Tag Archives: SAD

Ironic perihelion

Since, I live in the Northern Hemisphere,
The planet, in its orbit round the sun
Is at ironic perihelion:
I have no comfort, though the sun is near.
Instead, half-starved for any natural light,
I take what refuge in the sunlit days
I can, before the angled and anemic rays
Are smothered by another heavy night.
Rejoice! Rejoice! The turning of the year
That heralds a return to warmth and cheer –
And most of all, the light – the day is here!.
Rejoice, they say, for better times are near!
I know the light will come, and do me good.
But I’m too tired to care. I wish I could.

Originally posted on Making Light.

Up the Hill

Although the weekdays this winter have been really good (because of my desk lamp and my lunchtime walks), the weekends have been very difficult. This one has been no exception. Not only has the weather been overcast these last days, but Alex’ recent illness left him unwilling to toerate bright lights. I spent yesterday in a dim house, and by today it was starting to tell on me. I felt unfocussed, off-rhythm, and deeply depressed. I wanted to curl up in a corner and simply cease to exist for a while. (This does not mean I wanted to die. I simply didn’t want to exist.)

Martin, saw me sitting by my light box, leaning my forehead on it like it was my only friend. So, though he was unwell, he sent me out of the house while Fiona napped and Alex played video games. I decided to do something energetic and definitive: I would climb Arthur’s Seat, and take some pictures on the way.

So I did. There wasn’t a lot of light even out of doors, but what there was, I got. (I also took 75 pictures. Luckily for your bandwidth, dear reader, my usual 33-50% good photo ratio did not hold up! I was just short of 20%, partly because of the low light.)

Photos of big stuff

My camera isn’t much on the big shots – I feel that it makes them all look like snapshots. (Or maybe I’m not a landscape photographer…) But I got a few wider-angle pictures that were special enough to post.

On the way up, looking north.


Taken 7 January 2006

The moon rose over the ridge as I left. (Note that this photo has been cropped)


Taken 7 January 2006

Coming down the hill, toward Newington.


Taken 7 January 2006

Rock shots

Stone from the wall by the Commonwealth Pool


Taken 7 January 2006

Fragmented rock at the summit


Taken 7 January 2006

Stone from the wall by the Pollock Halls


Taken 7 January 2006

Plant shots

A single thistle head in the grass


Taken 7 January 2006

Gorse blossoms


Taken 7 January 2006

Dead thistle heads.


Taken 7 January 2006

Gorse against the sky


Taken 7 January 2006

Bramble leaves


Taken 7 January 2006

Moss and dead grass


Taken 7 January 2006

Stone in the hillside


Taken 7 January 2006

Seed heads against the sky


Taken 7 January 2006

Ah, autumn…

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.
  • exhaustion
    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.
  • headaches
    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.

June and lovin’ it

I’m aware that I don’t blog enough. Martin’s always got something new up, and my last log is from March. Sheesh.

The thing is, when it’s winter, I’m struggling to cope with the ordinary demands of life. Commenting on the way things are going, or even standing back far enough to observe how they’re doing, is low on the list. I’m just too tired.

Then summer comes, and I’m doing all the things I couldn’t do during the dark time. And somehow, I get so absorbed in all the things that are going on that once again I can’t step back and describe them. I seem to be too busy.

Now is a good example. My mother’s over for a fortnight, getting her Alex time in. As with my Dad’s visit in January, Martin and I aren’t taking any time off. But we’ve taken Alex out of his nursery for the time she’s over. So I’m being a working Mom, a daughter, and a hostess all at once.

Plus I’m binding her a blank book as a birthday present. We’ve already been to the tannery to pick out the leather for the covers, and I’m most of the way through the bind.

But even when we don’t have visitors, we’re pretty busy. Not that I’m complaining – I only “work” (for pay) 3 days a week. Martin works 4. We both get to spend a lot of time and energy on Alex. On the one hand, it can be hard work – he’s well into toddlerhood, walking all over the place, demanding things to play with, and throwing the odd (brief, mercifully) tantrum when he is denied. On the other hand, time with Alex is tremendously rewarding, whether he’s sitting at his little table typing on a spare keyboard (just like Mom!), or sorting pebbles in the front garden. And he socialises well, riding in the backpack as I go around town or do lunch with family and friends. He’s even helped me with a geocache I’ll be posting soon. There’s a lot of hard work in there, but when he turns to me and gives me a huge kiss, I can’t seem to mind.

The days I spend at work are rewarding as well. I’m in a department I like, working with people I enjoy dealing with, on a steep learning curve. I can even wear black – unlike my previous department, where I felt too gothic, I’m rarely the only one all in black now. There are stressful times, but all in all, I find the work days flying by.

My current hobby – bookbinding – takes up a good deal of time as well. I’m entirely self-taught so far, and after six months I’m finally producing things that I’m willing to give away without apology. They’re still not perfect, but I no longer feel my recipients are being charitable by taking the books I bind. I bind for the pleasure of making things, of creating something beautiful. Being able to give them away is a bonus, and keeps me from drowning in blank and rebound books.

And somewhere in there, in hugs at the sink and long chats after the lights are out at night, I still have time to be amazed at the man I married. We spend a lot more time as comrades in nappies rather than smitten lovers now, but watching the way he delights in Alex is just another way of falling in love with him.

So this is a busy time, but every aspect of it holds some reward. And I have to get my joy in quick, like a grasshopper, before the winter pares me back to the bare minimum.

All change

It’s the beginning of March, and life looks so different than it did in December.

Not the politics. Don’t even get me started on politics. No, it’s the rest of life that has changed.

First of all, it’s getting lighter. The weather may still be wintry, but the days are longer. The difference in my energy levels is dramatic; it’s like the difference in a coffee addict between waking and finishing the first cup. My brain no longer feels wrapped in cotton wool, and I can think again. The payoff is all around me, in my relationships with Martin and Alex, in the way I run the house, in my work.

Work. There’s another area of change. I’ve been back at work since the new year, but I haven’t truly settled in. I’m doing a three-month stint in my old department. After Easter, I’ll be changing divisions within the Bank, moving to a team I worked with during Y2K. It promises to be a challenging time, with a steep learning curve. I should be intimidated, but every time I think about the work, and the people, I smile. I feel like a runner at the starting gate.

Going back to work has changed the shape of my life enormously. I’m only working three days a week, Monday – Wednesday. But those days are really tightly scheduled. My focus has to be on getting everything done that needs doing, getting enough light to stay sane, then going to bed early enough to get the sleep I need. It’s like being a hamster on a wheel. How do full-time working mothers do it?

Still, the working time has its rewards. Martin has Wednesdays off, so Alex is in day care for the first two days each week. He is has settled in well, but he does miss us while we’re away. So every day he’s at nursery, I pick him up (Martin does the dropoffs, I do the pickups) and take him home, and all he wants to do for the first half hour is cuddle me, flirt with me, and play with my earrings. It’s an enormously rewarding time, like having a whole day’s attention in a short spell.

One of the real pleasures of the last two months has been the learning curve with my bookbinding. Martin got me a couple of books on the topic for Christmas (at my request), and since then, I’ve been binding non-stop. (See the previous entry for a list of what I’ve done) In addition to the books themselves, I’ve made a lot of the hardware I need, including two different types of book press.

I can hardly wait to see what spring will bring.

The Advance of the Darkness

Ah, Seasonal Affective Disorder.

City Time (the time zone calculator on my Palm, which also gives sunrise and sunset times) tells me we got only 10 hours and 22 minutes of daylight today. Sadly, the daylight we did get was pretty dim, dulled down by clouds and drizzle.

I can really feel the lack of light. Keeping going on a day like this is like trying to swim in an undertow. The darkness drags at me, pulling me under, unless I fight to keep my head up. And the depression is insidious, discouraging me from treating it. It would be so much easier just to let go, stop struggling against it, and give in.

This is one of the phases I go through every winter; I am used to it. My mood will track the weather until the time change, when I tend to go through a deep low and have trouble getting up in the morning. Then things will get better for a while thanks to the thrill of the holiday season (helped this year by the extensive travel we’ll be doing in November), then at about New Year’s, I’ll sink again. Usually, it’s just the post-holiday blues, but I suspect going back to work will contribute to a lower low yet. Then it’ll be onto the long upslope as the days get lighter, each one better than the last, until spring comes and I can put my light box away.

What I need to remember, what I always try to remember, is that this is temporary. It’s one of those glass half full/half empty things…is summer just an intermission between winters, or is summer the rule and winter the exception? The best thing I’ve done for my SAD this year has been to reform my thinking, to try to see summer as the default state. Winter is a falling away from that ideal, a hiccup in the essential lightness of life.

No doubt I’ll reread this in January and think it hopelessly naive.

On the food front, I have been making a lot of soups lately. They’re for the whole family, B included. He doesn’t get salty food yet, so I can’t just throw a stock cube or two in and build the flavor from there. Instead, I’ve been making my own salt-free chicken stock, then adding vegetables and pearl barley to turn it into a soup. Oddly, I can’t taste the chicken in it until I add salt; then the flavor comes zinging out.

B has eaten both the soups I’ve made with gusto. We use a little hand-held electric blender to whizz his food into mush, since his gums are probably not up to bits of chicken and pearl barley.

Cooking for the baby is a powerful thing, by the way. M and I have both felt it over the last couple of months. Every step, from browsing for another flavor to try him on (harlequin squash? pumpkin?), to cooking it up, to mushing it and spooning it into his toothless little mouth, is deeply satisfying. It’s even more fulfilling than breastfeeding, probably because the preparation process is conscious and deliberate.

We don’t just cook for immediate consumption, either. We tend to make enough of whatever the new food is to freeze 10 or 15 ice cubes’ worth of mush, plus a meal’s worth to eat fresh. Subsequent meals are easy: pop 4 or 5 cubes in the microwave, heat, thicken with baby rice if needed, and serve. I make a game of it with B, letting him chew on the Tupperware lid while I discuss the flavors he’ll be getting.

He has yet to taste commercial baby food (a point of pride). This will change when we start travelling next month.