I can feel it nagging at me and taunting me. I know “the pit” is coming but this year, I’m going to try my best to fight it off and lessen its impact on me.
Every year around this time, I get what my sister and I have dubbed, “the pit.” As children, we coined that name to describe that feeling you get on a Sunday evening when you realize the weekend is over and you have to go back to school on Monday morning.
“The pit” is that gnawing feeling that lurks deep in your stomach and emanates up through your body with a looming sense of dread. There is absolutely no reason for it other than perhaps the ending of some perceived fun and the beginning of “getting back to work.”
I feel “the pit” at fleeting times throughout the year – like the night before a vacation is over or on an occasional Sunday night when I know I have a full work week ahead of me – but without a doubt, I feel it starting to ramp up at “back to school” time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there - that depression/anxiety/pit/whatever you want to call it only seems to grow stronger through the winter months. The only relief for me comes in the spring.
I don’t know what it is about this time of year. Is it the fact that the end of summer is in sight? The fact that time is marching on way too fast and my kids are getting older? The impending cold, winter months? And lastly, does it have anything to do with my MS?
I’ve dealt with depression in the past and it seems to me like a 'chicken or the egg’ kind of thing. Which came first – MS or depression? Is MS causing my blues or am I just prone to depression? In the end, it doesn’t really matter the cause because either way, I hate feeling this way – it’s not good for me, and definitely not good for those around me.
When I was discussing this battle with depression with the nurse practitioner during my last appointment at the MS clinic, she suggested that perhaps I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Of course! SAD made perfect sense to me! My depression always seems to start off slowly in the autumn and intensify in the winter months. It is no secret that winter and I don’t get along, and every relapse I’ve ever had has been during the winter months.
So this year, I’ve decided that I’m going to be proactive with “the pit” and explore the different treatment options.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are four major types of treatment for SAD:
I’m a believer in therapy and in the past when life has gotten too heavy for me to handle, I’ve found a huge relief in seeking assistance from a professional. The only thing with this “pit” feeling is that I can’t exactly pinpoint why I’m feeling depressed. It’s just a feeling I get every year and I’m not sure that I’d have a whole lot to offer during therapy. If things get rough, this is definitely an option I will explore again. For now, I will try and stay as positive as possible and look on the bright side of things.
2. Vitamin D
I take Vitamin D supplements all year long and firmly believe these benefit me living with multiple sclerosis. My Vitamin D levels are checked frequently at my appointments at the MS clinic, and I’ve found that when my levels are good, then I feel much better. These supplements are something that I plan to keep taking, especially during the winter months.
I have nothing against antidepressants but I haven’t found one that works for me. I’ve been on antidepressants in the past and I’ll admit that I just don’t like how I feel on them. When I’m on them, I feel nothing at all – not happy or sad – just status quo, just existing. To me, I’d rather feel something. If I have to go back on an antidepressant, perhaps I will try one I haven’t been on yet but for now, I’d rather find other ways to cope.
And one more option that I haven’t tried yet…
4. Light therapy
Another option the NP suggested was trying light therapy. You know, those lamps that mimic sunlight. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try so I recently purchased one. I didn’t go for an expensive model but one that I thought looked reasonable to give this therapy a try. If it just works as a placebo, or even forces me to take time for myself and practice a little mindfulness as I sit by the lamp, then I figure it can only help.
Here’s more information about light therapy from the NIH website:
Light therapy has been a mainstay of treatment for SAD since the 1980s. The idea behind light therapy is to replace the diminished sunshine of the fall and winter months using daily exposure to bright, artificial light. Symptoms of SAD may be relieved by sitting in front of a light box first thing in the morning, on a daily basis from the early fall until spring. Most typically, light boxes filter out the ultraviolet rays and require 20-60 minutes of exposure to 10,000 lux of cool-white fluorescent light, an amount that is about 20 times greater than ordinary indoor lighting.
I just received the lamp in the mail today. I’m going to start using it right away and making it part of my daily routine. I will let you know if I notice any difference in keeping “the pit” at bay.
Lastly, I’ve increased my physical activity. This is a commitment that I’ve made to myself and I plan on keeping it throughout the winter months. Personally, I have found that exercise keeps my mood elevated as well as helping alleviate fatigue.
I feel better about “the pit” already knowing that I have a plan in place to try and tackle it. For now, I’ll fill myself up on those last bits of summer, soaking up and taking advantage of as much real sunlight as I possibly can.