Sunday, November 09, 2008


I usually feel like 60% of the DSM-IV could be re-written as "Malingering", with 35% characterized as "Weak" and the remaining 5% as "Genuinely Bonkers".

While I generally think the cure for "Seasonal Affective Disorder" is a nice frosty glass of Get The Hell Over It, I can't deny that this last week since the time change, with daylight disappearing at some early heathen Yankee hour and the sky a cheerless shade of gray or sporting a lowering, watery sun casting long shadows by three P.M., has sucked the creative chi right out of me. Bleh. At least cheery Christmas lights will be going up before too long.


Vinnie said...

Back in the late eighties my first ex-wife and my stepdaughter and I were driving around the Seattle suburbs looking at pretty lights. I spotted some really bright flashing lights across the valley so we headed that way to have a look. We found a great big bright flashing...railroad crossing. I was pretty disappointed with myself. I had failed to notice all of my previous life that I only considered something to be beautiful at a certain time of year.

TJP said...

My glass of Get The Hell Over It generally contains a couple shots of Wodka. A fireplace and a book helps. Sometimes it's better to do than to sit and think.

That's why I have a pile of hobby projects for this winter. Boy, do I wish I had a machine shop in my basement, though.

Xavier said...

My wife, who is a psych nurse, and I argue constantly over this.

I can stitch guts, dig through blood and crap, debride necrotic maggot infested tisse, but I can't stand a psych aptient. They make my skin crawl.

They don't like me either. I tend to exacerbate them. Of course it could be because I truly believe that 95% of them need a job, a paycheck, and some self respect.

The psychiatric community is totally out of control in this country. A drug is developed that changes moods or behavior, and then, after the drug is developed, new diagnoses are formulated to correspond with the drug so it can be marketed. That is ass backwards.

Tam said...


Oh, I think it's perfect collusion: The psycho-pharmacological complex wants people to be sick, since it gives them a reason to be, a service to perform, and a paycheck to boot.

Simultaneously, people (most of whom will malinger if given half a chance) are only too happy to be given a diagnosis, a prescription, and (most importantly) an excuse by Dr. Caring Feelgood.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

I'm not sick in the head. I got the Lumbago something fierce. And my Sciatica is acting up... Soon it'll be teh Grip or the Krupe. Happens every winter.

All legitimate physical complaints, but I ain't bonker.

And WTH is it with word verification these days? Mothpit? Glad I don't have that malady. Sounds itchy.

HTRN said...

Oh, SAD is all too real. Perhaps the most extreme examples of it you'll find is among the people that overwinter at McMurdo. By the time the Sun returns, people are almost zombies.

Of course, those people don't see the sun for 5 months.

Kelly said...

I agree with Xavier about the psychiatric community. I spent years believing my "mental illness" (and SAD is an issue with me) was just doctors wanting to roll a pill at me, nothing more. When I accepted that mental illnesses are real, and that I do have one, I noticed that didn't change the fact that doctors just wanted to roll a pill at me... and everyone else. "Treatment" was almost as bad for my life, sometimes worse, than the mental illness. And fighting public perception that mentally ill people just need to get over themselves and try harder, because everyone has problems in life, made things even more difficult. Mental illness isn't about having problems... it's about being at a severe disadvantage that has a biological cause when it comes to handling those problems. But I couldn't blame people for seeing it that way. What else should people think when doctors diagnose everyone with some reason that they shouldn't be expected to make an effort in life? Finally, I was seen by a psychiatrist who cared a lot more about mental health than just "treating the mentally ill". It doesn't change the fact that I have a mental illness, but it helps offset that biological disadvantage. The truly mentally ill can't "just suck it up". But that doesn't mean we're hopeless and need a free ride. Most psychiatrists are terrified that we'll realize that.

Rio Arriba said...

Sometimes we have to just cowboy-up and get on with it.

I remember a favorite pub owner in Ireland who used to stride thru the place two or three times a night bellowing "Kwitcher complaining!" Nobody was, but it was a preemptive strike that usually worked.

Tam said...


I know that my feelings on this are probably overly harsh and unfair; it's definitely something I struggle with.

Mark Alger said...


I was raised on a similar phrase -- "Quitcher bitchin'!"

At a time when, for the most part, a bitch was a female dog, and not a complimentary term.


pax said...

Tam ~

SAD is real. It's not malingering. There's a biological cause and you are particularly at risk this winter because you've lived in the south so long.

It's not fixed with a pill, and lying around on a psych couch whining to a stranger won't do a damn thing but make it worse.

It's best cured with more light. Put some full spectrum lights -- a lot of them! -- in the room where you spend the most time. And leave them on during the day no matter what it does to your electricity bill. Get the room warm enough that you can wear a tee shirt rather than a sweater when you're in that room.

If it gets really bad, clear your schedule and get down to a tanning salon twice a week. Srsly. Getting skin cancer in twenty years would be unfortunate, but killing yourself by February would be worse.

J.R.Shirley said...

I actually love gray days, oddly enough. Fall is my favorite season.

Anthony said...

SAD is consistently over diagnosed when they can't figure it out, but for those of us who actually do have SAD it sucks monkies. But hey I have it and I don't complain, when I notice it is starting to have an affect on me and my life I make it a point to spend as much time outside in the sunlight as possible. I certainly do not medicate for it, I mean let's be for real SAD does not need medication.

Tam said...


Me, too. Gray skies and bare trees usually get me feeling all creative. I blame the time change and the strange Yankee surroundings for messing with my biorhythms.

LabRat said...

I grew up surrounded by an interesting combination of very real, kick-your-ass fuck-you mental illness, and very real malingering. Sometimes in the same individuals at the very same time.

I developed an equally interesting combination of sympathy for mental illness and absolutely ZERO respect for the mentally ill that blame ALL their problems and bad behavior on their illness. Sometimes it's the illness talking, yes, but sometimes it's just you being an asshole, pally. Interestingly, one set of behaviors will persist over time no matter what friends or family do, and one is astoundingly treatable via carrot-and-stick approaches.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine dropped into a cold funk every winter till she heard about SAD. She thought the commercial lights were too damned expensive, and just suffered until one day in a pet shop she saw full spectrum spotlights for repiles and bought a couple. She put her "lizard lights" up around her apartment and cheered right up.

After that I used to get cheered up when I went to visit her, but that's another story.


Loose Gravel said...

Now you know why drinking is the primary winter sport in Alaska!

Anonymous said...

Come down to southeast Kentucky if you need a Christmas boost.

November 1 I entered our super Wal-Mart. They had erected a large Christmas tree in the entryway where you had to bump into people in the check out line to get enter (this in a store that had a bomb threat just a few weeks ago). Last night driving home from my church board meeting the radio was playing non stop Christmas music.

I figure by next week I'll have SAD but it won't have anything to do with gray skies.

Anonymous said...

Sunrise: 09:42.
Sunset: 16:43.
And November just started o_O

Still, SAD is very uncommon here. The poor buggers probably didn't survive to breed...

Arni in Iceland

Anonymous said...

The worst SADS are the Swedes. The other Northern Folk like their likker and melancholy, but it's an art form for the Svenskers.

In our family,it is so pronounced, that we call it the "Hedburg Curse" in honor of the immigrant ancestors, who landed in Hells Kitchen, NYC at the beginning of the 20th Century.

It's not equally pronounced in all the collateral descendant branches, either, but appears to be more concentrated in one or two lines.

The Curse's companions appear to a wide variety of symptoms along the mental health fringe, with plain old bleak deep and chronic depression noted as following it in the door, if left untreated. A suicide happened about once a generation, but none so far in the current crop of g-g-g-grand childern.

As to pharmacology. Sometimes the magic works; sometimes it doesn't. And a lot of time it is all wrong, and even worse when handed out like candy by the alleged professionals. There is the fact that receptors CAN be chemically blocked, in order to alleviate specific symptoms in specific individuals.

Trouble is,there is NO neat little test strip or computer grid electrode connection to say, "Working, working, working". Nor any real way to even verify if "working" is what is needed on that receptor, for that person.

Oh yeah, BTW, my take is that if the sabretooth tigers are on y'r axx or y'r pursuing that antelope for y'r first bite of meat in a week -- then all the 'mental' stuff' is nowhere near as important, as when y'r were moping around that dark ol' cave. A massive rush of adrenalin seems to clear all that stuff right up, y'know?

Get some light, and take a sauna ['stay warm' room good advice], at least. And don't over self medicate with alcohol, as a regular thing. There's a reason those Minnesota bars are booming far into the wee hours, in -30 January nights. Good fun, but only once in while if you are already wrestling with the Beast.

Me? This winter? I'm 61, and it can still sneak in if I get careless about my daylight lamps [my shop has them]and neglect to get out door exercise.

John, squinting into the loomin' dark,at the West End of lake eerie

Cowboy Blob said...

+1 on the full-spectrum lights.

Or move to Tucson or San Diego or Miami... I vote for Tucson :)

staghounds said...

It's a shame we don't differentiate between physical illnesses with mental symptoms (porphyria), mental illnesses that can be treated (ptsd), and purely mental conditions or states (paranoia)..

loki said...

You might try vitamin d supplements. Remember, your body makes vitamin d when exposed to sunlight. There's lots of information on the web about this.

wv: quarmin -- "Ladies, please don't squeeze the Quarmin!" Oops, I think I just dated myself there.

On a Wing and a Whim said...

SAD's a nasty thing to deal with - though I find that it's often really bipolar on a full-year scale. Sure, everybody mopes about the winter blues, but when it's 2am and the sun's about to sink into twilight, and the same people are charging around trying to finish building that shed, or catching one last fish? The manic end just gets hidden in the overproductiveness.

The first best cure is light. More light. I love light, lots of light. There's a reason you walk into a lot of arctic houses and find greenery and grow lights all over.

The second is a regular schedule - easier for working adults than college kids. Force yourself to keep getting up at the same time every day, or you'll end up wanting to sleep 22 hours a day. (I was literally awake for 2 hours on Dec 31st, one bad year).

The third thing is to exercise. The more you exercise - especially if you can get out in that precious real sunlight and exercise - the better you will be. A fit body has a lot more rebound than an unfit one. Me, I go to the gym on schedule, and try to squeeze in flying as much as possible.

The fourth is carb craving - don't give in. Eat healthily, don't spike and crash your blood sugar, avoid the extra depression at getting pudgy for free!

Get out, eat right, and exercise - and remember that winter solstice is not the worst time. February to March is when most of the suicides kick in. Don't expect it to be all better and go away until you're really, truly out in the spring.