Recently, I mentioned something in this column called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and the notion that I think I have it. Wanting to learn more, I sat down at my computer and decided to delve …
Recently, I mentioned something in this column called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and the notion that I think I have it. Wanting to learn more, I sat down at my computer and decided to delve into the subject thoroughly.
According to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, based in Rochester, Minnesota, “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons; SAD begins and ends at about the same time every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.” The clinic employs more than 4,500 physicians and scientists, so (IMHO) they probably know what they’re talking about. And I sure do feel a little moody.
“Okay, so SAD is actually a thing,” I said to Dharma, who had a bit of a hang-dog look on her face. “Now what do I do?”
“Use of a light therapy box can offer relief,” the website informed. “All light therapy boxes for SAD treatment are designed do the same thing, but one may work better for you than another.”
“Okay, maybe there is some light at the end of this tunnel. Back to the computer,” I muttered to the dog, and typed “SAD light therapy” into the Google’s search box. I was momentarily stunned by the sheer number of choices available for purchase. A wide variety of sizes, shapes, companies and products made me light-headed as I scanned the vast array. Names like the Casper Glow Light, Sunlight 365, the Smart Sleep and Wake-up Light, the adorable-sounding Luminette and one called the Verilux Happy Light.
“Cool,” I said to the dog, who wagged her tail in approval as I hit “buy now” online. “After all, who doesn’t want to be happy?” A few days later, my light arrived. “You are our sunshine,” the postcard inside declared. “Love your light?” it asked.
“We’ll see,” I thought. “We’ll see.”
After reading the instructions carefully, I plugged it in and declared it should be named “Little Mary Sunshine” since I’m one of those guys who anthropomorphizes every non-living thing in my world. “Okay, Mary,” I said to my new therapist. “Do your thing.”
The booklet instructs to “sit close to your Happy Light with your eyes open. Note: Do not look directly into the lamp.
“While staying oriented toward the light, feel free to engage in other activities such as reading, writing (thank goodness!), sewing (not so much), applying makeup (it’s been a while), or sitting at your desk or computer and (bingo!) working. I began with a short test run as advised and, over the course of a few days, worked my way up in brightness and increased my time in front of the light—but I swear that I felt its effect on day one. Instead of my normal midday nap, I decided to make and freeze quarts of chicken soup, mop the kitchen floor and organize my DVDs by genre.
“Well, that’s not like me at all,” I noted, tripping the light fantastic. I’m about a week in and happily committed to Mary and basking daily in her magical light. I’ve fixed the vacuum cleaner, caught up on my laundry, got the dog groomed (she was not happy), hung a few pictures on the wall and cleaned off my desk—something I vowed to do months ago. I called friends, extolling the virtues of Little Mary Sunshine and encouraging them to visit (not like me at all) and check it out themselves. I found myself doing the cha-cha with Dharma while listening to Harry Connick Jr. and dancing around the living room. “I have never danced with my dog before,” I crowed to a pal. “I’m telling you, this light therapy thing works! Is this what happy feels like?”
“That doesn’t sound like you at all,” My friend responded. “Maybe you should get two.”
Light boxes are designed to be safe and effective, but they aren’t approved or regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for SAD treatment, so it’s important to understand your options.
You can buy a light box without a prescription. Your doctor may recommend a specific light box, but most health insurance plans do not cover the cost.
For more information about Seasonal Affective Disorder, visit www.mayoclinic.org.
Editor’s note: I received a call from a very frantic Jonathan who had just closed out of his almost-finished column without saving. However, he was able to turn the tragic blunder around fairly quickly, handing me a column with no broken keyboards, glass or drywall in his wake. I wasn’t asking for more proof of how his SAD lamp has been working for him, but there it is!