Weary of Winter: My experience with SAD and thyroid issues
Lassen National Volcanic Park
The rain is finally here in California and I am sad to say that for me it signifies a long, dark, depressing winter. I have been affected by the seasonal changes of light and darkness, not to mention the weather, for a long time now. I wish that I could hibernate like a mother bear with her cubs and come out of my house in a few months to restock the pantry. Alas, humans are not equipped with the means to do this. With the economy as slow as it is, I'm not sure that my work would even miss me, but the bill collector would definitely not let me sleep very long.
I have a low functioning thyroid; not low enough for them to treat me of course, just low enough to suffer the symptoms. Since my body temperature is two degrees lower than everyone elses, winter cold makes me shiver almost nonstop. I have to wear shoes year round or it takes hours to rewarm my toes. Right now as I am typing, it is about 74 degrees in my house, which is relatively warm, and my fingers are like little icicles. You would think the finger typing dance would keep them warm, but it doesn't seem to help. More often than not when people ask what I want for Christmas I usually answer "thick socks, or sweatpants". Its not because I'm broke, I just really like to keep warm!
Last year around Christmas our family took a trip to the Mojave desert to visit family and we went up into the nearby mountains to go tubing at a snow park. It was so much fun and much easier than skiing. Of course, my process for getting ready for a day in the snow was much less than easy. I wore a snowbib, a full set of thermal underwear, sweatpants, and boxers, two sets of socks, two t-shirts, a sweatshirt with hood, and a thick winter coat. I also had snow gloves, and hat with built-in ear muffs, thick scarf and snow boots. I have to say, I was warm! I was so happy to be warm that I had a great time! It was the first time that I remember being warm while playing in the snow. My husband was joking with his brother in law that "god forbid she start to get cold" or we would have to go home. I looked rediculously fat from wearing so many layers of clothes, but he affectionately called me his little snow bunny, and I thought it sweet of him to love me just the way I am. That day took quite a bit of planning on my part. Consequently, I do not like to go to the snow very often, no matter how much fun it is.
Having said all that, I should note that I don't like to be too hot either. I grew up in the San Francisco bay area, where we don't have four distinct seasons. We have wet winters, long pretty springs, warm pleasant summers with plenty of bay breezes, and a mild fall with naked trees. Now I live in mountainous northern California and things are very different. Winter is freezing, with plenty of snow. Spring is short and warm, and leads to long sweaty summers of temps in the high 90's to 110 degrees. Many years have a sprinkling of days over 110 degrees. Fall is short, rainy and windy and nothing special. My favorite thing about this area are the long summer days that extend into the night. You can literally get up in the morning, put on your favorite shorts and tank top, and be comfortable wearing that same outfit till midnight. Midnight here is often still 80+ degrees.
I used to operate a mobile grooming business in this area all year round and I really enjoyed it. I was forced to give it up when the heat began to compromise my health. After four grueling summers in my van with inadequate cooling, I began suffering heat exhaustion every day. Dizziness, delerium, and dehydration were killing me slowly. So I bought a grooming shop, and now I get to regulate my surroundings to my heart's content. Aaahhhhh.
Believe it or not there are some major problems with transitioning from working outdoors to indoors that I did not expect. Working outdoors I was exposed to so much more sunlight per day than I get now and it makes a huge difference in my mood. I do seem to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder to some extent, and getting less sunlight was hard for me. I bought a special lamp for my desk at home with a sunlight mimicking bulb and at times you could find me hovering underneath it, almost for dear life. I also discovered that tanning is a great way to get some relief from a lack of sunshine. I am by no means a vain kinda gal, I go tanning in the winter for my mental health. If I could lay there with all my clothes on I would be happy, but the light needs to touch your skin to be effective. These two coping techniques really helped me to transition but it has taken over two years to make the adjustment to working indoors.
There is something that happens in your brain naturally when you work outdoors and you see the change of light during the day, vs. being indoors and then coming outside to find yourself in the dark. Another factor is your body's ability to make vitamin D using UV rays from the sun. Here is a link to an important and thorough fact sheet for your reveiw. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamind.asp Some of our foods are supplemented with vitamin D, but getting sunshine on your skin is the only way for our bodies to make it.
So, between my low functioning thyroid that makes me colder than most folks, and seasonal affective disorder ruining my mood, winter time for me is not a welcome visitor. I can only think warm thoughts for so long before I have to step out into the rain and snow to run to my favorite tanning booth and grab a hot mocha on the way. If you have a person in your life with either of these two conditions, I have the perfect Christmas gift idea for you! Think warm socks, coffee gift cards, vitamin D supplements, and cerificates to a tanning booth. I know you would make some major brownie points with me.