Sunday, December 14, 2014

What Works for Me: the SAD Regimen

A number of people have asked me just what my exact regimen is for dealing with SAD.

I am hesitant to share it for fear someone will take it as a prescription for everyone.

So: the disclaimer--







First of all, here are my SAD symptoms:

1. Fatigue.  I am  It's hard to work.  I take naps.  I just want to sleep.
2. Mental fatigue and fuzzy thinking.  What?  I'm supposed to take one car to school and then switch cars and take Jenny to drivers ed?  Huh?  This is just way too complicated.  I find it hard to pray, plan, write, discuss, etc.
3. Obsessing.  This one is embarrassing.  I will just latch onto one nasty person, one regret of the past, one  comment from Paul that seems slightly insensitive and I will just mull that thing to DEATH.  It's like I can't let go until I somehow SOLVE it.  But there's no solving it because it isn't really REAL if that makes sense.
4. I crave sugary things and gain weight.
5. I know I should go on walks but just can't make myself go outside.
6. I know I should interact with people but I don't want to go anywhere and I hate talking on the phone.
7. I spend too much time online, escaping my overwhelming world.
8. Any job bigger than doing dishes is just huge and overwhelming. 

If SAD descends down into the basement and becomes Depression, then I also have these symptoms:
1. Wanting to just hide from the world.
2. Feeling like I'm falling apart.
3. Crying a lot at nothing.
4. Being unable to do the basics like washing dishes.
5. Wanting help but being unable to ask for it.

Believe me, once you've been there and recovered, you don't ever want to go there again.

So, this is my regimen, what I try to do as soon as the black cloud rolls in--

1. 2000 iu of vitamin D a day
2. 375 mg of St. Johns Wort twice a day.
3. Eat lots of protein and just good food.  We all know what's good for us.  Whole grains, fruits, veggies, meat, beans, nuts. Water to drink. And I try to cut out sugar.
4. I take a nutritional product called Reliv.  I take the Classic shake, the SoySentials hormone helpers, and the LunaRich capsules.  You buy it through a dealer.
5. I try to walk outside every day.  If I can't walk outside, I try to work through a Walk Away the Pounds video.
6. I try to connect with people every day, both inside and out of my family.
7. I monitor my symptoms and really kick into gear if I see my symptoms getting worse because it's easy to slack off on the regimen when you start to feel better.
8. I plan ahead of time to ask for help if I ever start to get depressed again.
9. In the past I've taken 5HTP but eventually was ok without it.
10. Keep reading my Bible every day.  It keeps me anchored and helps ward off the guilt and shame. And praying as I'm able.  Thankfully God understands the silent pleas for help when we can't form words.

Here are some things that have worked for others:
1. Using a full-spectrum light.  I'm told there are new ones that you wear like a cap with a visor, and you can do normal stuff and the light in the visor shines sufficiently in your eyes.  Also, you can borrow a light from NAMI.
2. Prescription medicines.  I didn't have much luck with these, but I'm told that what I took is now considered old-school and there are lots of better things available.

What do you do if you know something is deeply wrong but you don't have the strength to ask for help?

Here's my advice:
1. Make a pot of tea.  Clear a spot on your messy table.  Find a pretty napkin.  Drink your tea.
2. Make your bed every morning.
3. Read your Bible, even if it's just a few verses.  Your soul needs nourishment.
4. Eat an egg and an apple.
5. Take a walk.
6. Call an elderly person whose life is so pitiful compared to yours that you can't help but cheer her up.
7. You know there are things you should do.  Break them down into little steps.  Put on your walking shoes.  Plan to reward yourself with 15 minutes on Pinterest for every 5 minutes you walk--if that's what it takes.  Write down the phone number you should call.  Plan to call at 1:00.  Reward yourself with more tea after you call.
8. Keep a journal.  Write down what you're obsessing about.  Also find 3 things to be thankful for, and write them down.  Write a prayer for the day, even if it's only one sentence.
9.Give yourself credit for surviving.  Surviving is good.
10. Promise me and yourself that if you are ever a danger to yourself or your children, you will call someone right now.  You know the 911 number by heart.  Call it if you need to.  If you don't want to be that drastic, figure out now who you'll call instead.  Write down the number and have it on hand.
11.  Look up NAMI online.  Learn a lot.  Call them if you should.  I promise they will not make you feel stupid, even if you don't even know what questions to ask.
12. Tell your spouse, friend, mom, someone, what a hard time you're having.  Ask them to help you get help.  Plan ahead how you will do this.  When will you bring it up?  What words will you say?  Then open your mouth.  Say the words.  Tell them you need them to give you a hug and pray for you.  If they won't, find someone who will.  And then let them lead you to the help you need.
13. Believe that there is hope and healing for you.

SAD is awful and Depression is worse, but I believe in better things for all of us.


  1. So thankful you share your insight and experience on this subject. It is encouraging!

  2. Dorcas, this is excellent. Thank you for speaking both for and to those who don't have the words.

  3. So spot on. Especially those last steps. You covered everything I learned from trial and error.

  4. This is so helpful, Dorcas! And you saved me from having to send you an email this morning asking you this very thing....what you found helpful.

    Thank you for being brave enough to speak up and talk about this!

  5. I thought you used SAM-e. I started it this year but I am one of those that gets severe stomach pains from it. I backed it off to twice a week and that seems to work. Did you find that it didn't work for you?

    I suffered for many years and couldn't understand why I felt like crawling in a hole and pulling the dirt in after me. Although autumn is my favorite season, it is followed by winter. :-(

  6. I am astonished at how many people can relate to all this. We definitely are not alone, even when it feels like we are.
    Anonymous--I used SAM-e for a while but it didn't work better than St. Johns Wort and was more expensive.

  7. Dorcas, beautifully written - and practical. I was dx with SAD when participating in a study over 10 years ago. The one thing I remember is the need to stay ahead of symptoms. Once you have symptoms, it is too late. I actually need to take a Rx Vitamin D as the OTC definitely doesn't do the job. Here's to sunny winter days :)

  8. All of this! Thank you!

    Just to pick one thing, you used that phrase about depression being like walking through peanut butter, and that's the only description I've ever read that fits. I've explained it like that to other people, and the phrase has caught on.

    That last list of hints, it's really nice to read someone who gets it.

    Maybe this isn't the place to publish it, but about anti-depressants, I wish it could be more talked about and known, that they very often have s*xual side effects, in fact they are almost all also used to treat PE, a s*xual problem in men! Antidepressants worked and work for me, but I couldn't stand the side effects and their effect on my marriage, and I was too embarrassed to tell my doctor what they were. Shouldn't have been, but I'm probably not the only one

  9. Very well said! I have gone through all of the above!

    My "magical cure" was when I finally saw a Dr who helps with women's hormones. He put me on natural progestrone oil that is an RX and also on a low dose of thyroid. I feel like a different person. I battled depression off and on for 14 yrs and I don't EVER want to go there again!
    I did battle SAD last year and he put me on some herbal stuff (I can't remember the name) and that pulled me through.
    You were brave to post all of this but I think it is so helpful! We are not alone!

  10. These posts "hit the nail on the head"! Can I ever relate to #3 symptom (obsessing); hadn't really made the connection before. I would add one comment to #12 of your last list of steps- if the person you choose to confide in doesn't get it, keep trying. Don't spiral farther down because one person didn't know what to say and therefore said the wrong thing.

  11. I was going to look up how much Vit D is too much, but decided to check and read email first. Glad I did. I am not subject to SAD or depression, but family members are and this is helpful for my understanding of them!
    Your list of steps to get help is so spot on. Plan ahead and Keep asking for help until you find someone to help...That is what we tell children and it is so true for adults too. Some have the extra help of being able to trust God and ask Him to help us...In our problem and finding support to help with the problem.
    Thank you Dorcas for sharing

  12. Many of your symptoms also sound like low thyroid. Have you had yours checked?