I’m SAD and I Didn’t Even Know It.

He broke away from his middle of the night endless thoughts to grab his phone and check the time telling himself that if he fell asleep now he’d get five hours of sleep. He’d end up picking up his phone throughout the night, while pleading with his mind to stop racing, and let him go to sleep. Eventually, he’d cry in frustration when he noticed the sun starting to peak through the window shades. The alarm would suddenly go off as though to pour salt in an already open wound. He would lay in his sleepy pool of frustration pondering his existence, questioning the life and career choices he had made until now. His sleep-deprived mind would start to go down a dark and winding path that lead him to wonder what it would be like if he was no longer alive. He’d wonder how his death would affect the lives of his loved ones. He concluded that sure they would be sad, but in time they would get over it. “Wait what am I doing?” A strong feeling of fright and shame would rush through him as he realized the morbid thoughts he just had. Suddenly, the second alarm went off and he would pull himself up from his bed and push through the winter chill of his room and into the shower. He now had thirty minutes to get ready and leave for work he had no time for breakfast. An avid morning runner with a 7-minute mile, he now lacked the motivation or desire to put on his running shoes. Sometimes during the rush to get ready for work in the mornings he would catch himself in the mirror and noticed that the six-pack he had worked on all year was now hiding under a layer of belly fat, adding disappointment, and body shame to his feelings of depression.

The job he once loved to do now felt strenuous and pointless, often filling him with feelings of dissatisfaction with the work that once brought him pride. He would spend the day pulling his drifting mind back on course making it take longer to complete projects, and at times it lead to discussions with his boss about missed deadlines. He felt so tired throughout his workday and would continuously drink cups of coffee to help fight the urge to fall asleep. Often when sitting with a co-worker to talk about a project he would feel waves of irritation whenever the co-worker did or said something he did not agree with. He started to isolate himself from others to prevent from following his desire to lash out on them.

At the end of his workday he would come home, warm up a frozen dinner, and sit in front of the TV until he fell asleep. There were days during the week when he would come home and go straight to bed. He felt like the workday had sucked up all his energy, and he was just too tired to eat. Usually the social butterfly, now when his family or friends would call he would find himself staring at his phone, and watching their calls go to voicemail. This made him feel guilty and not worthy of their love. One sleepless night he was skimming through social media and he came upon an article about a man who for most of the year lived a happy fulfilling life, but when fall and winter came he would find himself struggling with debilitating feelings of depression.

The man in the article described experiencing feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day, losing interest in activities he once enjoyed, having low energy, having problems with sleeping, experiencing changes in his appetite or weight, feeling sluggish or agitated, having difficulty concentrating, feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty and having frequent thoughts of death or suicide. The article called this short-term form of depression as Seasonal Affective Disorder. It was as though a light was turned on in a dark room. “This is what I have”, he thought. He realized that in the spring and summer months he was filled with such vigor and positivity towards life. He looked through some of his pictures on his phone and noticed that he is active, social and on top of his game at work during the spring and summer months. The article explained the importance of seeking mental health services to help learn how to manage the challenging fall and winter months. The article stated that with the help of mental health therapy, medication (if needed) and light therapy one can learn how to manage Season Affective Disorder and be able to live a healthy and positive life all year long. He took a deep sigh of relief and told himself that he would call his health insurance in the morning and get a referral for a mental health therapist and finally get the help he desperately needed.

Alejandra Luna LCSW, Mental Health Therapist/LGBTQ+ Specialist