More light.

As I get older, the seasons play a larger role in the ebb and flow of my depression. Early March through May is a period of elation and joy; my spirits settle through June, and by September, the malaise is in full effect, not to lift until next spring. Studies have shown that women suffer Seasonal Affective Disorder more frequently and with greater repetition than men, and that their SAD is strongest from ages 20 to 60. Thus I have some winters to dread.

This fall I am doing something different: I am girding for the battle ahead, and my first weapon is a 12” x 15” box-shaped lamp. It sits on my windowsill, and each morning I roll over and turn it on, waking up slowly to the blaze (it’s definitely not a glow) of 10,000 lux, approximately the same amount of white light as the sun emits on a clear spring morning.

When my doctor suggested I try light therapy, I scoffed but, ultimately, gave it a go. Years ago—even a year ago—this would not have happened, but you get desperate enough, and you’ll try anything. If Dr. Friedman recommended a pineapple diet to keep me happy, I’d try it. Light therapy, to his credit and to my relief, is so far succeeding, and I almost feel as radiant as those bulbs.

Depression is so often described as a dark place, a cave, a sea in which one drowns, that it makes sense to me now how clear, burning, radiant light could be as effective as a pill in combating the melancholia. Similarly I now feel empowered to confront the disease head-on (as opposed to my old tactic of lamenting its power to cripple, eternally, and blaming myself and my forebears for the “character flaw”). As Goethe lay dying, he begged his nurse to throw open the shutters, and I now know why. Dark rooms are full of dark shadows and monsters hiding under the bed, but shine a light and the demons disappear (for a little while, anyway).

FrED notes: You may not need a prescription for your light therapy box, but that doesn’t mean you should treat yourself unaided. Consult a doctor before undergoing any ministrations for depression, SAD, or other mental disorders.

  1. caryrandolph posted this