Opinion: Seasonal Affective Disorder Got Me Fucked Up

Opinion: Seasonal Affective Disorder Got Me Fucked Up

We’re closing in on just over a week into the nationwide lockdown, and things are weird. We can’t leave the house for more than a short walk, everywhere is shut, and there is an overwhelming anxiety that looms over everyone. It’s a strange time to be alive. When the lockdown first ensued, I thought I would be all good with self-isolating. I mean, staying inside all day and being able to work from bed sounds like a dream. I decided that it would be easier to stay in my Dundas flat during the lockdown, so that way I didn’t have to worry about moving anything, it’s easier to work here, and I can vape. However, I’ve come to realise there has been a fatal flaw in my plan. 

You see, if you’ve been in Dunedin for long enough, you know that the weather is always some varying degree of shit. There seems to be no regular consistency, as it appears to have all four seasons in the space of one day. Turns out the exposed brick in the flat is aesthetically pleasing, but not super great at keeping in heat. It always has a slightly cold feeling to it, as there is little natural light that can come into my room. It didn't really phase me before the lockdown, since I was able to go outside and get that vitamin D we all love. But during the lockdown, my mood has been Not The Goods. 

I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression for a while now, and have been taking antidepressants to try to balance it all out. During the winter periods, I noticed that my mood would often drop severely compared to other time periods. It would get dark faster, it was always chilly, and I felt unmotivated to do anything. It’s so much easier to stay in bed and sleep all day when it’s gloomy out. Now, I’m no scientist or psychologist, so don’t go diagnosing yourself without talking to a professional. But from the research I did on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), all the readings seemed to relate back to how I was feeling. Various resources described how SAD wintery months would start to sap your energy and make you experience varying mood swings. I felt read to filth. 

Generally speaking, SAD hits you hardest during the end of Autumn, when Winter starts to come into full affect. However, being in self-isolation for me has resulted in it coming earlier. The lack of motivation and mood swings is accompanied by the sense of boredom that comes with being in lockdown. It’s hard thinking of ways to keep yourself busy or entertained when you only have a limited amount of resources. The main proprietor of the mood swings is the sense of claustrophobia, and feeling trapped indoors. But there’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t go outside for long periods of time or interact with people outside my bubble since we’re in full lockdown. It’s no one’s fault, and I respect that this is what we have to do in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19. But in saying this, I’ve never started to feel worse. Especially in the age of social media, you constantly see updates and stories of people you know flexing how they're treating their isolation period. Everyone seems to be productive, doing at-home workouts or making extravagant home meals. But I just can’t do that. I’ve been trying to motivate myself to doing more of these things, but it’s so fucking hard. You’re always told to not compare yourself to others on social media, but it’s always easier said than done. 

While technology has allowed us so many affordances to stay in regular contact with our peers, even that is overwhelming. Being constantly online and active in terms of messaging and video calling takes such an emotional toll on a person. There is no real time to rest or recover for one’s self as you feel as if you have to over compensate for the lost social interactions you once had. There is an uneasy feeling in the air that everyone is dealing with, the fear of the unknown. The comfortability of the familiar and the regular is now gone, and I don’t know when and if it will ever come back. The anxiety of Covid-19 has coupled with SAD and created an overwhelming feeling of dread. Even as I now look outside and see the dark clouds approaching, it feels as if it signifies how my brain feels right now. I don’t want to leave my bed or be active, because there are so many limiting forces telling me that I can’t anyway. So why should I?

The issue is that there is no real solution to this. I imagine that this feeling will last as long as the lockdown period does. I want to stay the fuck at home because the more we do, the sooner we will be out of this situation. But it’s getting harder each day. If you feel in the same boat that I do, all I can say is that you can’t push yourself too hard. Although there is such an overwhelming need to be productive and use your time wisely, it’s more of an idealistic goal rather than a reality. Getting out of bed and having a shower is just as big of an achievement than anything else. Try and go outside for at least five minutes a day, even if it’s just outside your front door. Little things are better than nothing. As I speak from my own experience and understanding, it is not universally valid since everyone has their own subjective experience. Just feel comfortable knowing that if you are feeling affected by the changes in the weather alongside the doom of being in lockdown, you are not alone. 

Posted 10:11am Wednesday 8th April 2020 by Henessey Griffiths.