My psychiatrist mentioned light therapy for SAD during my last medication management session.
This year I realized back in early November that the days were getting markedly shorter. By 5 PM, if it was overcast outside, the sky was almost black. And the days just before Winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, seemed exceedingly devoid of light.
Now we are 6 days on the other side of that and the days are getting longer.
The effects of the shortened days are now being felt. Or will be felt soon. This past week has been all above normal. In the mountains of Virginia on Christmas day, it got to 72 degrees in the afternoon. As you might imagine, it was not a white Christmas.
For the past several years, I have felt that I would benefit from light therapy. But for the past several years, my depression talked me out of trying it. In fact, it made sure that I saw only the trouble it would be to even do some research about light therapy. Depression made sure that I knew that it had already been decided that light therapy would not work.
Depression made sure I knew that doing anything about light therapy was too much work.
I shouldn’t bother. After all, depression reminded me that I had it to keep me company during the long winter nights. Why would I need to spend money on an electrical appliance when I could hang out with depression for free?
My depression made it clear that I would be making it mad, and sad if I did not listen to it.
Trying light therapy for SAD, was beyond my grasp for many years. This was mainly because I listened to my depression. It was, so depression said, very clear that light therapy was not a good idea, so I dutifully believed it. When depression said it would take care of me during the winter, I believed that too.
After all, historically, I had many times listened to depression instead of getting other opinions.
The fact that almost all these times ended badly was beside the point. I have a history with my depression. This comfort level, the familiarity is a safety net for me. The situations I end up in often suck big time, but at least I know what to expect. Going against depression’s ideas is dangerous. I am not out to make depression mad, but I just want it to stop controlling me.
I want to say, “Hey, let’s try LED Light Therapy” without depression getting in my face yelling, “why don’t you love me?”
This is day three using light therapy. I have the lamp set on my desk, about 18” from my face. It is angled so that it hits the left side of my face at an angle. This setup was suggested in the instruction booklet that came with the lamp.
The lamp “cues your body’s own energy enhancers to make you more alert and productive.”
Researchers at the National Institute of Health demonstrated that white light, in the range of 2,500 to 10,000 lux (a measurement of light intensity), helped to reverse the symptoms of “Winter Blues.” The instructions continue: “when you are feeling sluggish and lethargic, increase the brightness of the lamp, sit closer to the lamp and/or spend more time with the lamp. If you start to feel a sort of edginess, as though you had consumed too much coffee, it may be time to turn off the lamp.”
My first two sessions were 20 minutes; today’s is 30 minutes in front of the lamp.
It may or may not have helped yet. I want to attribute last night’s alertness to having used the lamp for 20 minutes just after dark. After 20 minutes, I was able to enjoy much of the evening without feeling sluggish or lethargic.
And this morning, I just completed 30 minutes in front of the lamp.
In reviewing the instructions, I do see that the manufacturer recommends that I use my “Happy Light® Therapy Lamp regularly and at about the same time each day.” Well, I just screwed that up. The first two times I used it; it was evening. Today I used my lamp beginning at 7:30 AM.
The lamp just turned off, so my 30 minutes is over.
I will consider what works best for my schedule and get into a daily routine to use my Happy Light at about the same time each day.
I’m a little uncomfortable with the term “happy light.”
But if it works, who cares. I still have trouble saying “self-care” out loud. But I am practicing that more and more. The results make self-care worthwhile, even if I am uncomfortable with the term” self-care.” Light therapy may end up being another tool I can use to keep me from listening to my depression as the days get shorter.