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My Cure For Seasonally Affected Disorder or SAD
What is SAD?
So, what is SAD? It is Seasonally Affected Disorder or, 'With Seasonal Pattern' disorder. SAD is where a person can have genuine mood changes as the seasons change from the brighter summer months to the gloomier days of winter.
At first, experts were sceptical about the idea that people can have serious mood changes in the winter months, but now there is a more accepted level of its existence. There appear to be a list of symptoms that frequently are associated with SAD which include; irritability, social withdrawal, loss of libido anxiety and others for example, weight loss.
My own experience of SAD included a couple of additional symptoms which were debilitating; I wanted to sleep all the time and I couldn't be bothered doing anything. I have a few friends who also struggle in the winter and we had a sense of camaraderie and hence an acceptance of the condition.
Now SAD has been accepted by the mainstream. It has a modern diagnosis.
My SAD became Depression
Sometimes, my health problems have coincided with negative events in life. These negative events have then become the focus of my attention and subsequently a convenient hook to hang my symptoms on. Interestingly the worst of these events seemed to take place mostly in the winter-time.
In the past I have spent emotional time and energy trying to resolve personal issues and, as I struggled with these issues I noticed my health wasn't what it ought to be. This diverted my attention from my underlying health problems. As I was aging these personal problems seemed to be mounting, not, as I imagined, reducing. Life seemed to be fraught. I blamed these problems for my failing mental health.
My coping abilities were also failing. Sleep seemed to be the only self-defence and restorative mechanism left available to me. I was beginning not to function. My work suffered, I lost three very well paid, high profile jobs within the space of two years, my working relationships were breaking down. My role was management, but I was unable apply strategic thinking and operate within a management environment. My working life was falling apart after many years of being successful. This just wasn't like me at all. Even worse, was that this seasonally affected disorder seemed to be turning into full blown depression, the lines between winter and summer became blurred, I just felt even much worse in the winter.
My inability to cope spilled into my private life as well, my relationships became under strain. Close family members irked me, i felt guilty because I couldn't physically care for my children and my in-law relationships were increasingly filled with silly problems.
When I really took the time to examine the problems and my behaviour, i could see that things I would have dealt with swiftly and conclusively when I was young, were turning into drawn out ridiculous episodes. I seemed to have lost the maturity that I had as a young adult. Now in my forties my behaviour was much more emotional and child - like and I withdrew from the confrontations.
Eventually and inevitably I ended at the doctors, fluorexitine was prescribed, which dumbed me down for while. Later, an endless round of other SSRI's seemed to work less and less, I was numbed. I remember going to a management meeting being so drugged up I was unable to form words with my lips, they just would not move, my speech was slurred and I seemed to be drunken. I was embarrassed and my managers were unforgiving. I walked away from that job.
My doctor prescribed more drugs and even computer based cognitive behavioural therapy, I was beginning to be sceptical of this approach, but was equally desperate and needed some help, I needed a quick fix to get me back on the band waggon. I began to think my brain was simply and quietly dying.
This decline in my mental health was over a 10 year period, towards the end of the 10 years the decline was rapid. I was hardly functioning at all, in spite pf all the treatments I was having I was only able to lie on the sofa and sleep. My husband, found my inertia exasperating but he was also filled with concern..
My Personal SAD Experience
I went to see my doctor on several occasions. The first time was two years after a personal traumatic event and he said he was expecting that this would happen due to a delayed response to stress, and so he wasn't surprised to see me. My stress response manifested just around Christmas time, winter.
He put me on fluorexitine. I was very grateful, took the prescribed medicine and descended into a muffled, levelled world, of neither happiness nor sadness. This gave me relief, but it was not for long.
About a year later more personal problems piled on top of me and I began to have issues with a new boss at work, a boss who was mentally a bully. Inesrestingly, again I was less able to cope with him during the winter-time. In hind sight his behaviour was unacceptable, but I was no longer mentally equipped to deal with him. My doctor this time prescribed CBT computer assisted cognitive behaviour therapy. To be honest I had no belief that this would work, I could not understand how this approach would fix my boss, who was, I believed, the problem. However, I went through the prescribed program and tried to use some techniques I learned to deal with the situation at work. No surprises, it didn't work, my anxieties increased. I found a counselor who specialised in work related issues. I got a lot of advice, and tried again to apply the techniques suggested, but to no avail. That spring, I left yet another job. I did what I suspect most people, like me, in the end do, I gave up.
Unfortunately I was out of the frying pan into the fire. I found another excellent job with great prospects, but, with an even worse company, the management were more brutal and the staff were hostile. I was doomed. Through that winter I became really ill, I would fall over, I was sleeping even more, I couldn't concentrate and jeopardised my close relationships working and family, even, at one point, walking away from my husband. After the winter had subsided, I also left that job, I was filled with misery, and noticed I always seemed to be far worse after the winter months.
Very unfortunately, that spring, I was then diagnosed with breast cancer. I was well and truly damaged now. Coping with the mental stress of that diagnosis finished my working life off all together. As luck would have it the diagnosis saved my marriage, I had not yet left my husband due to my mental inertia, and he was so in love with me he was willing to help me through the traumas of the cancer treatments.
The treatment for breast cancer is very brutal, my husband lovingly supported me all the way through it. He worked night and day caring for the children, kept a firm grasp on his work and ran the house hold. We had no external help. By this time we had resigned ourselves to my inability to work, and adjusted our life style to accommodate this. Interestingly, my cancer as it transpired, had a serendipitous effect and was to be life changing. The chemo, spite of bringing me nearly to death gave me complete respite from the world. I cocooned myself in my home and spent six months through the winter months hibernating.
During these months of hibernation and as a chemotherapy induced nocturne, I spent a great deal of time researching my condition.
Why I think I had SAD.
I am of Irish descent. My grandfather was Irish. He died at the age of 74, pretty young really. My grandfather had a low body temperature, my mother had a low body temperature.
During the four years post chemo, I discovered that ancestral history, particularly of famine, could along with other things, result in inheriting a low operating body temperature set point. This low body temperature, over a period of time may have resulted in an inability of my compromised immune system to be able to fix small idiopathic illnessses.
It took me about a year of researching to come to this conclusion. Through my life my daytime temperature rarely rose to 36C or 96.8F. I thought this was normal. In fact it usually hovered around 35.8C or 96.4F.
I began to think this was due to a sub optimally operating thyroid, very fortunately for me, thyroid medication didn't work, I neither felt any better nor did I notice my 'basal' or sleeping temperature rise whilst taking thyroid medication. In addition the conundrum here was that my TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone was normal. I was fortunate that the medications didn't work because I decide I was looking in the wrong place and didn't spend too much time running in the wrong direction.
I had started on a breast cancer protocol which was the iodine protocol as suggested by Dr David Derry and Dr David Brownstein, this protocol, interestingly made me feel a little better, physically, and more importantly, mentally, it was like a fog was lifting. However the effects of iodine were not quite enough. There was still something wrong with me. A piece of the puzzle was missing.
I did a search to see if anyone in the world existed who had fixed their own low body temperature. Anyone who, like me, believed they had had a compromised immune system as a result of the brain selecting incorrectly operating set points. I truly began to believe this low temperature was preventing my own immune system form operating optimally and was thus preventing the normal levels of healing that is enjoyed by other, normal body temperature people.
Incredibly, I found just one person. Steve Richfield.
Steve had had his own life threatening illness, which he decided was manifested as a result of a compromised immune system. He fixed the underpinning set point at issue and now manages to enable his immune system to continually deal with his potential idiopathic or chronic illness, effectively he has cured himself.
This, was exactly what I believed. The difference between Steve and myself was, that in spite of his foggy, low temperature brain, he had a massive IQ and was able to use this work out a method that might be a fix. My cold brain was incapable of this, but was still smart enough to find someone who, was like minded, and had been successful in his own pursuit of a specific health cure.
I contacted Steve and asked him if he would support me to fix my compromised immune system.
How I fixed my SAD and Depression.
To fix my compromised immune system I went through a process called resetting. This process was a way of raising my low body temperature from 35.8C to 37C during the daytime, and also paying attention to raising my sleeping temperature from 35C to 36.3C. The process took around two weeks initially, and as it has transpired, nearly three years to maintain.
My aim was not to fix my SAD or depression, what I was aiming for was simply to raise my temperature in order to optimise my own immune system to maybe give me a better quality of life after my cancer diagnosis, I was desperate to live a little longer for my young family, like most cancer survivors, I would have tried anything to allow myself life for another day, month or year.
The serendipitous effect was that, as my brain began to function at a higher or rather 'normal' temperature, my brain fog started to lift. This happened very quickly and, in fact,was like a light bulb being switched on. This was quite unexpected. What was also quite unexpected was that many of my little, what I call subset illnesses, like fungal toes and pompholyx were also subsequently fixed by my immune system.
My SAD now
It has to be said that Steve Richfield has no knowledge of optimising the immune system to fix anything like SAD or depression. This is simply my own observation.
Since optimising my immune system, I have not had an episode of SAD, neither have I had depression. I have fixed my relationships, well, at least the ones that were salvageable, I have regained my sense of humour and a little of my 'joix de vivre'. I not longer feel day dreamy and I no longer sleep during the day.
Very fortunately, my husband has agreed that I do not not yet have to return to full time work, but I am able to work part time, and despite a slightly unpredictable manager, I can now put my occasional uncomfortable work experiences into perspective and so have retained my dignity and my job for the past few years.
It is very difficult to evidence that I am in a different mental place now. The only clue I can offer is that I am no longer beating a trail to my doctors surgery. That trail was very real and frequently used a few years ago. Today, I have no requirement for any medication or CBT and my ability to deal with stressful situations is getting a little easier. Additionally I no longer avoid confrontation and am even occasionally am tackling those little daily inter-personal gripes head on.
The one additional thing I have done since to resetting my temperature, is work hard on my nutrition and supplementation, especially as a post menopausal woman, I don't want to age too rapidly as a result of deficiencies.
My thoughts on SAD
I think SAD may have been a manifestation of my compromised immune system. If I were to experience SAD or depression again the very first thing I would do would be to take my temperature. If it were registering low I would use all the tools in my new kit bag to fix it. In my experience this would then enable my immune system to fix my SAD.
A small interesting story:
I was out in town just before Christmas, on a very cold day, recently. Stupidly, I had no hat on. When I got to back the car park, I was frozen and was becoming very mentally confused. I stood in the car park completely lost. I stood there for around 3 or 4 minutes looking vacantly around. I could not recall which car I was in or where I had parked it. My mind was not functioning. I was beginning to panic.
After a few moments of concentration through the brain fog, I remembered which car was mine and where it was. I checked my temperature when I got in the car it was 34.5C or 94.1F. Immediately I switched the engine on and warmed up. My cognitive functions began to return, at 37C or 98.6F I felt safe enough to drive home again.
Could this be an example of the effect the cold has on brain function?