleep. I start overheating, which contributes to the insomnia.
So why do I keep up with the lights? Because all of these symptoms are much, much better than the mortal depression I suffer without light therapy. Most of the effects will go away or diminish after the first week. I may struggle to get through the transition, I may bitterly resent the restrictions my [Seasonal Affective Disorder|SAD] places on my life in winter, but the alternative is worse.
Don’t believe me? Ask Martin.