The day I forgot my light.

I forgot my light today.  Literally and metaphorically.

Literally:  I deal with persistent depression and as the days get rapidly shorter, my symptoms tend to worsen as a result of seasonal affective disorder (SAD– such an appropriate name).  As we head toward fall and the weather cools, the days quickly get shorter here in central Wisconsin.  And with every early nightfall, I can feel myself becoming more and more down.  Down in the dumps.

(Whew… I wrote that.  Depression.  I told you.  Sigh of relief.)

Last year, the brilliant nurse prescriber that I see to manage my symptoms (seriously love her– and I don’t mind paying for friends, whether they teach me pilates or prescribe me drugs) suggested that I get a light box to bring some sunshine into my life from October through April.  (Mexico helps too, but insurance doesn’t seem to get it.)  It makes a surprising difference!  Surprisingly gradual, yes… but that seems to be the nature of all things depression.

I intended to bring my light box to work with me this morning.  But I forgot.  Which presents issues for my metaphorical loss of light…

Metaphorically:  The down-in-the-dumps feeling pretty much feels just like that to me… like I came to work without my light.  My inner light (cheesy, I know)– the glow that fuels my smile and my general drive to a be a friendly, positive person; the person you want to read blog posts from.  That light… it’s dim.  Instead I want to sleep.  I want to hide.  I want to crawl back into my hole and shut out the world.

Depression is a silly thing like that.  (And don’t get upset– I know depression is not in fact silly, it is a serious issue, perhaps what I mean is more some combination of silly, weird, strange, abstract, I-don’t-know-what…)  I think it’s probably different to everyone who experiences it and for me, it’s totally a dampening of the light– never as quick as an an on/off switch or burnt out bulb.  More like a slow dimmer, the changing of the seasons and creep toward winter, the gradual graying of the bright orange charcoals in a fire pit.  So subtle that I have a hard time noticing at first… and it feels like all of the sudden, the tears come easy and the motivation to do even the things I love seems to have disappeared.

I love to read, but I don’t feel like picking out a new book.

My stomach is finally ready to run, but it seems like a lot of work to change my clothes and lace up my shoes. (But seriously, putting on a sports bra takes an annoying amount of work, don’t you think?)

There’s a new Parks and Rec on the DVR, but I’m afraid that I  won’t be able to laugh.

I have a Mexican vacation coming up in a week, but all I can think of are the stressors between then and now.  (Come on, brain!  Pina-freaking-coladas!!)

So many reasons to be happy (30 minutes of Leslie Knope on the DVR and 5 days of Melissa in Cabo!!), but my brain chemicals tell me NO.  And as much as I want the normalcy, the happy feelings, they allude me at the moment.

The light also keeps my second track in the shadows and lets me see past it, around it.  Without the light, the negative thoughts creep into my brain and around my heart and it takes so much work to remember that they are untrue.  The insidious black threads of negativity color my thoughts and my feelings… and even though they are superficial and meaningless, they are pervasive.

Too fat.  Too frizzy.  Too boring.  Not good enough.  Just give up.  Be sad.

But this time, I say NO.  Rationally, I know that I will get back to normal, I will be happy, and my light will be restored.  I just need to fan the flames by taking the steps I know help– bringing my light box to work, for example.

And this time, I’m also going to try sharing this with you.  Because it’s true that misery loves company, and as sad as I feel for other people who struggle with depression, I find it encouraging to know that I am not alone.

So maybe you struggle.  And maybe I can be the miserable company encouraging you.  Crazy encouraging.  Crazy.


Crazy I can do 😉


14 thoughts on “The day I forgot my light.

  1. Too bad you don’t work at UMHS. Not only because we would see each other all the time, but also because our employee health clinic has several lights. Staff can sign up for 15 minute appointments to ‘re-charge’ during their work day. Then you wouldn’t need to worry about forgetting your physical light and have more energy to rediscover your metaphorical one. Much love to you!

  2. I shower with my light, it’s hard to get enough eyeball to blue light contact before I leave the house so it comes in the shower with me. and I agree, putting on sports bras is the workout before the workout.

  3. I have mine right next to my computer monitor. I turn it on for 15-30 minutes first thing and sometimes even skip coffee!!! I’ve heard you should start using it BEFORE you notice the days getting shorter. I started a week or 2 before equinox but things get really dark really fast around here. 🙂 Also need to start taking my vitamin D again!

  4. Rachel- Me too 🙂 ( for pretty much everything you said and I do mean everything. Well ok except there are no voices that tell me “too frizzy” b/c I WISH I had frizzy, but other than that- just ditto). I’m pretty sure that where all of my life and energy and passions and time and blog focus and maybe life focus are going is in helping show the enormous power, freedom and hope that comes when we use our words for good. To share, and help and give hope and commiserate and encourage and say “me too” and build up and hold up and hold out and look up. I think there is great power in naming the hidden things and things of darkness and calling them out so they have nowhere to hide. There is strength in light and honesty so THANK-YOU for sharing your heart here- even if it was hard or scary. Hugs! And don’t forget your light tomorrow 🙂 (Maybe put it in your gym bag with your sports bra- ha!)

    1. Thanks, Dawn! And EXACTLY! So well said! Depression, I’m calling you out– you have no where to hide!

      My husband read my post and put my light right by the door– I will definitely remember tomorrow 🙂

  5. Darling Rachel,

    Thank you for such a brave, honest and TOTALLY SPOT ON post! You explain it so well. I don’t know if there’s a seasonal aspect to mine– it’s not something I’ve ever explored. I do know that every cell of my body BEGS me to hibernate all winter long!
    I know it doesn’t help much, but from the outside– you emit so much light. You are radiant. Even if you don’t always feel that way.


    1. Cheese and rice, Erika! Nicest. Comment. Ever! Thank you so much. I wasn’t sure if you read along or not, but I’m glad you do because it is YOUR encouragement and support that has made a HUGE difference to me! Thank you times a million!!

  6. * To the tune of You are my Sunshine
    You are my dinosaur
    My only dinosaur
    You make me HAP-PY
    When skys are PURPLE!
    You are my dinosaur
    My only dinosuar
    Please don’t take my dinosaur awayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!

    I love you, Sunshine!

  7. Man, what is it about depression and depression-related emotions that makes people so afraid of sharing? I can’t tell you how much I wish I had known this while we were in school together, because I would have told you that A) you are not alone (cue the Michael Jackson) and B) you are more than your SAD. I’m so glad your light helps you, and hopefully sharing your struggles with us helped as well. (((hugs)))

    1. Awww… thanks, Lara! This is why it’s just so important to share our feelings because truly, grad school could have been very different if more of us had been more open about our struggles, don’t you think? Thanks so much, Lara!!!!

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