Do You Have Seasonal Affective Disorder, or Are You Just a Writer?

When fall arrives, there’s something in the air besides woodsmoke and the gorgeous color of the surrounding landscape– gloom. Oh, it can be a delicious gloom: the kind of gloom that’s the perfect setting for cuddling up to a pile of big, fat books with a pot of tea and a bowl of…popcorn? Okay, make that shortbread cookies–popcorn isn’t really cuddly. Gloom is also great for cuddling with your sweetie, or reading to little ones. Gloom is perfect for such moments. Gloom is the lifeblood of the romantic soul.

But sometimes the gloom can go from romantic and cozy to emotionally gothic in the span of a day.

By nature I’m not a gloomy person. But when the dark, rainy skies of fall show up, Eyeore has nothing on me. I think I write about having S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) every fall, but only because it keeps coming up. And I know a lot of other people who get the winter blues, too.

It sneaks up on a person. One day you’re enjoying a spontaneous rebirth of summer sunshine in October, and the next you’re wondering did I really eat that entire bag of tortilla chips, and is that salsa on my pillowcase? What day is it? Talk about a shock to the system.

Common symptoms include:

–Not giving a damn.

–Taking one or more naps a day.

–Not leaving the house for several days.

–Inability to remember when your last shower was.

–A craving for anything in a crackly bag, a chocolate wrapper, or in a package labeled cheese-anything, including actual cheese.

–Higher than normal desire to have an extra glass of wine with dinner.

–Social anxiety.

–Weight gain.

–Did I mention naps?

Wait. That’s the exact same list the would explain a day in the life of a writer! How interesting.

I’m kidding. Sort of. S.A.D. is not something you mess around with. It should be recognized and diagnosed by a doctor.

When I look online about controlling S.A.D., I read a lot about exercise, medication, happy lights, and proper sleep and diet. I’m achingly familiar with all these things. Ironic, yes? Because it’s sometimes hard to break out of the blues for long enough to get up off the couch, let alone eat vegetables and–gasp!–exercise.

After years of online reading, I’m heading for my first and last lines of defense: books.

I am not a doctor, and this is not medical advice. But here are two books I’ve added to my own S.A.D. treatment schedule.

The first involves what I like to call the Bootstrap Method. As in, suck it up, girlfriend. (With zero apologies to Gay Talese, who should seriously know better.) Or, in classical terms, getting stoic about it. And if you’re talking stoicism, there’s no better teacher than Marcus Aurelius.

Marcus was the ultimate self-control freak. He was also beloved by many, and moderate in his thoughts, words, and deeds. What could be more effective than adding a little acceptance and positive thinking to kickstart one’s way out of seasonal depression? Think of it as an all-season solution.


The other addition I’m making is a bit more direct. There aren’t a whole lot of books on S.A.D. It’s disappointing to find it’s not deemed all that critical. But Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D. has written about it extensively in WINTER BLUES. The information is probably all online in a thousand places, but bless Doctor Rosenthal for putting it all together. Take a look yourself, or wait and I’ll let you know if it’s any good.


I hope your fall is more full of delicious books than winter blahs. How are you affected by the short days and gloom of fall and winter?

7 thoughts on “Do You Have Seasonal Affective Disorder, or Are You Just a Writer?”

  1. Priscilla says:

    I grew up in Alaska where we went to the bus stop in the dark and came home in the dark. The adults whispered things about “cabin fever” when someone in the news got strangely violent. Later it was called “winter blues,” maybe because of Rosenthal’s studies. People started buying special lights for their desk lamps. But me, I wasn’t affected back then. I think now, living in Virginia, if I had to move north again, dark winter days would mess with my brain. Seems like I’m more sensitive to EVERYthing as I age!

  2. skyecaitlin says:

    I suffer from seasonal affect disorder, and I am experiencing it right now and it’s getting dark and it’s only 4:16, but my state saw mostly grey skies and lots of rain all summer long. At least the air is clear and the sun was out earlier.

    1. Laura Benedict says:

      I was driving home from St. Louis the other day and it started getting dark here, too, about that time. It was full dark well before I got into town at 5:30. No fans of Daylight Savings Time, here. Without it we would be adjusted naturally.

      1. skyecaitlin says:

        I get a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach when it starts to grow dark, early. I have wanted to try the special lights, but they are rather pricey, and who knows if they work or not. Many people take Vitamin D3 to help combat this; a doctor told me to take a large amount ( several years ago) , but I have a healthy respect for supplements, and they are not quite as innocuous as many believe, especially any form of Vitamin D; however, just recently several people I know were advised to cut down their amounts. Sunshine, in all its glory is the healthiest way to get Vitamin D. Now, the FDA has been issuing warnings about D and some disorders. Exercise and yoga are, of course, excellent remedies.

        1. Laura Benedict says:

          You’re smart to be cautious about supplements, Skye. I was taking too much zinc and my eyebrows started falling out. But I would be lost without my biotin. It’s the only thing that keeps my skin healthy. Hail, Sunshine!

          1. skyecaitlin says:

            Laura, I had been taking Biotin faithfully and a healthy dose, but I realized it was creating constipation—something that B vitamins can do. How much do you take?

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