Thursday, October 20, 2011

I begin to enter the rough season

When I was a child, I dreaded fall.  The start of school was traumatic enough, but my learning disability and the invisable sign on my forehead that read BULLY ME AROUND all made school even more daunting than it would have been for your average student.

But fall seemed to kindle something deeper in me that I couldn't put into words. 

While other kids saw the beauty in the colored leaves that fell from the trees, I saw death in the forms of the harsh branches, twigs and sticks.  The cold winds seemed to reach down into my bones and not leave until summer warmth and the sun reached deep down and into me.

Winter I was fine with.  Snow brightened the world and a warm house made everything cozy.  And winter yeilded to spring with its promise of an end to the school year, the flowers and the leaves on the trees that softened their stark look. And in my mind spring started on Groundhog Day - the promise that whether it was early or late, we had more good days in front of than bad.

But fall, with its process of dying-off and slumber, somehow hit me harder than anything.

As I got older, Fall became more and more my enemy.  By the time I was 20, the middle of October became suffocating with the feeling that life offered no hope to go on. And that when the crying started - hours of sobbing for no real reason other than the rage that I felt that life was leaving me behind.

As I got older, each fall became more more enshrined in depression and in dread.  It finally got to the point where I almost considered offing myself.  But then about 20 years ago I got very, very lucky when I got myself into treatment with a shrink who listened to me instead of the others wanted to blame my parents for my unhappiness.

The first step was the diagnosis of clinical depression and getting me onto an SSRI - in my case, Zoloft.  The fisrt lesson that I learned was that not all SSRI's work the same with the same people. I was lucky, the Zoloft worked for me.  The idea was that my brain was processing (not producing) serotonin too fast.  The pills regulated that function making the uptake more efficient. The second step was fine tuning the dosage, and then balancing it with a second medication - wellbutrin.  With that under control, there was hope.

But come the next couple fall seasons, the sense of dread started creeping in getting worse. This is when the shrink and my doctor both agreed taht I was suffering from Seasonal Affective Depression - SAD.  SAD (sometimes SADD) is a photo chemical disease based on the premise that daylight affects the production of brain chemicals like serotonin.  In my case, the brain was making enough in the fall, thus the feelings of dread and hopelessness.  To treat that we using full spectrum light each day, and I double up on the SSRI that I am on now (Zoloft stopped working for me about ten years ago).

On the upside, I know whats going on in my head. The downside is that for the past 20 years I have been gaining weight, which is a side effect of the pills. So I can be morose and skinny, or plump and content.  

It reminds me of the old saying: It never rains, but it pours.  But at least I know that the sun is going to shine again.


  1. And when the sun shines again, you'll welcome it in your 1950s glittery gay sunglasses.

  2. I'm sorry to hear about what you've had to go through. It's good to know that you got the help you needed. There's nothing worse than having a doctor who won't listen or is dismissive.